Eurotrack+US: do people think things are uniquely bad where they are?

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
June 25, 2024, 11:21 AM GMT+0

Britons are the most likely to say their country is in a bad state, and to think that it is in a worse state than other Western countries

The grass is, as they say, always greener on the other side. Domestic national news stories often paint a picture of gloom, but do people in the West think things in their country are uniquely bad?

Now a new YouGov Eurotrack survey of seven Western European countries (Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden), as well as the USA, shows that while many think things are worse in their country than elsewhere in the West, most people in the other nations surveyed also consider their own country to be in a bad state.

Is the grass greener? Many in the West think things are better elsewhere…

Having called a general election more than six months before he had to, British prime minister Rishi Sunak might have wanted to wait until seeing the results of this survey before making that decision. The poll – conducted in the UK on 9-10 May, about two weeks before the election was announced – shows that Britons are the most likely to think their country is in a worse state than other Western countries, at 43%.

Similar numbers in Italy have the same attitude (41%), as well as Spain, where 40% feel things are worse there than in the West more generally but 41% see their national situation as about average.

Seeing their domestic situation as being about average for the West is also the most common attitude in France (44%), Germany (39%) and Sweden (39%).

Americans are divided. Three in ten Americans (29%) feel that the state of the US is about the Western average, with 32% saying that things are better than average there currently, and 26% believing they are worse.

Danes are by far the most optimistic, with 47% believing that Denmark is in better shape than the rest of the West currently. Just 6% think things are generally worse in Denmark than elsewhere.

…but most in the countries we studied think things are bad where they are too

While many are clearly looking abroad through rose-tinted binoculars, the results show that most people in most of the countries surveyed believe their country is in a sorry state.

Again, Britain tops the list, with fully 80% of people believing the nation is in poor shape right now, including 31% who describe the situation as “very bad”.

More than two thirds share the same negative sentiment in France (71%), Germany (70%), Italy (68%) and Spain (67%).

Slightly more than six in ten Americans likewise feel that things are bad in the US currently (63%), although a notably higher proportion than most other countries consider it “very bad” (30%).

Swedes are split, with 48% saying the country is in a bad state but 44% feeling it is doing well.

By contrast, an enviable two thirds of Danes (68%) consider the country to be in a good situation currently. Only 25% say the national situation is poor.

Will things get better over the next year?

While Britons might be the most pessimistic about the current national state of affairs, it is the French who are most gloomy about the future. Half of French people (50%) expect the state of the country to get worse in the next 12 months, including 24% who expect it to get “much worse”.

This compares to 43% of Germans who expect a downturn over the next year, and 39% of Britons.

Americans are much more divided on what the future holds – perhaps understandably given the next 12 months see the polarised nation holding a very close presidential contest between two very different candidates. Three in ten Americans (31%) expect things to get worse in the next 12 months, compared to 26% who think they will get better and another 26% who think they will stay about the same.

Given they consider the country to be in a good place, we can envy the 64% of Danes who think the national situation will remain as it is for the next year. Belief that things will stay much as they are is also the most common opinion in Sweden (44%), Spain (43%) and Italy (40%).

See the full results here

What do you think about the cost of living situation in the UK, the coming election, and everything else? Have your say, join the YouGov panel, and get paid to share your thoughts. Sign up here

Photo: Getty