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What Does Global Citizenship Look Like Today?

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A new survey that looks at American attitudes towards global citizenship underscores the increasing sense of connection people have with international events.

The 2011 Global Involvement Survey finds that one in five U.S. adults follows international news closely, with almost half (48 percent) following international news at least once a day. Our interest and consumption of international news seems to grow with our age and probably our exposure to the world. The heavy consumer of international news tends to be a male, over 55 years old.

Some of the major stories we have seen in the past six months have literally rocked the world -- Japan's earthquakes, Osama bin Laden's death, struggling European and U.S. economies, collapsing Arab regimes, famines and drug wars. These are more than regional events; their shockwaves are felt on an international scale.

The global stories that attracted the most attention in recent months were the Japanese earthquake and related disasters, and the death of Osama bin Laden. Other closely followed stories included Libya's efforts to overthrow Moammar Gaddafi, the Arab Spring, Mexico's drug wars and the recent royal wedding.

Economy Trumps Terrorism as Top Concern
But with all these stories grabbing media space, the top international issues in the world today are economic weakness and unemployment, with one-third of respondents ranking the economy and lack of jobs first. It appears that issues that can affect our livelihood rank higher than even terrorism, which was listed as the most important issue by 16 percent.

Those who follow news closely seek out more sources of news. Older adults are much more likely to view traditional media, such as television and print, while young adults are more likely to get news from online sources.

Responding to Global Issues
Some 60 percent of the survey respondents agree that the world is more interconnected today. Undoubtedly, the tremors from real earthquakes, terrorist events and tumultuous economies seem to be felt in towns throughout America. Not surprisingly, most adults expect the U.S. government to take an active role in addressing international issues related to human suffering, such as providing famine relief, ending genocide, promoting clean water and eradicating disease.

Respondents, however, felt that leadership in addressing global issues of hunger and poverty should be assigned to the United Nations, international medical organizations and governments of countries suffering from the problem.

When looking at world health and diseases of poverty, the most widespread and serious concerns were perceived to be HIV/AIDS (64 percent), malnutrition (53 percent) and obesity (49 percent).

When asked where they turn when disasters happen, 52 percent tend to turn to U.S. and International Red Cross organizations first. Church and religious organizations were second (29 percent), indicating the important role faith-based institutions play in serving both local and global needs.

Getting Involved Personally
The top activities for personal involvement are donating money (86 percent), donating items (71 percent), volunteering time (46 percent), purchasing from a non-profit (38 percent), sharing information (36 percent) and praying for a group or issue (33 percent). Women are more likely to take part in all areas of community involvement, particularly prayer.

The survey, commissioned by United Methodist Communications, was conducted June 10-18, 2011, among 870 adults 18 years of age and older.