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Global Progress on Safety, Confidence in Police Stalls

Global Progress on Safety, Confidence in Police Stalls

Story Highlights

  • Afghanistan least secure country in the world
  • Singapore most secure; nearly everyone feels safe
  • Americans lose confidence in their police, feel less safe

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- During the second year of the pandemic, the world felt about as safe as it did during the first, according to Gallup's latest update on its annual Law and Order Index. However, there are signs in the 2021 data that progress stalled -- particularly in countries such as the U.S., where people's sense of safety and their confidence in police declined.

The world scored an 83 of a possible 100 on the Law and Order Index in 2021 -- basically unchanged from 82 the previous year.

The index itself is a composite score based on Gallup World Poll questions that ask people whether they are confident in their local police, feel safe in their neighborhoods, or were victims of theft or assault in the past year. Higher scores mean more people in a country feel secure.

Scores at the country level in 2021 ranged from a high of 96 in Singapore to a low of 51 in Afghanistan. Neither country was surveyed in 2020 because of the pandemic, but in previous years, Singapore had scored the highest on the index nearly every year, and Afghanistan had scored the lowest on the index in both 2018 and 2019.

As low as Afghanistan's score was in 2021, it represents an improvement over the previous score of 43 in 2019. Gallup's surveys in Afghanistan in 2021 took place as the Taliban completed their takeover of the country in August and as the United States withdrew its troops. Although the country was in turmoil, the end of the Taliban's insurgency led to a marked drop in violence.


For complete results for more than 120 countries surveyed in 2021, read Gallup's 2022 Global Law and Order report.

Although the U.S. usually does not rank among the 10 most secure countries in the world, it has typically scored above average. However, after declining from 87 in 2020 to 83 in 2021, the score for the U.S. was only average.

Afghans Are Least Likely to Feel Safe Walking Alone at Night

Nearly seven in 10 people worldwide in 2021 said they feel safe walking alone at night where they live (71%), down one percentage point from the previous year and effectively ending consecutive years of improvement. These overall numbers also mask scores that range from as high as 95% in Singapore to as low as 22% in Afghanistan.

Except for Afghanistan, the countries in which residents are least likely to say they feel safe walking alone at night are exclusively a mix of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, along with sub-Saharan Africa -- which tends to be the case each year. Five of them also ranked among the least safe in 2020. The exceptions were Republic of the Congo, Zambia and Ecuador.


In most economically developed countries and territories with a strong rule of law, high majorities of residents say they feel safe walking alone in their areas at night. The same is true in countries where populations are under tighter state control. For example, these feelings were nearly universal in 2021 in Singapore (95%), Tajikistan (93%), the United Arab Emirates (92%) and Saudi Arabia (91%).

In 2021, the U.S. was only slightly above the global average of 71%, with 73% of residents saying they felt safe walking alone at night -- but this was down five points from 78% the previous year.

Confidence in Police Drops in Northern America

Seven in 10 adults worldwide (70%) said in 2021 that they have confidence in their local police -- down one point from the previous year. The results vary significantly by region, however, from a low of 51% in Latin America and the Caribbean to 82% in Southeast Asia.


Confidence in local police suffered the biggest losses worldwide in Northern America, entirely attributable to declining trust in the U.S., where it dropped eight percentage points in the span of a year. Although most Americans continue to trust their local police, the steady string of high-profile police shootings in 2020 -- including the killing of George Floyd -- and in 2021 has likely shaken their faith. Nearly three in four Americans (74%) in 2021 said they were confident in their local police, down from 82% in 2020 (collected before the Floyd shooting in May).

Southeast Asia was home to the largest gains in confidence in 2021 -- rising four points from 78% to 82% -- and led all other regions on this measure. These improvements largely reflect the 2021 inclusion of Singapore (93%), where residents typically express high confidence in their police. They also reflect improvement in Indonesia, where confidence rose to 90% after sinking to 81% in 2020 following violent police crackdowns on protests.


The United Nations' most recent progress report on its Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 reiterates how important safety is to the future of global development: "Feeling unsafe in public can fundamentally erode one's sense of wellbeing and reduce trust and community engagement, becoming an obstacle to development."

Gallup's latest global update on people's perceptions of their own security and faith in the rule of law in the second year of the pandemic provides a sense of where the world stands today -- and where its biggest obstacles are.

The obstacles in places such as Afghanistan might be expected, but the erosion in perceived safety in countries with a strong rule of law such as the U.S. could be concerning for the current political administration ahead of the midterm elections in two weeks.

Read the full report.

On Friday on, read Gallup's latest update on Americans' views of crime from its annual October Crime survey.

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