When asked what type of violence concerned people the most, there were distinct similarities across countries alongside marked differences.
With only a few exceptions, terrorism (in all its many interpretations) was rated as the top concern across the countries surveyed.
Terrorism was of greatest concern to people living in the UK, followed by the Philippines, Tunisia, the US and India.
Based on western media coverage, one might think terrorism would rank first in places such as Nigeria and Syria, but the data told a different story. Although terrorism ranked highly, ‘tribal, religious or ethnic conflict’ and ‘interference by foreign states’ were of greater concern in Nigeria and Syria respectively.
Violence by the state
In other countries, ‘violence or harassment by state authorities’ was more of an issue. It ranked top in the Democratic Republic of Congo and was in the top three in Hungary, Ukraine and the US.
It is likely that in the Democratic Republic of Congo, this response relates to grievances around abuses committed by state security forces, but it is also probably informed by political violence associated with the postponed presidential elections, which was a live issue at the time of polling.
Those citing state harassment as a key concern in Hungary were more strongly represented in the capital and among those with higher levels of education. This likely reflects ongoing criticism of the current government’s attitude towards liberal democratic norms and the voicing of dissent.
Without further exploration, it is harder to explain the result in the US, particularly as there are no significant variations across demographics. However, one suggestion would be the incidents that have given rise to movements such as Black Lives Matter, responses to undocumented migrants and other forms of structural violence.
Eight countries ranked criminal violence in their top two, among them some unexpected country such as Hungary and the US.
In the US, this might in part be attributable to the recurrent high-profile mass-shootings and political narratives around urban crime. Even so, both countries have comparatively low crime rates compared to the other countries listed, suggesting that perception and reality are not always aligned.
It is less surprising to see South Africa high on this list. While a number of crime indicators in South Africa have been slowly declining, those such as homicide rates are still high in global terms.
In the Philippines, President Duterte’s high-profile war on drugs might account for the increased perception of criminal-based violence. In Colombia, the long history of violent drug cartels intermeshed with other violent groups makes its inclusion in the top five sadly unsurprising.
Tribal, religious or ethnic conflict
In addition to Nigeria, ‘tribal, religious or ethnic conflict’ was the greatest or second greatest concern in the Democratic Republic of Congo, India and Myanmar.
In India, alongside the challenges posed by the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir, there are conflicts lesser-known to outsiders. Currently, there are a number of active and inactive insurgent groups in India, their objectives including secession, separate ethnic states, tribal autonomy, and the protection of the rights and identities of religious and ethnic communities.
In Myanmar, although the Rohingya have borne the brunt of recent violence, ethnic conflict is far broader, representing a key faultline along which separatist conflicts have and are continuing to be fought, for example in Kachin, Karen and Shan states.
While many closely associate violence in Nigeria with Boko Haram, it has been suggested that the significant conflict over farmland, grazing areas and livestock routes, which spans across the country’s middle belt, has claimed more lives. It represents a seminal case study on the consequences of unaddressed political and economic exclusion.
Similar ethnic and resource contests feed ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In March, ethnic clashes between Hema herders and Lendu farmers in the northeastern Ituri province killed more than 40 people, a smaller echo of the war that took place in the region between 1998 and 2003, which claimed thousands of lives. North Kivu has seen continuing violence between Hunde, Hutu, Nyanga and Tutsi militia forces following an influx of Hutus at the end of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
Domestic violence meanwhile ranked in the top three for Brazil, India, Lebanon, South Africa and Syria, and equal third in Tunisia and Nigeria.
In India, violence against women has been an increasing feature of public discourse over the last decade, following a string of high profile cases. There were over 40,000 dowry-related deaths recorded between 2011 and 2015.
While statistics are limited in South Africa, last year the senior South African police official, Tebello Mosikili, warned that domestic violence was on the rise.
In states embroiled in conflict with geo-political dimensions, including Lebanon, Syria and Ukraine, people consistently ranked ‘interference by a foreign country’ as their number one concern. The 2018 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) States of Fragility report highlights a trend in the internationalisation of internal violent conflict, which it describes as presenting “new, worrisome challenges”. Among these are that “external actors offer combatants additional resources to sustain conflicts that would otherwise lose steam”.
What we know of modern conflict is that all these forms of violence rarely occur in isolation; in fact, they intersect. This, alongside the significant differences globally in concerns around peace and security, underscores the sense that a ‘one size fits all approach’ to security cannot work. Those designing policies and interventions need to take into account both perceptions and realities, be sensitive to geographical differences – down to the most local scale – and look for the interplay between the various forms of conflict experienced by a population.
 It is important to recognise that terrorism can be interpreted differently. Respondents were not given a specific definition. In some instances, there may be cross-over between different forms of violence. For example, some may regard violence over access to pastoral lands as ethnically driven, others may register it as terrorism. In places like Lebanon, Israeli incursions may have been interpreted as terrorism.
 Of course, this contrasts sharply with the locations of terrorist activities, with Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria accounting for three-quarters of all deaths from terrorism in 2016. See: IEP, Global Terrorism Index 2017, New York: IEP, 2017b
 The South African government’s Victims of Crime Survey found that the decline in crime rates is not being matched by public perception. See: Crime is going down, but we are not feeling any safer, Statistics South Africa, 28 September 2017