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For First Time Ever, A Majority of People Identify as 'Global Citizens'

The trend is particularly strong in developing countries

Activists protest a migrant detention center in London. (Photo: noborder.org)

People around the world are increasingly identifying as global citizens, according to a new BBC poll that shines a light on changing attitudes about immigration, inequality, and different economic realities.

Among all 18 countries where public opinion research fir, GlobeScan conducted the survey, 51 percent of people see themselves more as global citizens than national citizens. It is the first time since tracking began in 2001 that a global majority identifies this way, and is up from a low point of about 42 percent in 2002.

The trend is particularly strong in developing countries, the poll found, "including Nigeria (73%, up 13 points), China (71%, up 14 points), Peru (70%, up 27 points), and India (67%, up 13 points)."

Overall, 56 percent of people in emerging economies saw themselves as global citizens rather than national citizens.

"The poll's finding that growing majorities of people in emerging economies identify as global citizens will challenge many people's (and organizations') ideas of what the future might look like," said GlobeScan chairman Doug Miller.

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In more industrialized nations, the numbers skew a bit lower. The BBC's Naomi Grimley writes:

In Germany, for example, only 30% of respondents see themselves as global citizens.

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According to Lionel Bellier from GlobeScan, this is the lowest proportion seen in Germany since the poll began 15 years ago.

"It has to be seen in the context of a very charged environment, politically and emotionally, following Angela Merkel's policy to open the doors to a million refugees last year."

The poll suggests a degree of soul-searching in Germany about how open its doors should be in the future.

Not all wealthy nations were opposed to newcomers. In Spain, 84 percent of respondents said they supported taking in Syrian refugees, while 77 percent of Canadians said the same. A small majority of Americans—55 percent—were also in favor of accepting those fleeing the ongoing civil war.

As Grimley points out, the concept of "global citizenship" can be hard to define, which makes it difficult to determine answers about identity.

"For some, it might be about the projection of economic clout across the world," she writes. "To others, it might mean an altruistic impulse to tackle the world's problems in a spirit of togetherness—whether that is climate change or inequality in the developing world."

GlobeScan interviewed 20,000 people in 18 countries between December 2015 and April 2016.

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