Open Europe Blog

A new Gallup poll for Debating Europe has asked peple all over the EU, except Luxembourg for some reason, about their views on austerity.

Now, of course, ‘austerity’ is rather a nebulous concept, particularly as different member states have had different experiences, while deficit cutting and structural reform all fall under the same term. Nevertheless, there are some interesting results.

The table above (click to enlarge) shows that across Europe as a whole, 51% said austerity is not working, while 34% said it is working but will take time, and 5% were sure it is already working.

Clearly, there are differences across the member states. No surprises that Greeks (80%) and Cypriots (64%) are the most sceptical about the merits of austerity. Portugal and Spain are also towards the right hand, anti-austerity side of the scale.

But look at Ireland. According to this poll, more Irish respondents (53%) think that austerity is working than Germans (42%), Finns (40%), or Dutch (39%)  – whose governments are considered to be the eurozone’s most hawkish.

It is also striking that people from the new member states in central and eastern Europe, albeit outside the eurozone, have the most trust in austerity policies. The Baltics (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) in particular were subjected to significant austerity in the aftermath of the financial crisis yet many in these countries still support such an approach.

It is not clear what exlpains Irish optimism about austerity. It is likely to be a mixture of the fact that, so far, the Irish economy has made relatively good progress (although fears about the banks and property market still remain) and a general cultural disposition – as we noted in a paper last year, of all the struggling eurozone countries Ireland has the economic and social setup and history most likely to fit with the austerity approach.

But taken as a whole, this poll highlights the political and social scale of the challenge the eurozone faces with its current policy approach, particularly among the populations of Southern Europe.

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