Sixty-five percent of citizens across the world do not think their country is governed by the will of the people, a poll commissioned by the BBC suggests.
The Gallup International Voice of the People 2005 poll questioned more than 50,000 people in 68 states for the BBC World Service survey about power.
Only in Scandinavia and South Africa do the majority believe that they are ruled according to their wishes.
But 47% thought elections in their countries were free and fair.
The figure is 55% for the US and Canada and up to 82% in EU countries - but just 24% in West Africa.
The survey also found that only 13% of people trusted politicians and only 16% thought they should be given more power.
About a third of those asked thought more power should go to writers and academics.
A quarter felt more should go to religious leaders - who are also seen as the most trusted group.
A fifth of those asked thought military, business leaders and journalists should be given more power.
Other key findings include:
- Family exerts the greatest single influence on people
Sixty-one percent said a partner or family member has most influenced decisions about their life in the past year.
In Mexico, the figure is 88%. The lowest rating for family influence comes from North America (35%), where people report a wider range of influences, especially religious leaders (12%).
- There is a wide gap between the developed and developing world on the degree to which people feel they can control their lives
Least control is felt in Africa, the Asia-Pacific region and the former Soviet bloc.
The highest scores are in Latin America (65%), followed by Canada and the US (62%) and Europe (53%).
- National identity is still strong
Nationality was used by a third of those surveyed to 'define' themselves. About a fifth chose religion.
The sense of nationality is strongest in Latin America (54%).
Religion gained the highest scores in Africa (56%), followed by the US and Canada (32%).