SOURCE: Bertelsmann Stiftung

December 12, 2007 07:00 ET

Fewer and Fewer People See the USA Remaining as a Superpower in the Future

International Opinion Polls Show a Dramatic Loss in the Importance of the USA -- Awareness of Ecological Threats Is, on the Other Hand, Rocketing

BERLIN--(Marketwire - December 12, 2007) - The USA is losing its status as the only superpower. In return, China and India are, most notably, increasing their importance. Even Russia has managed to improve its image again recently as a world power. At the same time, the worldwide awareness of the greatest challenges has changed. Concerns about the negative consequences of climate change have rocketed in most countries whilst other dangers, such as international terrorism, have been put into perspective. In addition to these results are the findings of a representative survey on the role of the global powers, completed by the German foundation, the Bertelsmann Stiftung, in which 9,000 people in the most important countries were questioned.

When asked which countries could be viewed as world powers today and in the year 2020, 81% of those surveyed worldwide mentioned the USA, followed by China with 50%, Russia with 39%, Japan with 35% and the EU and the United Kingdom with 34%. Compared with the findings of a relevant survey from 2005, the number mentioning China as a world power has increased by 5%. Russia especially has caught up and registered the most noticeable gain of 12 percentage points.

In relation to the year 2020, only 61% see the USA as a global power in international comparisons, followed closely by China with 57%. Russia, the EU and Japan are ranked on the remaining positions. A significantly stronger role is also attached to India in the year 2020. Although only 15% view the country as a global power today, 29% see the country as an important global player in 13 years time.

People in many countries around the world are expecting an increase in the importance of their own countries. This optimistic self-assessment is especially apparent in China, Russia, India and also Brazil. On the other hand, US citizens, Europeans and Japanese view the future with subdued expectations.

A significant change in the awareness of worldwide threats and challenges can be detected. There has been a strong increase of 10 percent in the awareness of environmental problems worldwide compared to 2005. It has therefore taken over international terrorism's number one spot. The percentage of those who perceive climate change and environmental damage as a global threat has increased greatly in all countries surveyed. This is especially apparent in the USA (+ 22 percentage points), in China (+17 percentage points) and in Japan (+16 percentage points). On average, 54% of all people questioned therefore view environmental damage as the greatest threat. Only in Russia (31%) and India (28%) do a minority consider this problem to be a great threat.

Estimations of the global level of threat , as well the as answers to the question, "Which goals should the major powers lobby for?," vary greatly from country to country: not least because their own strengths and weaknesses are reflected in the different statements. In India, for example, poverty and overpopulation are most often the central issues, in Russia the threat of war, in China the lack of raw materials and in France, religious fundamentalism.

Summarizing the study, Josef Janning, Head of International Relations at the Bertelsmann Stiftung, noted, "People's future expectations hold enormous sway over policymaking. All over the world, people see the US losing its dominant position and China gaining ground. However, they don't expect the kind of harmonious, balanced world order you might expect from a global government run by the United Nations. Instead, in almost every country, people plan to rely on their own strength in global competition and want their own countries to play larger roles in spreading peace and stability. If this perspective and expectation takes hold in global politics, we may see a resurgence of the sort of nationalistic brinkmanship between current and future global powers that we experienced so disastrously in 20th century Europe. However, the threat of climate change appears to be encouraging greater political cooperation at the international level."

About the Bertelsmann Stiftung:

The Bertelsmann Stiftung is a non-profit German foundation. As a think tank and political consulting institution, it is committed to developing innovative, humane solutions for the challenges faced by a globalized world. One of its main areas of expertise is international relations. Established in 1977 by Reinhard Mohn, a German businessman, it is still a majority shareholder of Bertelsmann AG, an international media company. In its projects, the Bertelsmann Stiftung is non-partisan and independent from the company.

Gallup International/TNS-EMNID, an opinion research firm, recently questioned 9,000 people around the world for the Bertelsmann Stiftung study. The representative survey was conducted in the US, Russia, Brazil, China, India, Japan, Germany, France and the UK. As a benchmark, the findings were compared with a prior Bertelsmann Stiftung poll from 2005. The results were presented at the second meeting of the Bertelsmann Stiftung's Global Policy Council in Berlin. This body brings together high-calibre experts from various fields and regions to analyze the challenges and opportunities inherent in the dynamics of globalization, the rise of new powers and the emergence of new security risks. Amongst others, Professor Jorge Castaneda from Latin America, the former Foreign Minister for Mexico and presidency candidate, took part in the survey.

To download details about the international survey, go to:

Contact Information

  • Contact:
    Stefani Weiss
    Project Manager
    Bertelsmann Stiftung
    Email: Email Contact
    Phone: +32 - 22 80 28 30