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The Economy & You #45: The General Malaise Regarding the World Economy

I recently read a report from the Pew Research Center that surveyed people around the world about their feelings regarding their nation’s economy as well as their own personal economic situation.  As one might expect, the mood is fairly gloomy. Only 27% of those surveyed feel their national economy is doing well.  In fact, of the 21 countries that were surveyed, only in four countries do a majority of people believe national economic conditions are good: China (83%), Germany (73%), Brazil (65%), and Turkey (57%).

The public mood has worsened since 2008 for 8 out of 15 countries and remained unchanged for four others.  The lone exception is China who has had a positive economic outlook for the past decade.

The Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project conducts public opinion surveys throughout the world on a variety of topics.  For this survey, 26,210 people were surveyed in 21 countries from March to April 2012. This and other information can be found at

In the United States, less than one-third (31%) of people surveyed believe the economy is doing well.  This figure is up 13 percentage points from 2011, but it is down 19 points from 2007, the year before the financial downturn began. In Europe, only 16% believe their nation’s economy is doing well. This includes only 2% of the Greeks and 6% of the Spanish and Italians, three countries that have been hit especially hard economically.  In fact only the Germans have a majority of its people (73%) saying their economy is doing well.

While there is some optimism that things will improve over the next year, there is still lingering pessimism about young people having a better life than their parents. This is particularly true in Europe.

The idea that hard work leads to financial success has long been considered a Western value. Today more than half of the people in 13 of the 21 nations surveyed subscribe to the notion that hard work leads to success. Still, the difficult financial struggles people have faced have led to a decline in that belief. This is seen clearly in nations that have suffered from the economic downturn like Greece, Italy, and Japan.

This is turn has had a negative effect on peoples’ support of capitalism.  While a majority of countries still agree that most people are better off in a free market economy, that support has declined in all but two countries and the difference is especially pronounced when one factors in their personal economic situation.

So if the national economy is not doing well, who is to blame for the downturn? In most countries (16 out of 20), the people blame the government for the economy doing poorly.   In the remaining four countries, financial institutions like banks were seen as the primary culprits of their nation’s economic woes.  It is also interesting to note that a few countries see the United States or the European Union as the secondary reason for economic problems.  It is in only seven countries that people blame themselves, after the government, for their current financial troubles.

What we can take away from this research is that people continue to have a pessimistic outlook on their nation’s and the world economy.  A question that needs to be addressed is whether their perceptions are correct about their national economy are valid and how their own personal economic situation has influenced their beliefs.  These will be addressed in my next article.


One response

  1. Pingback: The Economy & You #46: Outlooks of the World Economy – Perceptions & Reality « Wisconsin State Treasury

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