10/20/2014 06:42 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Americans Believe Inequality Is The World's Greatest Threat. Other Countries Think Differently

Surveyors from the Pew Research Center asked thousands of participants in more than 40 countries to select what posed the "greatest threat to the world" out of five possible options. The results, published last week, showed that their answers were far from unanimous.

In general, the study suggests that global security risks are viewed through a regional or national prism. Rather than being afraid of the unknown, people generally chose the threats closest to home. Those surveyed in western Europe, for instance, mostly agreed that inequality poses the greatest threat out of the possible options of inequality; nuclear weapons; ethnic and religious hatred; pollution and environment; and AIDS and infectious diseases.

Americans also ranked inequality as the greatest threat, though ethnic and religious hatred, as well as nuclear weapons, weren't far behind. Many respondents in the African nations surveyed ranked infectious diseases and AIDS as higher-priority threats than did the rest of the world. This was especially prevalent among sub-Saharan and East African nations polled, where HIV rates are much higher than global averages.

The study also makes clear how attitudes can change over time. Pew conducted a similar survey in 2007, and it's evident that opinions have shifted considerably since then. These changes might be seen as a corollary to events that took place during that time, and directly affected the regions. Pew gives the example of Europe, noting that within the continent, "more publics now see inequality as the world’s top problem compared to seven years ago, before the Great Recession and Eurocrisis."


There are some important caveats that should be noted about the study, however. First, as Pew points out, it was carried out in April and May of 2014, before Islamic State militants became as prominent an issue as they are now. Given that, there's reason to believe the percentage of nations choosing ethnic and religious hatred as a high-profile thread would be higher in a more current poll.

The other issue with the survey pertains to the options given participants. One notably absent category is terrorism, which another poll from this year suggests could have ranked quite high if presented as an option.

The full results are below -- see what your country finds terrifying.