Humanity has not had a major international conflict since the second world war ended in 1945, however, people are not optimistic that this state of affairs will continue, according to a survey published recently by YouGov.
With Russia and the West trying to stare one another down in Syria and Ukraine, an increasingly assertive China in the Pacific and the impending inauguration of a bellicose new US president, the YouGov research finds that many people across the West people are a new global conflict.
People from the major Western nations in the survey – Britain, France, Germany and the US – are the most likely to think the world is closest to war. Between 61 per cent and 64 per cent of people in these countries gave a score of 6 or more. Just 15-19 per cent of people in these nations gave a score of 0-4.
Women aged between 18 and 39 particularly believe another war could happen, with around two thirds (64-68 per cent ) thinking it is likely (women in general are six points more likely than men to believe a world war is likely).
One of the most obvious major threats to world peace – especially in Europe – is Russia. In every country surveyed large majorities of people believe Russia to be a major or significant military threat to the rest of Europe. Between 59 per cent and 71 per cent of people consider Russia to be a big threat, with people from Britain and the Nordic countries the most concerned.
By contrast, Westerners do perceive Russia to be far less threatening in the economic sphere. The country, which is still facing economic sanctions from the US, EU and other countries for its military intervention in Ukraine, is seen as an economic threat by between 25 per cent and 42 per cent of people, with Finns and the French the most concerned.
The British public is almost evenly split on whether war is ever justifiable, with 42 per cent saying that it is and 39 per cent that it is not. Women and working class people are the most strongly anti-war, whilst men, middle class people and 2015 Conservative, Lib Dem and UKIP voters are the most likely to consider war to be justifiable.
On a list of reasons a country might go to war, Brits overwhelmingly support (85 per cent) a military conflict to defend itself against an attack or an invasion, with just five per cent saying they would oppose such a war (including 11 per cent of those who said war is never justifiable).
Defending another democracy – the reason Britain and France declared war on Germany in 1914 – was the only other scenario in which more people would support (40 per cent) than oppose (25 per cent) going to war.