Over 70% of citizens around the globe say they are experiencing the lowest point in their nation’s history, according to a report. Photo of United Nations flags by Tom Page / CC BY-SA

The coronavirus pandemic has shown there’s a leadership deficit around the world, according to a survey which said more people trust companies over their governments to keep economies going during the crisis.

Over 70% of citizens around the globe say they are experiencing the lowest point in their nation’s history, while nearly two-thirds say their leaders are out of touch or “don’t really care what happens” to them, the Milken Institute and the Harris Poll said in a report. More than 29,000 people from 27 countries participated in the The Listening Project survey between February and October.

“While COVID-19 is a public health crisis, it has also been a contagion across many other socio-economic challenges and government institutions,” said John Gerzema, chief executive officer of the Harris Poll. “Maybe even more than the virus, our common crippling hardship is the lack of leadership being observed on the world stage.”

More than 1 million people have died from the coronavirus, with global infections exceeding 37 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The US, India, and Brazil are suffering the biggest casualties.

The world economy’s return to full health is likely to be longer and bumpier than initially predicted, according to the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund. Many governments are using the COVID-19 pandemic as cover to silence dissent, curb press freedoms and disrupt elections, resulting in an erosion of democracy and human rights, the US-based Freedom House said earlier this month.

The project showed 61% of people globally agreed businesses had played a bigger role than authorities in “keeping my country running” during COVID-19, the Milken Institute and the Harris Poll said.

“Across all countries surveyed, companies are seen as more reliable and trustworthy than their governments and are given a new charge to speak out and solve socio-economic challenges,” they said.

Of the 12 countries surveyed in September, only three—China, Malaysia and India—were home to respondents who strongly backed their leaders’ measures to fight the pandemic. Fewer than one out of three people in the US strongly supported their country’s response.

At least two-thirds of respondents said the economic impact of the pandemic had a bigger effect on their lives than the coronavirus itself. In 2020, almost all economies on the planet will shrink, according to a World Bank forecast.

Around 69% of people feared losing their jobs, The Listening Project report found.

Global extreme poverty is expected to increase this year for the first time since the Asian financial crisis more than two decades ago, the World Bank said. — Ruth Carson/Bloomberg