By Bruce Stokes, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Bruce Stokes is the director of the Pew Research Center’s Global Economic Attitudes. The views expressed are solely those of the author.
Six years since the beginning of the Great Recession and publics around the world remain glum about the state of their economy and prospects for an economic recovery. In most nations, people say their country is heading in the wrong direction and most voice the view that economic conditions are bad, according to a new 44 country survey by the Pew Research Center conducted among 48,643 respondents from March 17 to June 5, 2014.
A global median of 60 percent see their country’s economy performing poorly, largely unchanged from last year. People in advanced economies, such as the United States and France, are slightly more negative than those in emerging markets. Only in developing economies is there some semblance of satisfaction with current national economic performance: 51 percent voice the view that their economy is doing well.
Those who see their economy in the most negative light are the Greeks (97 percent say economic conditions are bad), Italians (96 percent), Spanish (93 percent) and Ukrainians (93 percent). In the U.S., 58 percent are of the opinion that the American economy is not doing well; only 40 percent say its performance is good. Those most positive about their national economic conditions are the Chinese, Vietnamese and Germans, where more than 80 percent are upbeat.
In a half dozen countries, economic attitudes have soured in the last year. In 2013, a majority of Brazilians (59 percent) said their economy was doing well. Today only one third hold this view, a 27 percentage point drop in economic confidence. With a presidential election coming up in October, this cannot be good for the incumbent government. There has also been a 15 point decline in positive views of the economy in Venezuela and 13 point drop-offs in Argentina and Malaysia.
But, over the last year, the economic mood has brightened in a number of nations. In 2013 in the United Kingdom and Pakistan, only 15 percent and 17 percent of the public, respectively, thought the economy was doing well. In 2014, British assessments of their economic conditions are now up 28 points. Pakistanis’ economic frame of mind has improved by 20 points. Double digit improvements in economic mood are also found in Uganda, Israel, Indonesia, South Korea, Russia, Chile and Germany.
Expectations for the future of national economies are a bit more positive overall. A global median of 46 percent sees their economy picking up over the next year.
Regionally, people in Africa and Latin America are the most hopeful about the coming year, while nearly half of Asians agree. But only a quarter of Europeans expect economic conditions to improve.
The most optimistic nation is China (80 percent). But there are also high expectations in the Latin American nations of Peru and Colombia. The greatest rise in economic optimism has been in the U.K., where 45 percent are optimistic – a 23 point rise in a hopeful view of the future since 2013. A majority of Indonesians and Ugandans also expect their economy to perform better over the next year, with such confidence up 18 points and 15 points, respectively, since last year.
The greatest pessimists can be found in Greece, France, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.
Americans are almost evenly divided about the economy’s trajectory: 35 percent are hopeful of improvement, 33 percent expect more of the same and 30 percent see conditions worsening. But there is a partisan divide in these views: 54 percent of Democrats expect economic conditions to improve, while just under half of Republicans anticipate that they will worsen.
But the greatest nosedive in optimism about the economy over the next 12 months has been in Japan, where just 15 percent foresee their economy improving, down from 40 percent who were hopeful a year ago, hardly an endorsement of Abenomics.
The public mood about the economy reflects recent economic conditions. Global growth slowed in the first quarter of 2014, immediately prior to the survey. At 2.75 percent, it was down a full percentage point from the growth experienced in the second half of 2013, according to the International Monetary Fund. Some nations, especially advanced economies, such as Japan, Germany, Spain, and the U.K., performed better than expected. But their success was outweighed by disappointing growth in China and the U.S. And weak demand in those economies sapped economic growth in emerging markets, where success is often driven by exports to the U.S. and China.
So, until economies pick up across the board, it may be difficult to see the global economic mood improve much. But therein lies much of the problem. As long as people are glum about the economy, they may be reluctant to spend and invest. And such reluctance may make it harder for the economy to attain lift off speed.