Citizens around the world broadly embrace key benefits of economic globalization but fear the disruptions and downsides of participating in the global economy. In rich countries as well as poor ones, most people endorse free trade, multinational corporations and free markets. But the latest Pew Global Attitudes survey of more than 45,000 people finds widespread concern about inequality, threats to local culture, threats to the environment, and immigration.
And the survey’s authors say therre are signs that enthusiasm for economic globalization is waning in the West. Americans and Western Europeans are less supportive of international trade and multinational companies than they were five years ago. In contrast, there is near universal approval of global trade among the publics of rising Asian economic powers China and India.
In all 47 nations included in the survey, large majorities believe that international trade is benefiting their countries. For the most part, the multinational corporations that dominate global commerce receive favorable ratings. Nonetheless, since 2002 enthusiasm for trade has declined significantly in the United States, Italy, France and Britain, and views of multinationals are less positive in Western countries where economic growth has been relatively modest in recent years.
In most countries, majorities believe that people are better off under capitalism, even if it means that some may be rich and others poor. Support for free markets has increased notably over the past five years in Latin American and Eastern European nations, where increased satisfaction with income and perceptions of personal progress are linked to higher per capita incomes.
But few publics favor economic growth at the expense of the environment. In 46 of 47 countries surveyed, majorities say the environment should be given priority, even if this means lower growth and fewer jobs.
And there are widely shared concerns about the free flow of people, ideas and resources that globalization entails. In nearly every country surveyed, people worry about losing their traditional culture and national identities, and they feel their way of life needs protection against foreign influences. Most notably, the poll finds widespread concerns about immigration in both affluent countries in the West and in the developing world, people are concerned about immigration. Large majorities in nearly every country surveyed express the view that there should be greater restriction of immigration and tighter control of their country’s borders.