New Research on Geopolitics, Technology and Social Attitudes
The coronavirus pandemic has had, and continues to have, far-reaching and deep impact on the world. At one point at the beginning of April, it was estimated that more than 3.9 billion people – half the world’s population – were in some form of lockdown. This has been a global crisis, with the actions of China, the United States, the European Union and global institutions such as the World Health Organisation closely scrutinised.
As the world adjusts to the impact of the pandemic, the next phase of our tech work will focus on the geopolitics of technology, building on previous reports looking at the governance and regulation of multinational tech companies, their impact on the global stage and the global architecture surrounding technology policy. We are also continuing our work on 21st-century government, seeking to understand the model of a technology-driven government that delivers for citizens in light of the upheaval of the pandemic.
To build the evidence base for our policymaking, we commissioned four major polls carried out by YouGov in early June in Great Britain, France, Germany and the US. We sought to understand what people in the West thought about the geopolitics surrounding the pandemic, their opinion on global cooperation and how they perceive the role Big Tech should play in tackling the challenges facing the world, and situate that in the context of how they saw the pandemic’s effect in their own communities.
The role of technology has also been fundamental to coping with the pandemic, allowing some businesses to continue and people to communicate with their colleagues, friends and families while socially isolated. Much of the technology people have used has been provided by consumer-facing tech companies like Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook. Their products and services have brought significant benefits for people around the world, but they have also amplified pre-existing harms such as public-health misinformation that has been linked to real-world harm and the spread of hate speech. This has recently led some advertisers to pull spend from social media platforms.
This points towards the coronavirus pandemic having far-reaching impact on geopolitics, on perceptions of technology, and on the development of new views on the nature of community, inequality and social togetherness.
Read the full reports here:
On perceptions of technology and “Big Tech” companies:
Across Britain, the US, Germany and France, views on whether Big Tech companies are a force for good or bad in the world are mixed, though in all countries surveyed the most popular answer people gave was that they are neither a force for good nor for bad in the world.
Google is consistently viewed more as a force for good than the other companies, and social media companies Twitter and Facebook are consistently viewed more negatively than the other companies.
In Britain, the US and Germany more people see Google, Amazon and Apple as a force for good than see them as a force for bad, whereas more people see Facebook and Twitter as a force for bad than see them as a force for good. In France, only Google is seen as more of a force for good than it is seen as a force for bad (not withstanding that a plurality of people for each company in each country surveyed see the companies as neither a force for good or bad).
Across all four countries, people’s perceptions and expectations of the role that Big Tech companies have played or should play, respectively, are closely aligned: People do not see them playing a significant role in tackling the pandemic, nor do they believe that they should. This is in particular contrast to the significant role people expect the World Health Organisation and global pharmaceutical companies to play.
In general, people in all four countries do not expect to work from home more often after the pandemic is over, though roughly a third do in all the countries we surveyed.
All four countries report an increase in shopping online for household goods and clothes, and in particular an increase in online video calls to keep in touch with friends and family. This is especially pronounced in Britain and the US, but less so in France and, in particular, Germany.
Read the detailed findings
On geopolitics – and attitudes to the US, China and global cooperation:
Both the Chinese and the US governments are seen as forces for bad in the world by a majority of people in Britain and France, with people in Germany having a worse view of the US government than they do of the Chinese government.
In Britain, the US, Germany and France, more than 40% of people in each country surveyed hold the Chinese government most responsible for the severity of the pandemic, more people than those who hold their own governments responsible.
There is no consistent view on the importance of coordination with other countries on the pandemic, though it is notable that less than a quarter of people surveyed in each country want more integration with the global economy, and in France only 6% wanted more economic integration.
In all the countries we surveyed, people have a much higher expectation of the role the World Health Organisation should be playing in finding solutions to the pandemic compared to the role they think it has played in tackling it.
There are high expectations of global pharmaceutical companies to find solutions to the problems created by the pandemic, but few people have a lot of confidence in those companies (and in France a quarter of people have no confidence at all).
In Britain 60% of people view the UN as a force for good in the world, but the pandemic has changed few opinions of the UN in the countries we surveyed. It’s also clear the pandemic has changed few views on the perceptions of the EU in the countries we surveyed.
Read the detailed findings
On the impact of the pandemic on social attitudes and political trust:
Britain has seen a greater surge in community spirit in response to the pandemic than the other countries surveyed.
People in Britain are much more worried about the economy in general than they are about their health. But they are generally as worried about their health as about their own individual economic circumstances.
Across all four countries, more people are more concerned about others than are concerned about their own situation, with worries about families’ health and the broader economy more widespread than for individual circumstances.
There is political polarisation as to who bears responsibility for the severity of the pandemic, and who is trusted to address it.
Read the detailed findings
Background to the Research
The source of this data is polling conducted by You Gov of a sample of 8,494 adults in Great Britain, the US, Germany and France. The sample was made up of 2,033 adults in GB between 4 and 15 June 2020; 2,418 adults in the US between 8 and 11 June 2020; 2,020 adults in Germany between 9 and 12 June 2020 and 2,023 adults in France between 9 and 11 June 2020. YouGov is a member of the British Polling Council.
All the research can be found below and we will provide any researchers with the full dataset on request. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Full Survey Results
The data is available here in XLSX format