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Open Society Barometer

Can Democracy Deliver?

Launched in September 2023, the Open Society Barometer serves as a global reality check, painting a picture of the attitudes, concerns, and hopes of people across 30 countries—making it one of the largest studies of global public opinion on human rights and democracy ever conducted.

People queue in line.
© Andre Borges/AFP/Getty

About the Report

The 2023 Barometer is based on representative polling in 30 countries, chosen to reflect geographic, economic, and political diversity. These countries have a combined population of over 5.5 billion people.

30 Countries Surveyed

A mix of country income levels and important international institutional groupings

36,000+ People Surveyed

36,344 respondents aged 18 or older in each country

5.5B+ People Represented

The group of 30 countries represent a collective population of over 5.5 billion people

About the Countries

About the Countries

The Open Society Foundations surveyed 36,344 respondents across 30 countries between May 18, and July 21, 2023. The countries were:

Can Democracy Deliver on the Ground?

People support democracy and human rights, and want action on debt, poverty, and climate change. Will world leaders rise to their expectations? Natalie Samarasinghe, Open Society’s Global Director for Advocacy, discusses the findings of the 2023 Open Society Barometer.




Key Findings

The Open Society Barometer finds that young people around the world hold the least faith in democracy of any age group, presenting a grave threat to its future. With the climate crisis, rising income inequality, and a distrust of politicians, the question becomes: can democracy deliver?

Democracy and Rights: Still Got It

People have faith in democracy. Eighty-six percent of respondents say they want to live in a democracy. Only 20 percent believe that authoritarian countries can deliver “what citizens want.”

Human rights are ingrained the world over. Seventy-two percent believe that human rights have been a “force for good” in the world, and 71 percent agree that “human rights reflect values that I believe in.”

But authoritarianism appeals to some, especially the young. Just 57 percent of 18-35-year-olds think democracy is preferable to any other form of government, compared to 71 percent of older respondents.

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Equity and Justice: Little Progress

Democracy and rights fall short of their potential. The ability of leaders to deliver outcomes at the national level raises questions at a time when one in two respondents (49 percent) has worried about putting food on the table.

Political violence is a palpable fear. Fifty-eight percent—and majorities in 22 of the 30 countries polled—are worried that political unrest in their countries could lead to violence in the next year. In the U.S., that figure rises to 67 percent.

Rich countries should do more on debt and climate. People see the lack of action on climate change and high levels of debt in the developing world as global failures—and they want high-income countries to respond. Eighty-four percent think lenders should help countries struggling with debt by cancelling, reducing, or renegotiating repayment conditions. Seventy-five percent want high-income countries to increase overseas aid and 71 percent believe they should compensate low-income countries for economic loss due to climate change.

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People’s Priorities: It’s Personal

Climate change is a major concern and increasingly seen as a personal issue. Seventy percent are anxious that climate change will affect their lives next year and it ranks as the most important issue facing the world today, alongside poverty and inequality.

Corruption is seen as the biggest national problem. When asked about the most important challenge facing their country, respondents chose corruption. Trust in national and local politicians was low in most of the countries polled.

Migration is highly visible but of low concern. Despite headlines to the contrary, just 7 percent of respondents said migration was their biggest concern. Two-thirds want to see more safe and legal routes for migrants.

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Power and Politics: A Push for Inclusion

People are generous but reluctant to cede power. Respondents in most high-income countries believe their governments should increase assistance, but they are less enthusiastic about giving low-income countries a greater say in decision-making.

Influence is diversifying but slowly. The United States and the United Kingdom come out top when people select countries aligned with their values. Respondents gravitated to established regional powers when asked about expanding the UN Security Council. And they prefer to get financial support from international institutions. Only 10 percent would want their government to borrow from China.

China leads the pack. Respondents believe that China will be the most influential country by 2030. Apart from Japan, less than half of those polled in each country think this will have a negative impact on their country.

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Learn more

Download the report for more insights from the survey on democratic governance, climate, equity, justice, and more.

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