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Which countries are on the right track, according to their citizens (ipsos.com)
53 points by zachguo 40 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 68 comments

No surprise that countries with the most oppressive internet surveillance and censorship also rank highly in self reported satisfaction. Chinese citizens probably got a boost to their social credit score for answering positively on this survey.

I was just in Beijing and Shanghai for a few weeks and almost everyone I talked to in private admitted that they expect an economic crash in the near future. So this survey is essentially useless for countries where privacy on the internet is not expected and dissent is punished.

> almost everyone I talked to in private admitted that they expect an economic crash in the near future

That is currently the same in every country I talked to citizens. Not a very good way of measuring.

Your observations about China might very well be correct, but this is not an interesting point imho. When I speak to my friends in China they worry about the economy but they do actually believe their country is going in the right direction generally. Ofcourse my sample of the populous is limited: I speak to tech people only, but they do not care about the things you or I think they care or should care about. They are content with the way it is going.

You're missing the point. I should have left the anecdote out as it's clearly distracting from what I really wanted to get across. I'm saying that this type of poll is never going to be accurate in an authoritarian regime where citizens know they're being watched.

The anecdote was just an observation and as such should of course be taken with some skepticism.

They didn't miss the point. Yes your anecdote is "meh" because the economy being about to crash doesn't necessarily mean you think your country is going in the wrong direction. But claiming you won't get an honest answer from those people seems just as flawed. It's a pretty general question. If you download the PDF you'll see there were a bunch of more precise questions asked and in some of them China did rank Quite high, like the environment one.

I'd actually argue that just claiming Chinese people are brainwashed would be a better explanation, but as has been said in other comments here, I think it's mostly that they have very different priorities in life. For example, privacy traditionally never has been as an important issue even before the internet and everything, so things like that social credit system just don't appear as crazy to them as to us.

This different priorities argument comes out every time China is discussed. It's tired, simplistic and overused by people who want to feel culturally enlightened and hand wave away the possibility of issues in China. Anyone who's been to China knows they value different things, of course they do, every culture has different values.

Just because someone doesn't particularly care about censorship and surveillance doesn't mean they don't adjust their behavior accordingly though. If you read the PDF China ranked highly on precisely the questions which are officially approved government positions, such as the need for greener tech and better environmental management.

> This different priorities argument comes out every time China is discussed.

So you're trying to invalidate the argument by saying it's mentioned to often? I don't think this is how this works.

> Just because someone doesn't particularly care about censorship and surveillance doesn't mean they don't adjust their behavior accordingly though.

Of course they do, and if you knew Chinese culture you'd clearly see that. The average person trying to make a living might not, but it's the same in the west. Who even cared about the snowden revelations? Certainly not your bus driver. When bringing up the argument how companies like Facebook and google know more about you than your best friend, and government access is just one court order away, how many people counter you with "well I got nothing to hide"? I'd go as far as saying I can at least give the Chinese gvt the props for being upfront about their censorship and surveillance. Before snowden, if you claimed the NSA would be running a huge surveillance program tapping into the country's and world's largest internet exchanges, you got a confused look or were told to put your tinfoil hat back on.

Bottom line is, people in China genuinely think their country is heading in the right direction and the vast majority doesn't care about censorship and surveillance, anyone who's been to China for more than just a couple weeks quick travelling and didn't just spend time with other expats would quickly have learned that. Whether they truly understand the implications of this is an entirely different matter and not even part of the survey. But then again most westerners also don't, they just happen to live in a very free environment and don't realize what they got themselves there, or just don't care (Facebook point from above, voter turnouts).

There’s no way you can look at the social credit shit they have going on and say “uh yeah everything looks fine!”

People in cults also say they’re doing fine...

>People in cults also say they’re doing fine...

Yep, and people in religions say they're doing fine. Some of them probably are doing fine.

I admit that this survey could be biased because of people being afraid of their answers being monitored, and also that people in a country like China are probably somewhat brainwashed by the censorship in the media.

But you have to keep your mind open to the possibility that a human might balance all things in mind and with a calm disinterested choice decide that it's worth giving up privacy and freedom for a more peaceful, orderly, and efficient society. I know those aren't the values of many Americans, but Americans sometimes seem strangely unable to imagine that any human being could possibly have different values to theirs.

I am sure if you ask any current or past tirant, all of them will tell you that they just want a "more peaceful, orderly, and efficient society". Hell, even Genghis Khan would say that

That's the whole point of the survey, as I read it. You can't look at it and say it's fine, but they do. That is important to understand.

As a counterpoint, the US polls the lowest concern in the world for poverty and inequality. Yet there's no way in my mind you can look at inequality in the states and say "yeah, that's fine", but over 4 in 5 Americans polled said exactly that.

Here is an observation that I have made: its always the worst countries that are the most patriotic. Nobody pledges allegiance to the flag in the Netherlands or Norway.

Of course they say that it's fine. You would too if you could be punished by your government for saying otherwise.

How would the US government punish someone who complains about poverty and inequality in the states?

I'm not talking about the Americans, I'm talking about the Chinese saying things are going well, which is what the first part of the comment I'm replying to was referring to. Then they shoehorned Americans into the argument for some reason. I'm saying that I doubt this is just a matter of the Chinese being blind to the issues in China. It's a matter of them bring unwilling to risk speaking out.

> There’s no way you can look at the social credit shit they have going on and say

I am not saying that, people who are born and raised and live there say so (the small sample I speak to a lot). I find it hard to judge as an outsider although it definitely does not look ok.

> There’s no way you can look at the social credit shit they have going on and say “uh yeah everything looks fine!”

Social credit is more than just a tool for oppression. (There's also more than one possible implementation currently in trial, but that applies to all of them.) Because the vast majority of Chinese citizens are not anti-government activists, any such survey will be dominated by those who can finally get a line of credit for their small business. Even a million Uyghurs in internment camps don't make a dent when you're just looking at average satisfaction.

The Uyghurs in prison were not available to participate in study. Nor to comment.

Even after factoring in the worst estimates of those detained in Uyghur reeducation camps, America's incarceration rates are still over 3x China's.

Uyghur population is less than one percent of China's population. Results won't change even if they are able to participate.

Being a tourist is far from being an authority on a culture

When did I ever claim to be an authority on anything? I'm making the observation that citizens who know they're being surveilled online are unlikely to respond to this type of poll negatively, affecting the accuracy of the results.

I threw an interesting personal anecdote in there as an example but at no time did I make an authority claim. So I don't know what your point is.

He/she is trying to point out your hasty assumption that Chinese people share the same societal and cultural values as you. In reality they may not care much about surveillance and censorship at all.

When did I ever say that the Chinese cared about censorship or surveillance? I know you think you're culturally enlightened by bringing up this tired argument. You're not.

Anyone who's been to China knows that the average person in China doesn't particularly care about privacy, we're not arguing that here. What I'm saying is that regardless of whether someone cars about it, it does affect their behavior.

Whether someone likes surveillance is one question. Whether it discourages them from expressing certain opinions is another.

There are techniques to ask sensitive questions on a survey without implicating individual respondents and still obtain useful answers on the aggregate [1]. I can only imagine Ipsos, being a survey firm, would have used some of these techniques.

I would be careful about generalizing from anecdata. Unless the people you talk to come from every strata in society and your sample is representative, your conclusion may be prone to sample bias.

[1] https://imai.fas.harvard.edu/talk/files/PolMeth10.pdf

Whether there are techniques is irrelevant, whether people trust that they'll not face consequences due to their answer is much more important. You can reassure them as much as you want - who really would want to risk real-world consequences for a random survey?

Alternatively there might be somewhere in the fine print how Chinese participants were invited/selected - it wouldn't be the first such data where PRC manages to manipulate the sampled group to get a positive result (see eg PISA).

> who really would want to risk real-world consequences for a random survey?

Why not? We don't know the baseline behavior and expectations of the respondents.

I think we differ on where our subjective Bayesian priors are situated.

I'm more at the 50/50 mark in that I think the results could be biased but at the same time, there's no necessity that they must be. Whereas most people on this thread automatically assume a priori that the survey results surely are biased, because China.

>I can only imagine Ipsos, being a survey firm, would have used some of these techniques.

You're giving them too much credit. Unless this was explicitly mentioned in the methodology (there's a methodology section at the end, and it's not there), I'm going to assume that the questions were directly asked.

> No surprise that countries with the most oppressive internet surveillance and censorship also rank highly in self reported satisfaction. Chinese citizens probably got a boost to their social credit score for answering positively on this survey.

How would the Chinese government determine what citizens vote on in anonymous internet polls? Supposedly, Ipsos Online Panel uses https connections and encrypts them using tls. More importantly, does Chinese citizens believe what they vote on in anonymous surveys affects their credit scores?

It doesn't matter whether the government is able to do so, more important is whether citizens have a reasonable expectation that the government can and does do so.

Many Chinese people will respond with positive results knowing the survey is held by a foreign agency, not because they are being oppressed, but because they get suspicious and defensive when being asked, and they don't like to see their country "lose face".

Also the majority of Chinese people do think China is on the right path, especially after seeing what's happening now in the US and Europe.

An average Chinese person doesn't think about current oppressive scheme as "bad", because we've had worse no more than 2 generations ago. They may even think an authoritative regime is better than your democracy. Normally they don't feel oppressed in their daily life.

The well educated, and those who have the privilege, opportunity, and capability to talk to a foreigner like you, have different opinions of course.

> No surprise that countries with the most oppressive internet surveillance and censorship also rank highly in self reported satisfaction

You can look at other sources, like the "Global Livability Index" [1] - it's voted on by the residents of each city, and does a great job of ranking what it's actually like to live in various countries and cities.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Liveability_Ranking

One may also conclude that not all the people around the world care about the things that Westerners care about. People are generally happy if they have growing wages and access to good infrastructure.

I was wondering about how representative this is of the populations. The link to the survey is broken but I did find this on the Ipos Mori site:


> The remaining 11 countries surveyed: Brazil, Chile, China, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Russia, Peru, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Turkey have lower levels of internet penetration and so these samples should instead be considered to represent a more affluent, connected population

I would extend that consideration to most of the countries shown in the results.

> „[this study] finds X“

without actual details on its methodology, a study doesn‘t find anything.

- how are the surveyed chosen? - how do you make sure they are from the country they claim - what possible answers can they chose from - etc.

Some methodology in PDF (https://www.ipsos.com/sites/default/files/ct/news/documents/...)

The survey is conducted monthly in 28 countries around the world via the Ipsos Online Panel system. The countries included are Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Great Britain, Germany, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States of America.

An international sample of 20,787 adults aged 18-64 in Canada, Israel and the US, and aged 16-64 in all other countries, were interviewed between August 24th 2018 and September 7th 2018.

Approximately 1000+ individuals participated on a country by country basis via the Ipsos Online Panel with the exception of Argentina, Belgium, Hungary, India, Israel, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden and Turkey, where each have a sample of approximately 500+.

What worries me is that global warming is not one of the five major worries. Of course I understand that when you're unemployed, struggling to make ends meet, global warming is the least of your concerns.

Take a look at the updated 2018 version.

The US results are strange. A lot fewer worry about healthcare and inequality/poverty than you would expect. In fact only Sweden worries less about the latter.

How many would you expect to worry? In a rich country with ample jobs and cheap food,I don't worry about it much either. I've seen poverty abroad, so maybe I just don't see what Americans call poverty as poverty.

I expect more than half to worry given the number of children in food insecure households, the lack of retirement savings many americans are confronted with.

You might have seem poverty abroad but there are plenty of countries on this list that worry more (like Germany) which much better working conditions for the vast majority of people with little income.

You're equating "food insecure households" and "lack of retirement savings" with poverty. In America, the supposedly impoverished, the "food insecure", are more often obese than not and their retirement, though boring and doesn't involve golf courses and biannual vacations, doesn't involve starvation, lack of electricity, television, heating and air conditioning, and other essentials.

Open up any book from 100 years ago on household maintenance, written usually for upper and upper middle class women. There you will learn that the laundry in the apartment building is an incredible luxury, as is the store down the street, and the fact that you can buy a loaf of bread there for about $1.50.

The statistics speak for themselves. If you want to argue them away you are just further telling me that Americans are indeed more likely than not blind to those issues when surveyed compared to (some) other countries.

Yes, statistics speak for themselves. Minimum wage is roughly $10 and a meal at McDonald's is $4. Perhaps there are reasons for "food insecurity" that are not the fault of the society in general.

Among the issues included on the survey, the four major concerns for Americans are:

- Healthcare (41%). This is up from May (36%). - Crime & Violence (31%). This is down slightly from May (33%). - Immigration Control (28%). This is up from May (24%). - Moral Decline (24%). This is up slightly from May (22%).

From the same source(2018 Dec Version): https://www.ipsos.com/en-us/news-polls/what-worries-the-worl...

The note about Sweden seems a bit off. It is now January and we still don't have a government formed since the election in September. The politicians have all showed their worst sides in not getting along and the trust in them has plummeted. At the same time there are clear signs of a recession coming.

Things are as gloomy as a Bergman-movie in Sweden. Sort of.

Remember, these were the numbers from September, just after the election. Lots of people would still have their hopes up then.

There are newer results from September here: https://www.ipsos.com/en/what-worries-world-september-2018

See Daureg' reply below for November numbers.

seems it's updated quite regularly https://www.ipsos.com/en-us/news-polls/what-worries-the-worl... (and that the yellow vest movement didn't improve France optimis :D )

Seems this reflects to a large degree societal values and current debates rather than the"real" impact. Eg US has a lot bigger inequality and higher proportion of destitute people than most of Western/Northern Europe, so the only way to explain the German & Swedish vs US numbers would be by pointing to the values/expectations and ongoing discourse.

China... You have got to wonder is it that the past was so bad? That people aren't aware of how bad problems of eg corruption are? Or are they too scared to say their true opinion ..?

China has lifted 500 million people out of poverty in a generation. They're absolutely going in the net right direction, even accounting for corruption.

> China... You have got to wonder is it that the past was so bad? That people aren't aware of how bad problems of eg corruption are? Or are they too scared to say their true opinion ..?

I imagine it's more about the citizens feeling like the government and its leaders have a strong vision and mission for the future of china.

I think the same thing can be seen with the M.A.G.A. movement. Lots of people are ignoring problems they face on a daily basis and vote against their interests because they'd rather believe in an ideal that is bigger than themselves (even if that ideal is a farce).

The reason people broke for Trump was because he actually represented their interests, unlike the Democrats or the GOP. The problems of crime, illegal immigrants competing for jobs, and trade with poor countries, all drive down the quality of life of the working class American.

As a Brazilian, the one thing that gives me some confidence that things will get better is the low confidence people display on those studies.

Already in the November study, Brazil's confidence is up 22 percentage points, so yes things are happening. My confidence in Brazil has taken a dive, but I'm not voting there...


You had a radical change of government recently, so I guess it's a matter of time to see if people like it or not.

"upon interviewing the locals, it turns out the winner is North Korea with 160% of residents saying they have full confidence in the leadership"

Parent makes the point glibly, but it is very serious.

I have considerable experience talking to people from one of the top places mentioned and the freedom to answer a survey is far from guaranteed.

To give you an idea of the scale of this (these are real, actual and exact numbers):

In that country (which I'll name as Northern East Soumania, a small autonomous island belonging to an African republic, or a similar African country) the President recently put in a bid to be able to stay President for life. This required constitutional changes, which were passed by the annual sitting of parliament.

The vote on this bid was 2,859 votes supporting lifting the term limit, 2 votes against lifting the term limit and 4 abstaining.

Can you imagine that? Can you imagine an American president at the end of their second term wanting to lift the term limit congressionally and out of 535 members of congress (435 in the house of representatives and 100 in the senate) 530 voting to remove the term limits, 2 voting against and 4 abstaining? (Actually since the basis is 535 instead of 2,859, I should divide the against and abstaining voted by 5.5)

I would personally not be surprised if the 2 "against" votes had serious consequences for their personal life, I mean things like not being able to travel and so forth. (Despite being members of parliament in that country.)

If I were a member of that country, I probably wouldn't feel free to say in a survey that the country was not headed in the right direction.

Chart unreadable for red/green color blind.

I’m one such person. There is still a line in the middle, so it’s ok.

> online survey

Is it representative in some way?

> Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.

No, just the opposite.

Weighting is done to make the sample more representative, because voluntary samples are always demographically biased. You can argue that the way they weight is wrong in some way, but it’s purpose is exactly to address representativeness of the survey.

When the lone 80-year old that participated is weighted against the hundreds 20-year olds (I'm exaggerating, I hope) we still don't know whether her opinion is representative for the other 80-year olds that didn't respond. There is no point of weighing her more than a 20-year old.

My glib comment was about the fact that before weighing, I could have at least attempted to imagine who would typically respond to such an online-survey. It's a biased sample. But it's a sample. I could say: Well at least this many people out of the whole population answered this or that way. Once weighing mixes things up I don't even know how people responded anymore.

People's perception isn't necessarily an indicator of how well things are going..

So? No one said it was. Why make up a strawman just to reply?

We could come up with a long list of other things that also weren't claimed and rebut those as well but I don't really see how it helps advance the discussion.

Polls like this are not useful for anything. They are, at best, measuring the temperament of the citizens of a country, and some of them will be overly negative or positive about anything. It would be interesting if pollsters attempted to "correct for temperament"

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