With European ministers meeting this week to hammer out a deal on reduction of Greece’s debt, and persistent rumours of bailouts for some others in the Mediterranean region, Europe’s economic crisis continues to feature prominently in the news agenda. As GlobeScan’s most recent opinion polling shows, this clearly reflects the worries of its citizens.
Spanish citizens best encapsulate the crisis narrative, with unemployment, the economy and political problems cited most often as the most pressing problems facing the country. Here, with concern over unemployment clearly exacerbated by wider economic worries, the deep and persistent nature of the crisis in Spain has highlighted political indecision and factionalism. In France, we see an even higher level of concern over unemployment and the economy – though not yet with the same expression of frustration at the political system as seen in Spain.
Further variations on the crisis mindset are evident in the UK and Germany, which illustrate the complexities of how economic concerns manifest in individual states. In the UK very high levels of concern are raised around the wider economy, less so on unemployment. The crisis still dominates the public mind, though employment has remained at relatively reasonable levels. While Germany has perhaps most to lose from a continent-wide collapse, it has remained fairly insulated so far: the economy and unemployment still top concerns, but at comparatively lower levels.
Looking across the Atlantic, US opinion most closely resembles the Spanish pattern with a nexus of concerns over unemployment, the economy and, to a lesser extent, politics – the latter reflecting a polarized political landscape as evidenced by a bitterly fought election campaign and protracted struggles over legislative measures.
It is striking however, how less settled opinions in the developing world are. The economy is just one among many concerns, and with the exception of India is generally cited by about one in five respondents.
Public opinion is a major driver of policymaking, which in turn naturally impacts on business and civil society. Going forwards, decision makers should be aware of the currents that are influencing debates in their major markets. The same applies to political leaders, particularly across Europe – the leaders of France, Germany, the UK and elsewhere would do well to look at the case of Spain: fail to be seen to take action, and frustrations directed against decision-makers will start to build.