Last week I posted on the blog OpenPop about the relationship between measured inequality and citizens' concern about inequality. That post built upon an earlier post where I had examined the relationship among OECD countries. One measure of concern about inequality that I used in the OpenPop post was the percentage of respondents who view inequality as the top global threat. This measure was taken from a recent Pew survey where respondents in 44 countries were asked, "Which one of these poses the greatest threat to the world? Nuclear weapons; Inequality; Religious & ethnic hatred; Pollution & environment; AIDS & other diseases."
I found that measured inequality is weakly but negatively associated with the percentage who believe inequality is the top global threat. As I noted, this probably probably arises because countries with high inequality often face other problems, which citizens may consider more pressing. One such problem is AIDS. To examine whether citizens' concern about AIDS & other diseases is correlated with the measured prevalence of AIDS, I obtained data on the latter from the CIA World Factbook (figures were not available for Palestine or Brazil). Because the distribution was highly skewed, I applied the log transformation. The chart below plots the relationship between the percentage who believe AIDS & other diseases are the top global threat and log prevalence of HIV/AIDS.
The correlation is strong and positive, namely r = .70 (p < 0.001, n = 42). In most Western countries, where the prevalence of HIV/AIDS is low, less than 10% of respondents believe AIDS & other diseases are the top global threat. By contrast, in four of the Sub-Saharan African countries, where the prevalence of HIV/AIDS is substantially higher, more than 25% of respondents believe AIDS & other diseases are the top global threat. Nigeria is something of an outlier: despite a relatively high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, few respondents believe AIDS & other diseases are the top global threat. This is attributable to the fact that many Nigerian respondents (38%) view religious & ethnic hatred as the top global threat, most likely due to the ongoing Islamist insurgency there.