Research reveals more people now see themselves as a global citizen

by Ray Clancy on May 31, 2016

Half of people around the world now regard themselves more as global citizens rather than defining themselves by nationality, especially in large emerging countries, a new poll has found.

The survey, conducted by GlobeScan for the BBC World Service among more than 20,000 people, found that in 18 countries 51% see themselves more as global citizens while 43% identified themselves by their nationality.

This is the first time since tracking began in 2001 that there is a global majority who leans this way, and the results in 2016 are driven by strong increases since 2015 in non-OECD countries including Nigeria at 73%, China at 71%, Peru at 70%, and India at 67%.

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Looking at the 14 tracking countries that have been surveyed repeatedly since 2001, a growing divide appears on the topic of global citizenship between respondents from developing economies and those from industrialised countries.

At the height of the financial crisis in 2009, views were fairly similar across the two country groupings, with 48% in seven OECD countries seeing themselves more as global citizens than national, and 45% in seven non-OECD countries.

This sentiment has continued to grow at a strong pace since then among respondents in emerging economies to reach a high of 56% in both 2015 and 2016. Conversely in seven OECD countries it has followed an opposite trajectory, dropping to a low of 39% in 2011 and remaining at low levels since, now at 42%.

The survey reports says that this latter trend has been particularly pronounced in Germany where the poll suggests identification with global citizenship has dropped 13 points since 2009 to only 30% today, the lowest since 2001.

The poll also asked about the level of approval for different demographic developments changing the population make-up of their country, and results indicate public opinion is generally quite supportive of a number of trends shaping global society.

In the 19 countries surveyed for this series of questions, some 75% of respondents approve of intermarriage between different races or ethnic groups, and 63% approve of immigration from other countries with 31% disapproving.

“The poll’s finding that growing majorities of people in emerging economies identify as global citizens will challenge many people’s and organisations ideas of what the future might look like,” said GlobeScan chairman Doug Miller.

An additional question on the poll gave respondents a broader range of options to reflect on how they consider their identity. Results reveal the complexity of the issue and show how people can identify in different ways.

Out of 19 countries, majorities or strong pluralities in 16 countries describe being a national citizen as the most important feature of their identity. National citizenship is the strongest in Kenya at 84%, Ghana at 81%, Russia at 70%, Nigeria at 68% and Chile at 64%.

Three countries stand out in the way their populations think about self-identity. Spaniards are by far the most likely to identify with world citizenship at 54% and for 56% of Indonesians, belonging to their local community is the strongest defining identity while for Pakistanis some 43% identify first as a member of their religion.

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