Less Nationalism? In Poll, Majority See Themselves as ‘Global Citizens’

Peter Ford, Christian Science Monitor, April 28, 2016

For the first time, an international poll has found a majority of respondents seeing themselves more as global citizens than as citizens of their country, possibly presaging major shifts in world affairs.

Polling organization Globescan reported Thursday that 51 percent of people in 18 countries worldwide lean toward a global view of themselves, against 43 percent who identify nationally. The polling group has been tracking the issue for 15 years.

The study, carried out for the BBC World Service, found that the trend was largely driven by big developing countries. In wealthier countries, such as Germany and Britain, people seem less globally minded.

Without defining a “global citizen,” “we measured how far people consider themselves integrated into world society,” says Lionel Bellier, the associate director of Globescan who authored the report. “We are measuring the march towards a global world society.”

That march appears more confident in countries such as India, China, and Nigeria, where around 70 percent of respondents said they felt more global. In the seven rich countries surveyed, sentiment has been heading in the opposite direction since the 2008 financial crisis. In Germany, beset by questions about how open it should be to refugees from Syria and elsewhere, only 30 percent of respondents identify with global citizenship.

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The trend toward a global mind-set emerged when respondents were asked to agree or disagree with this statement: “I see myself more as a global citizen than a citizen of [country].”

But another poll question revealed that ties to national identity remain very strong. The question said, “Different people identify themselves in different ways. In your own case, would you say your most important identity is as . . . ,” and then respondents were given choices that included “member of a religious tradition,” a “citizen of [country],” a “member of your race or culture,” a “resident of a community or area (smaller than country),” or “a citizen of the world.”

On that question, 52 percent of respondents polled across 19 countries defined their most important identity as citizens of their country, while only 17 percent viewed themselves primarily as world citizens.

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The poll also found encouraging rates of open-mindedness in most countries, with 75 percent of respondents approving of intermarriage between different races or ethnic groups; at around 90 percent approval ratings, Spain, Australia, and Canada are the most tolerant, with Germany (34 percent) and Russia (43 percent) the least accepting.

Overall, more than 6 in 10 respondents worldwide are supportive of immigration from other countries, with 31 percent disapproving of it. Again, German and Russia are the most disapproving, and Spain, Australia, and Canada are the most supportive.

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