The Listening Project


Early in the weeks of 2020, the Milken Institute and The Harris Poll launched a research program called The Listening Project to survey the most urgent needs and challenges of people around the world. In February, we asked more than 10,000 people in 27 countries what needs, if met, would have the greatest impact in their lives and that of their family and community. We asked people to rank 48 different social and economic priorities in the form of everyday challenges in life, such as urban congestion and overcrowding, gun violence, internet access, and clean drinking water. 

As we were analyzing the findings, the pandemic arrived. In the ensuing months, as the extent of COVID-19’s impact on dislocation and devastation became apparent, we decided to replicate the fieldwork. In comparing our data from February to September 2020, we could see how COVID-19 had changed people’s lives. We surveyed an additional 19,000 people in 12 countries from our original study, including a special focus on six nations where the impact of COVID-19 was especially cruel. The resulting study, among a total of nearly 30,000 people globally, offers a window into new priorities, intersecting needs, and urgent problems that we posit might be approached in new ways.

The striking conclusion from our survey is that COVID-19 is not only a virus of public health but also a contagion across many other socioeconomic challenges and government institutions. From data collected in September, we see the issue of corruption and transparency rise to the third most urgent problem (it was fifth in February), following only the immediate priorities directly related to the global pandemic: access to and affordability of health care and communicable/infectious disease containment and prevention, which tied as the top two priorities on the list.


Updated/Published October 12, 2020