One year after the collapse of New York investment bank Lehman Bros triggered the gravest economic crisis since the Great Depression, a new poll shows two thirds of the world's population want to see governments playing a greater role in the economy. Majorities in most countries also believe economic benefits and burdens are being shared unfairly.
The poll indicates that, as Wall Street moves back to business as usual and government enthusiasm for tougher regulation fades amid signs of recovery, the desire of the world public to see economies restructured on a fairer basis remains strong.
The survey of more than 22,000 people, conducted by Globescan on behalf of the BBC World Service, found that three in five (60 percent) citizens – and majorities in 13 of the 20 countries polled – support "significantly increasing government spending to stimulate the economy". Support was especially strong for investments in renewable energy and green technology.
But even larger numbers (67 percent overall) want to see ongoing state involvement in the form of an increase in "government regulation and oversight of the national economy". Even in the U.S., where free market ideology is traditionally strong, 50 percent of those polled support more state involvement. In China, where the government already plays a major role in the economy, a massive 94 percent approve of yet more government regulation and oversight, a figure that may give those pushing for more radical free-market reforms pause for thought.
The US government's efforts to address the crisis are being relatively well-received around the world with nearly half (46 percent) saying they are happy with US measures, compared to 39 percent who are dissatisfied. Chinese leaders will be disappointed to learn that, despite their huge stimulus package, amounting to 14 percent of China's GDP, less than a third (31 percent) of those questioned are happy with China's response to the crisis. They will be pleased, however, that in Africa, where China has large and growing economic stakes, people showed strong support for China's measures.
The poll also shows that most people feel the benefits of economic development are being shared unfairly. Nearly three in five (59 percent) of those polled hold this view, and they are in the majority in 15 out of 20 countries. Among the countries most dissatisfied with economic fairness are France (84 percent dissatisfied), Russia (77 percent), Turkey (77 percent), and Germany (76 percent). A clear majority of US and UK citizens believe economic rewards are shared unfairly in their countries. Canadian and Australian citizens are the happiest with the distribution of rewards, but are nevertheless strong supporters of increased government intervention, especially in the field of clean and renewable energy.
Citizens' support for the anti-crisis measures taken by their own governments is strong in China (87 percent), Australia (68 percent), Canada (56 percent), Brazil (59 percent), and relatively strong in the U.S. (49 percent). But an astonishing 88 percent of the Mexican public, 67 percent of the French public, and 69 percent of the Japanese public are unhappy with their governments' measures.
Globescan Chairman Doug Miller commented, "It is clear that citizens in many countries are still not seeing the kind of economic leadership they think is needed from their national government."
Globescan conducted the survey in collaboration with the University of Maryland Program on International Policy Attitudes. They polled 22,158 citizens in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, between 19 June and 17 August, 2009.
(China.org.cn by John Sexton, September 15, 2009)