The Most Important Political Issues of 2016


Global Matters has polled our select group of experts on what political issues they believe will be the most important in 2016. In order to do this, we provided a list of eleven major issues, and asked each expert to select 3 issues which they believed would be important in the year ahead. Of these, the most important issue was given 3 points, the runner-up 2 points, and the final issue 1 point.

The eleven issues which they selected from were as follows:

  • The emergence of populist movements
  • Daesh/ the Islamic State, and related terrorism
  • The rise of artificial intelligence/cyborgs
  • Climate change
  • Unregulated migration
  • The erosion of the EU
  • The meltdown of China’s economy
  • A collapsing Russia
  • A populist republican administration in the US
  • A new financial crash
  • Military action in the South or East China Sea

Following our poll of 12 experts, this was the result:

Global Matters Graph UpdateAs can be seen several issues dominated our experts’ concerns. Among these the threat posed by the Islamic State (also known as Daesh) was viewed as the most important and pressing issue for 2016. Following closely behind was the issue of ‘unregulated migration’ relating to the large number of refugees who have entered Europe over the last year.

Climate Change, a hot topic following the Paris Conference, also was viewed as an important issue for the year ahead, as nations begin to implement policies which will tackle this global problem. A final issue which has emerged as important was the risk of a new financial crash, perhaps triggered by a slowdown (or meltdown) of China’s economy.

Do you agree with our experts? Which issues would you score as the most important in 2016, and why? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!


  1. Tobias 3 weeks ago

    1. Socialist turn in the Anglo-American world (U.S. and U.K.)
    — impact of Sanders’ campaign on Democrats
    — impact of Trump’s campaign on Republicans (protectionist, pro social security etc.)
    — Corbyn’s new Labour

    2. Challenges for Transatlantic partnership / new Eurasian axis?
    — anti-NATO parties in almost every European country
    — some of them partly financed by Russia (Front National, Syriza?), Iran (Podemos)

    3. Iranian-Arab conflict / proxy wars

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  2. Sabina Pindur 2 weeks ago

    From a German perspective, the erosion of the EU due to unregulated migration looks like a distinct possibility a the outset of 2016. The fact that one EU member state after the other introduces restrictive measures stems from the Initial refusal of some to cooperate in fair burden sharing. Could this be the year that Mearsheimer’s 1990 prediction becomes reality?

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  3. Terence Fernandes 2 weeks ago

    Interesting to see how this group of experts have ranked these issues. It would be useful to have some context as to the background of the panel that was polled. I wonder to what degree the rankings have been influenced by the environment of the experts (i.e. country of residence) and the timing of the poll (i.e. soon after the Paris attacks). I suspect experts from one region to the next would rank these differently and it would be interesting to see those differences. Some issues that I would like to add for consideration include:

    The lifting of sanctions of Iran:
    – with the lifting of sanctions on Iran, it will be interesting to observe how the dynamics in the region will shift in 2016. Will Iran’s more moderate leadership tread lightly for fear of damaging its newfound relations with the West? Or will hardliners in the regime gain momentum to use Iran’s improving economic situation to be more assertive or aggressive in the regional conflicts? Globally, it will also be interesting to see how Iran chooses to engage the wider international community. Just recently Iran and China agreed to closer economic and political ties.

    The concern about ‘superbugs’
    – Scientists have recently warned that the world is on the cusp of a post-antibiotic era. This issue may gain traction in 2016 and it will be interesting to see how governments, NGOs and epistemic communities try and address the issue.

    Civil liberties vs security
    – I suspect that in 2016, more and more debate will emerge regarding the balance between the two in the West.

    Socialism in US political discourse
    – completely agree with Tobias regarding the Sanders campaign in the US. Socialism used to be very taboo even a decade ago in the US. Now, it is very much part of the mainstream political discourse.

    Xenophobia / Integrating migrants
    – will be interesting to see how the West will integrate (or not) migrants in 2016.

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  4. missbjelica 2 weeks ago

    I would rank climate change as the most pressing global issue, followed by terrorism (ISIS/Daesh). The world has been seeing both the rise and fall of populism; the coming together and collapse of alliances and states; financial breakdowns, most often accompanied by populist political movements, migration, and always followed by recovery. The pressing dangers behind global climate change, however, are unique to our time, and not only are we unprepared to face these challenges, but the instability that all the aforementioned issues bring together make the common goals of climate change more difficult to reach.

    Terrorism is perhaps not the root cause of migration, the erosion of the EU, populism and conservatism, but certainly affects the state of play, in how policies are developed and alliances shaped. The influx of migrants to Europe might be higher than the one we have seen in the 90s, and the challenges greater, however given how history has managed to evolve and develop after similar events – I would categorize migration as a sub-category of a much greater problem. Of course, related to this is the economy, and for the economy not to crash again – we need to develop better relations across the political and ideological borders we have today.

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  5. faihaa 2 weeks ago

    1- Daesh/ the Islamic State, and related terrorism
    2- Climate change
    3- Unregulated migration

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