End of the world belief worldwide: 1 in 7 expect to see it

One in 7 people thinks the end of the world is coming, according to poll.

Nearly 15 percent of people worldwide believe the world will end during their lifetime, and 10 percent think the Mayan calendar could signify that it will happen this year, according to a new poll.

“Whether they think it will come to an end through the hands of God or a natural disaster or a political event, whatever the reason, 1 in 7 thinks the end of the world is coming,” said Keren Gottfried, research manager at Ipsos Public Affairs, which conducted the poll for Reuters.

Responses to the international poll of 16,262 people in more than 20 countries varied widely, with only 6 percent of French residents believing in an impending Armageddon in their lifetime, compared with 22 percent in Turkey and the United States and slightly less in South Africa and Argentina.

Gottfried also said that people with lower education or household income levels, as well as those under 35 years old, were more likely to believe in an apocalypse during their lifetime or in 2012, or have anxiety over the prospect.

Tip: @skeptinquiry on Twitter

This piece was interesting. I actually wonder if the 1 in 7 is LESS than in the past. But I would guess it’s about the same. Parts of the population at all times suspected the world would end in their lifetime. Now is no different. Could the hype and access to scary information be balanced by the lessened belief in world ending religious prophecies and superstition.

What is more scary is what people who DO believe that will do with information. The deeply held belief in Armageddon approaching could translate into trouble for innocent people who get caught in the wave of hype — panicked parents who cause their children grief or religious leaders who compel their followers to buy into it. And of course, the media capitalizes on the fear and hype.

Fear the world will end is a collective one. We enjoy sharing the thought of impending doom together. I’d say this is not knew but the consequences and how we deal with that fear needs to be taken seriously.

  9 comments for “End of the world belief worldwide: 1 in 7 expect to see it

  1. Calum MacKinnon
    May 3, 2012 at 4:19 PM

    Surely the “End of the World” is when you pop your clogs yourself? Unless, of course, you go to another world? Aye right!

  2. David
    May 3, 2012 at 5:13 PM

    22% of people in the US believe it? That’s not good.

  3. Massachusetts
    May 3, 2012 at 5:32 PM

    Is it 10% of all people believe in the Mayan calendar end game or 10% of the 15T who believe in the end of the world? That would be substantially less as a whole.

    It’s strange that the under 35 are more vulnerable. I wonder if it’s just a lack of life experience and not having seen fads come and go, or whether our educational system is failing now on a grander scale than in years past? Maybe a bit of both?

  4. Massachusetts
    May 3, 2012 at 5:33 PM

    oops 15% not 15T. sorry.

  5. May 3, 2012 at 5:56 PM

    I suspect the under 35 is due in no small part to economic problems. The story around the richer world is of the young facing “austerity” because the old have cornered all the money. While that’s not quite the end of the world, you produce a generation that sees no personal economic future, and that is easily blown up into no future period. Also, I suspect that globally, concern about global warming is highest amongst the young. The US is hard to gauge on this, since in the US belief in global warming is almost completely tied to whether you are a conservative or not.

  6. May 3, 2012 at 5:59 PM

    As for Sharon’s question in the OP, about whether more people believe in the end of the world now, or less, I’d strongly suspect it is more. First off, if we’re talking long-term scale, people who lived before nuclear weapons almost certainly were less likely to believe in the end of the world.

    Beyond that, though, much of the end of the world business is tied to a particularly American strain of radical Christianity with End Times theology, and this strain has been becoming more and more popular globally through mission efforts and the influence and wealth of America. This obsession with the end of the world did not mark the primarily European missionization and Christianization of much of the planet during high imperialism, AFAIK.

  7. May 5, 2012 at 1:32 AM

    Every time the world ends, something always goes wrong and I miss it for some reason, like I forgot or I overslept or something. Always something.

    This time, I’m gonna see the end of the world if it kills me! I’m setting up an alarm clock and a camera to catch a video it in case I fall asleep again. Maybe this time I’ll get lucky!

    One day, maybe 500,000 years from now the world will finally come to an end. Then all the Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, space aliens, etc., etc., etc., will declare in one triumphant voice, “We’ve been telling you about all the evidence for half a million years now that the world was about to end at any second! Who’s laughing now?”

    The last words ever spoken will be:
    “We told you s…


  8. May 5, 2012 at 8:33 PM

    Heh. Seems we all have this problem.

  9. Massachusetts
    May 6, 2012 at 10:26 AM

    Well, for the religiously motivated end of the world crowd, which is a majority I’d say, they usually announce that, due to their prayers and vigilance, we’ve been given another chance, so they don’t have to confront that fact that the world didn’t end. So they don’t own up to the mistake, they rewrite the narrative and side-step the issue entirely.

    However, an exception to this may be the elderly preacher (sorry, forget his name) who predicted the world would end then moved the date to October and it didn’t happen then either. I believe he admitted he was wrong and apologized? I think that’s uncommon though, among the doomsday groups.

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