Optimism on the rise as more think 2024 will be better, says survey

According to the Ipsos Global Predictions survey, 53% say 2023 was a bad year for them and 70% say it was a bad year for their country. This is the lowest level since before the Covid-19 pandemic. 70% think 2024 will be a better year than 2023. 

More people think AI will lead to more jobs being lost than being created in 2024. After 2023 being the hottest year on record, 81% expect average global temperatures to go even higher in 2024. A majority (59%) think we’ll spend more time working in the office in 2024 than working at home.

2023 in retrospect

The world is still pretty downbeat, but we seem to be on track for getting back to more typical levels of sentiment about the present and the immediate future.

The year of 2023 marked a significant downturn in the impacts of Covid-19, as the importance of this disease gradually diminished in both governmental policies and publics’ minds. In a milestone decision, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially ended its status of global health emergency for the virus in May.

However, this decline in health crises was unfortunately accompanied by an escalation in geopolitical tensions. Russia’s aggressive invasion into Ukraine showed no signs of abating, creating an atmosphere of uncertainty and insecurity. Further exacerbating the already turbulent global situation was the outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian conflict in October.

Meanwhile, weather patterns continued to become increasingly volatile. Large portions of the globe persistently endured escalating summer temperatures year after year, suggesting a potential worsening of global warming. 

2023 was also a year of increased natural disasters, causing widespread distress in various parts of the world. The countries that were particularly hard-hit included Turkey, Syria, Morocco, and Afghanistan. These unpredictable disasters served as a bleak reminder of the constant threat of environmental crises.

In 2023, the world of technology also saw some dramatic changes and advancements. OpenAI was instrumental in transforming the public’s perception and utilization of artificial intelligence, leading to more paradigm shifts in the way we interact with technology.

On average across all 34 countries, 70% say 2023 was a bad year for their country and 53% that it was a bad year for themselves and their family. These figures represent a 3-percentage point improvement from 2022. 

Figures for both questions have been on a consistent downward trend since the peak in 2020 during the Covid-19 crisis, when 90% felt it had been a bad year for their country and 70% felt it had been a bad year for them and their family. 

So, despite the uptick in mood we see this year, there still remains a considerable journey for it to return to its pre-covid levels of 62%-65% in 2018/19.

The improvement in percentage points of those describing 2022 as a bad year for their country is showing recovery signs globally. Out of the 34 countries surveyed, 27 demonstrated improvements over the previous year’s results. 

The most significant improvements are observed in Poland (17 points lower), Thailand (16 points lower) and Mexico (15 points lower). In contrast, Sweden seems to continue to face challenges year after year. Notably, there has been an increase of 20-percentage point over the past two years, underscoring a pessimistic view of the nation’s situation.

Looking towards 2024: Optimism on the rise

Overall, optimism for the coming year appears to be on the rise, with 70% think 2024 will be a better year than 2023. This is up by 5-percentage points from 2022, when optimism dipped to a decade-low of 65%. 

This year’s figure hopefully signals optimism heading back to the levels more typically seen over the past decade when it has fluctuated only very marginally between 75%-80%. 

Overall, improvement in optimism is the greatest among countries in Europe, particularly in Poland, Spain, Great Britain (11 points higher) and Sweden (12 points higher), mirroring the signs of economic recovery observed in Europe in 2023.

50% expect the global economy will be stronger in 2024 than it was in 2023. Optimism for the global economic outlook has increased by 4% from 2022. Much like personal optimism, the global economic outlook is showing signs of recovery, returning to the pre-COVID levels of 52% seen in 2019. 

Confidence in a stronger global economy outlook persists in emerging markets such as Indonesia, India and China, where over 80% states the global economy will be stronger in 2024. 

There is also an improvement in perceptions about the global economy outlook in Europe, this is particularly observed in Poland (20 points higher), Hungary (15 points higher), Netherland (12 points higher) and Great Britain (11 points higher).

The economy in 2024

The economy continues to be a major concern to the global public. 70% expect both inflation and interest rates in their country to be higher in 2024 than 2023. 

As we head into 2024, headline inflation has started to come down in many countries during the first half of 2023, although core inflation hasn’t significantly slowed. Public sentiment is showing some positive signs, with a 5-percentage point and a 4-percentage point decrease from last year’s results in both inflation and interest rates respectively.

Out of 34 surveyed countries, 10 demonstrated at least a 10-percentage point improvement in perceptions of inflation rates, most significantly in European countries such as Poland (30 points lower), Sweden (25 points lower), Hungary (23 points lower), and Great Britain (17 points lower). 

Furthermore, non-European countries like Brazil (19 points lower) and Australia (14 points lower) are also exhibiting compelling improvement in the public’s perception of inflation rates.

However, inflation and interest rates could prove to be more persistent than expected.

Technology in 2024

Public opinion is divided regarding whether AI might result in positive or negative changes, though the worry about AI currently outweighs the advantages.

On the positive side, 56% expect doctors to regularly use AI, up by 18-percentage points from 38% since 2019, and 43% expect AI to lead to jobs being created. However, globally 64% expect AI to lead to job losses.

The balance between advantage and worry varies a lot from one place to another. Countries in Asia, known for their tech-driven growth, remain undecided about AI. 

In China, 74% say AI may lead to new jobs being created in their country, whereas 70% say AI could lead to job losses. In contrast, countries from the West like the UK display a more negative perspective towards AI, where 65% are more likely to believe AI may lead to job losses, compared to 35% who think it could lead to job creation.

41% expect to use social media less. This has increased by a 13-percentage point from 28% in 2019, a significant jump in numbers. TikTok has risen to prominence since 2019, and a growing body of evidence demonstrates a negative association between social media use and mental health issues. 

This may have contributed to the public’s perception of a need to reduce social media usage. However, there is still 49% who disagree with this statement, which shows some mixed feelings about the benefits and risks of social media usage.

World security issues in 2024

There is much more uncertainty about what 2024 will bring on the world stage amongst the global public.

35% think Trump will be re-elected in 2024 United States presidential election while 47% disagree with this statement. Since the last time we asked this question in 2019, global sentiments haven’t changed much, despite the fact that Trump ended his presidency in 2021 and faced recent litigation over his time in office. 

Around 50% from India, China and Turkey believe Trump will be re-elected as President of the United States. Surprisingly, only 35% in the US think Trump will be re-elected.

31% expect war in Ukraine to end. The expectation that the war in Ukraine would end has lessened, as indicated by a 9% decrease from last year. This pessimism is observed strongly in European countries, including Sweden (25 points lower), Poland (18 points lower) and Spain (17 points lower).

This could be due to the ongoing conflict which has lasted nearly 2 years. Moreover, other geopolitical conflicts that occurred in 2023 may have drawn attention away from the Ukraine war in the news coverage.

Environment in 2024

The increasing severity of climate events is creating profound public anxiety.

The Global Prediction survey reveals an increased concern about climate change in China. There’s a 12-percentage point increase compared to last year in the belief that more extreme weather events will occur next year, and a 10-percentage point rise in the fear of being hit by a major natural disaster. 

Furthermore, 83% believe that the Chinese government will set more demanding targets to reduce carbon emissions more quickly. Additionally, 69% believe there will be more restrictions introduced to reduce the amount people drive in their cars in China.

Across a number of different indicators, there is a widespread expectation that what we have seen so far is only the beginning of the climate emergency. 

Globally, 81% expect average global temperatures to increase in 2024. This has increased by 6% from 75% in 2020, possibly due to the effects of an increased number of wildfires and large parts of the globe experiencing extreme temperatures during the summer months.

71% expect there will be more extreme weather events in their country in 2024 than there were in 2023. This has increased by 6% since 2022. The upward trend also reflects the public’s growing concern about the impacts of climate change. 

51% expect a natural disaster will hit a major city in their country in 2024. This has increased by 6% since 2022. The growing trend reflects an increasing concern that climate change will bring unpredictable, catastrophic impacts.

However, there is now a reasonable expectation that the alarming seriousness of the climate emergency will provoke action. 55% expect their government to set more demanding targets for carbon emissions in 2024. 

We are one step closer to the Net Zero target deadline with each passing year. Given the extreme weather events that the public has observed in recent years, there is a growing urgency for the government to provide more direction on how to mitigate climate change.

Society in 2024

In the world of ongoing geo-political conflicts and the post-covid era, new social norms may be emerging.

71% expect immigration to increase. There is a high-level consensus on the issue of immigration, perhaps due to recent geopolitical events and climate crisis-induced displacements as we enter a more volatile world.

59% expect office workers to spend more time in the office than at home. More than half of the population expects a return to office work in the post-COVID era. This suggests that face-to-face engagements are becoming increasingly important. 

Photo credit: iStock/Blue Planet Studio

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