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Spirit of internationalism survives despite COVID, climate and conspiracies

30 January 20210 comments

People across the globe still broadly support the idea of internationalism and inter-government cooperation despite divisive challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and the rise of nationalist leaders, a new survey has found.

Research by the Washington-based think tank The Pew Center found people around the world still support the principles of international cooperation.

The Pew Center surveyed people in 14 advanced economies and found that while support for international cooperation and institutions is high, it depends on the amount of trust that people tend to place in others.  

“Across the countries surveyed, those who say that, in general, most people can be trusted express more support for compromising with other countries and express a higher degree of favourability toward international institutions including the European Union and the United Nations,” the report said.

In 11 of the 14 countries surveyed, those who say most people can be trusted are significantly more likely to believe their country should take the interests of other nations into account when dealing with major international issues, even if it means making compromises with them, as opposed to following its own interests, the report said.

When it comes to identifying major international threats to their country, ‘trusters’ and ‘distrusters’ are strongly divided most significantly on the issue of migration.

In every country surveyed but Japan, distrusters are significantly more likely to say that large numbers of people moving from one country to another is a major threat to their own nation. A median of 50 per cent of ‘distrusters’ across the 14 countries say such migration is a major threat, compared with a median of just 36 per cent of ‘trusters’, the report said.

The gap between ‘trusters’ and ‘distrusters’ on the threat of migration is largest in Belgium, where 53 per cent of ‘distrusters’ – but only 29 per cent of ‘trusters’ – say it is a major threat.

In Australia 52 per cent of ‘distrusters’ and just 36 per cent of ‘trusters’ said migration was a threat.

Those who say most people cannot be trusted are more likely to have favourable views of right-wing populist parties in Europe, many of which advocate for hard-line anti-immigration policies.

Divides between ‘trusters’ and ‘distrusters’ also appear when people are asked about several international institutions. In all 14 countries surveyed, ‘trusters’ are more likely than ‘distrusters’ to have a positive view of the EU and UN.

Differences in views of the EU appear even in non-member countries. In Japan, for example, 54 per cent of ‘trusters’ have a favourable view of the EU, compared with 35 per cent of ‘distrusters’.

And when it comes to the UN, gaps between ‘trusters’ and distrusters are sometimes stark: In Germany, for instance, 70 per cent of ‘trusters’ have positive views of the organisation, compared with about half of distrusters (48 per cent).

Views of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) also divide along these lines in most of the surveyed countries. The gap is largest in Denmark, where roughly eight-in-ten ‘trusters’ (83 per cent) have a positive opinion of NATO, versus nearly six-in-ten ‘distrusters’ (59 per cent).

In some countries, ‘trusters’ are also more likely than ‘distrusters’ to give the World Health Organization (WHO) positive marks on its initial response to the coronavirus pandemic, the report said.

“Such differences exist in countries including Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and Australia. Only in South Korea are ‘distrusters’ significantly more positive on the WHO’s coronavirus response: 22 per cent of South Korean distrusters said the WHO had done a good job, compared with just 16 per cent of ‘trusters’,” it said.

See the full report here: