French top poll for pessimism over economic prospects


TOASTS TO a prosperous new year will have sounded half-hearted in France, where a new poll has found people take a gloomier view of their prospects in 2011 than Afghans and Iraqis.

Describing the French as the “world champions of pessimism”, BVA-Gallup has found that 61 per cent of French people believe 2011 will bring economic difficulties, compared to an average of 28 per cent across the 53 countries surveyed. Just 22 per cent of Germans – who emerge as the most optimistic Europeans – and 41 per cent of Italians are similarly despondent.

Two-thirds of French people (67 per cent) felt unemployment would rise again this year, showing they are more insecure about their jobs than their counterparts in every country except the UK (74 per cent) and Pakistan (72 per cent).

Overall, 37 per cent of French participants said 2011 would be “worse than 2010”, making them considerably more pessimistic than Afghans (14 per cent), Pakistanis (29 per cent) and Iraqis (12 per cent).

The poll found a striking divergence in outlook between confident, optimistic and newly prospering emerging countries and their worried, anxious counterparts in the west.

Pessimism about economic prospects was highest in Europe, while generally downbeat attitudes in North America (where just 25 per cent anticipated a prosperous 2011) were tempered by respondents’ upbeat sense of their personal situations (45 per cent believed this year would be better for them than 2010).

But the picture was very different in emerging, high-growth economies. Whereas just 15 per cent of Europeans envisaged a prosperous year, the equivalent figure in Brazil, India and China was just under 50 per cent.

Almost two-thirds of people in the “emerging” bloc (63 per cent) felt their own situation would improve in 2011.

Among the world’s most cheerful optimists are the Vietnamese, the poll suggested, 70 per cent of whom were confident about their economic prospects. Referring to another of the most upbeat countries, the newspaper Le Parisien remarked: “Despite coups d’etat, corruption and poverty, the Nigerians see the future of their country as more hopeful than we do!” Ireland was not among the countries polled.

Céline Bracq, deputy director at BVA Opinion in Paris, suggested a link between French pessimism and recent fears that the welfare state was more vulnerable than previously imagined. “In France, one hears these days about the failure of the education system, but also of the public finances and the pension system,” she said.

BVA-Gallup said the poll was carried out between October and December among 64,000 people in 53 countries.