In April of 2010, we took our first look into what were the hottest issues of civil society in the USA, Canada and UK on international concerns. We looked at the historical period of 2008 to March of 2010. Now, again two years later, we decided to see if there were any changes and conducted a historical trend from 2010 to 2011. Our methodology and sample size is detailed at the bottom of this blog post. We’re just touching upon the surface of these issues in this blog post; you can contact us directly for a deeper discussion.
What we did find that is important in this new study, is that citizens in the US, Canada and UK are increasingly discussing issues of civil society; politics, legislation, services etc. Based on a comparative sample size between the two studies (we increased the sample size analysis in 2012) we can see a 34% increase in overall discussion volumes of civil society issues. This is important for government policy makers, those involved with public diplomacy and large corporations with a vested interest in these issues.
Financial Crisis: We re-classified this as US focused as Europe warranted a category on its own. Overall, the concern of citizens in the US, Canada and UK regarding the impact of the US Financial crisis and system of 2008-9 has declined in our rankings. We accounted for US citizen views to form a weighted average and adjusted for engaged volume of population sizes. While remains a concern, increasingly, people in all three countries are more concerned with the financial crisis in the EU, seeing it as potentially impacting the global economy and certainly Western economies.
Energy: This replaces Aid Relief as a greater and growing concern. Leading the source of citizen concerns in US and Canada is “fracking” with it’s impact on water supplies, in additional the Keystone XL Pipeline contributed significantly to the volume of discussion in 2011. In terms of energy we included renewable and non-renewable sources and the adoption of greener sources. Although there is a significant rise in concerns over energy, citizens continue to increase their consumption.
Climate Change: Interrelated with energy is climate change. Interestingly, this issue held steady with 2011 views by citizens. We haven’t seen a significant or even marginal increase in discussion by citizens in social media over climate change.
Middle East: No doubt triggered by the Arab Spring in 2011, citizens in Canada, USA and UK have turned their attention to the Middle East. Many are positively impacted by the obvious turn to a demand for greater democracy by citizens in these Arab countries. Unease over Israel and Palestine continues and Iran features prominently as many citizens fear at least a low-level conflict. Many continue to see the region as volatile and unpredictable, but there is a more upbeat view of the region and possible stabilization.
Europe Crisis: Certainly a concern of UK citizens so directly impacted by the economy of the EU, it still weighs strong for UK and Canadian citizens. With Canada negotiating a free trade agreement with the EU the state of the economy becomes of increasing interest to Canadians, while America sees this trading partner impacting its investment banking sector and sales of consumer goods. Likely the EU crisis will feature in citizen concerns into 2014.
Afghanistan: In 2010, we added Iraq into the equation as it was a hot topic of discussion in all three countries. Today the discussion over Iraq has dropped significantly, while the issue of Afghanistan has risen to a category of its own. With all three countries having been engaged in combat and civil engineering in Afghanistan, it is no surprise citizens were so engaged.
Privacy: The issue of privacy is one that always simmers in the background, but is of increasing concern to citizens in the US, Canada and UK. All three countries have been working through various changes and proposed legislations concerning privacy and copyright laws. With the SOPA and PIPA issue in the US, this has citizens of Canada and the UK looking on fearing similar ripple effects in their own countries.
US Election: This one has been simmering to a boil since 2010. Canadian and UK citizens are always fascinated with the U.S. elections and so it was no surprise this issue featured prominently in our analysis.
China: Increasingly, citizens in the U.S., Canada and UK are expressing concerns over China’s increasing role on the global stage. Their impact on the U.S. dollar, acquisition of natural resources in Canada and the U.S. and their role in acquiring energy resources around the world. While China’s soft power and economic power is less than America’s, people are increasingly perceiving a greater level of influence on the coming years for China. In Soft Power terms, perceptions are important.
As western countries increasingly engage in Digital Diplomacy and even Public Diplomacy domestically takes on a digital aspect, insight into what citizens are concerned about can help change and form policy and strategic communications.
This project was carried out using our proprietary search engine and analytics software. We only analysed English language. We took a representative sample size of 3,000 citizens per country and weighted for engaged population in the U.S., Canada and UK. We did not identify any particular individuals in this report. We discounted sockpuppeting and astroturfing comments and applied our spam filters. The age groups sampled were between 25 and 55 where we could identify an education of at least high school level. We analysed 350,000 “tweets” from Twitter, 4,750 blog postings and 125 news media sites for comments that were publicly available back to 2010. Additional information on our methodology is proprietary.