An interesting Opinion Poll on Values

By Matthieu Ricard on February 20, 2010

In December some members of the Davos World Economic Forum in collaboration with Facebook conducted a poll on ‟values”. The poll was conducted with over 130,000 participants largely through the Internet. Eighty percent of the people polled were under 30 and, as these opinions expressed were mostly by young people, the result is certainly food for thought.
Responding to the question, ‟Do you believe that universal values exist,” only 54% responded positively, with Mexico leading the list of countries (72%). The largest group who disagreed was the French (37%), where people seem dubious that universal values exist at all.

To the question ‟Where do most of your personal values derive from?” 62% said that education and family were the main sources, 21% listed religion and faith, 11% professional experience, and 6% popular culture. Here too, there were significant differences among countries: only 5% of the Mexican respondents and 6% of the French derive their values from religion, as opposed to 30% of respondents from the USA and 39% from Saudi Arabia.

As for which values people consider most important in their private and professional lives, honesty, integrity and transparency come first (51%), followed by respect for others' rights, dignity, and views (26%), the impact of their actions on the well-being of others (17%), and preserving the environment (7%).  On this last point, Turkey ranks the highest (13%), while the USA and Saudi Arabia trail with only 4%.
However, when asked about the values considered most important in the global political and economic system, preserving the environment rated higher (17% on average), France and India coming first with respectively 27 and 22%, while Saudi Arabia and the USA come last with 11 and 13%.
Finally, 68% of the participants think that the current global economic crisis is also a crisis of ethics and values.

What can we learn from such a poll? It is indeed a bit disconcerting that half of the respondents under 30 consider that there are no universal values. Could values such as honesty, justice, and altruism, impartiality and equality be relative, optional and negotiable? It would be indeed interesting to learn more about the views of those who replied negatively.