Climate change was the highest concern in almost half of all countries polled, with the issue particularly feared in Latin America and Africa. Photograph: Daniel Reinhardt/EPA
Climate change is what the world’s population perceives as the top global threat, according to research conducted by the Pew Research Center, with countries in Latin America and Africa particularly concerned about the issue.
It is followed by global economic instability and the Islamic State militant group.
The survey, conducted in 40 countries and taking in the views of more than 45,000 respondents, attempts to measure perceptions of global threats. In 19 of the 40 countries polled, climate change was found to be the issue of highest concern.
A median average of 61% of Latin Americans said they were very concerned about climate change, the highest share of any region. In Brazil and Peru, 75% of respondents said they were very concerned about the issue. Burkina Faso had the highest share of any country, with 79% expressing the highest level of concern.
Isis was viewed as the biggest threat for people in Lebanon with 84% saying they were very concerned – understandable given the region’s close proximity to the group’s activities. However, Isis was also viewed as the top threat a lot further away in the US (68%), Australia (69%) and the UK (66%).
Global economic instability is another major worry. It was found to be the top concern in a number of countries, including Venezuela – which has been undergoing a severe financial crisis – as well as Senegal and Tanzania. It was also found to be the second biggest concern in half of all those surveyed.
Pew found that major worries about Iran’s nuclear programme were limited to a few nations, with the US, Spain and Israel (the only country to cite Iran as the highest threat) the most concerned.
Tensions between Russia and its neighbours, and territorial disputes between China and surrounding countries, “remain regional concerns”, said Pew – 62% of respondents in Ukraine and 44% in Poland said they were very concerned about tensions with Moscow. However, 44% of US respondents were also very concerned about this issue, closely followed by France (41%), the UK (41%) and Germany (40%).
Cyber-attacks are also viewed as a considerable threat in the US, with 59% of Americans saying they were very concerned. The survey was conducted after the hack and leak of Sony Pictures emails, which the US government blamed on North Korea. In South Korea, cyber-attacks were the second highest concern (55%) after Isis (75%).
The report focuses on those who say they are “very concerned” about each issue and surveyed respondents from March 25 to May 27, 2015.