Irish are most optimistic people in EU, survey shows

Majority believe economy is improving, but only 40 per cent trust the government

Some 57 per cent of Irish people believe the economy is in good shape. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Some 57 per cent of Irish people believe the economy is in good shape. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

The Irish are the most optimistic people in the EU with nearly two-thirds expressing confidence in the future, new research has found.

Some 64 per cent believe the country is going in the right direction, the highest in Europe. For the first time since the Global Financial Crisis began in 2008, a majority (57 per cent) of Irish people believe the economy is in good shape. This represents an 18 point increase since the autumn of 2014.

It is also significantly above the EU average which is 41 per cent. Only 8 per cent of Irish people believe the economy is “very bad”, a massive 76 per cent decline from the 84 per cent recorded at the height of the crash in November 2010.

Irish people also have strong confidence about their personal economic situation.

Some 73 per cent describe the financial situation of their household as “good”, above the EU average of 68 per cent, while 65 per cent classify their personal job circumstances as “good”, above the EU average of 58 per cent.

There is growing enthusiasm about Ireland’s employment situation, with 45 per cent of respondents describing it as “good”, up 16 points compared with the autumn of 2014.

However, a significant minority of people (40 per cent) believe the economy is still doing badly.

Fifty-two percent think the employment situation is “bad”, and 49 per cent have difficulty paying their bills either “some of the time” or “most of the time” above the EU average of 36 per cent.

Eurobarometer has been running since 1973 so the twice-yearly results show trends in public opinion over a long period of time. The poll consists of about 1,000 face-to-face interviews per country.

It contains a clue as to why the previous government parties, Fine Gael and Labour, got a drubbing in the election despite the economic feelgood factor that exists.

Successive governments have always been more distrusted that trusted even during the boom years, but almost as many people trusted the last government as distrusted it when it was first elected in 2011.

However, trust declined sharply after that government took office and reached a low of 60 per cent distrust around the time of the end of the EU/IMF bailout. Trust had been gradually restored from then was still overwhelmingly negative (40 per cent) when the Eurobarometer survey was carried out in the autumn.

Attitudes to the EU are holding steady: 54 per cent say they have a “positive” image of the EU while only 14 per cent say they have a “negative” image, the fewest people saying this since 2010.

Irish people are among the most positive in Europe about immigration. Some 71 per cent say they have a positive feeling regarding immigration from other member states but only 49 per cent express the same positivity about immigration from outside the EU.

However, on both indicators, Irish people are among the most positively disposed towards immigration cross-nationally.