World

Chinese Buck Trend of Economic Negativity

by Cynthia English

More economic pessimism in Indonesia, South Korea, and Japan

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton heads to China Friday for the last leg of a four-country tour of Asia that has included major discussions on the global economic crisis. Gallup Polls conducted throughout 2008 reveal that the Chinese are more optimistic about their economy than the other three nations she visited.

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With a real GDP growth of 6.8% in 2008, China appears to have fared slightly better than other large Asian economies; however, Beijing officials recently stated that 2009 could be the worst year for China's economy this decade. According to a recent Gallup Poll of China, conducted from September to November 2008, Chinese respondents show continued positivity about their own city's economy despite this slowdown in growth, which perhaps has yet to have a significant effect on the local economy there.

While Gallup did not collect data on residents' perceptions of economic conditions in the country as a whole, respondents' views of conditions in their local area have remained fairly consistent and positive since 2006. A majority of Chinese respondents still say economic conditions in the city or area where they live are good.

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Chinese respondents also remain optimistic about the momentum surrounding economic conditions in their local area. Since 2006, at least 8 in 10 have said they think economic conditions in the city or area where they live are getting better.

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The Chinese data stand in clear contrast to findings from the other three countries Clinton visited. In a September 2008 Gallup Poll of South Korea, only 13% of Koreans said economic conditions in their country were good and roughly 6 in 10 respondents (62%) said conditions are getting worse.

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One key topic on the agenda for Clinton in South Korea is the open issue of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. While the Obama administration sees the agreement as "flawed" and in need of revision, Seoul does not believe revisions are warranted. However, Gallup data from 2007 show opinions of the benefits of this trade agreement were mixed among the Korean people who remain very concerned about the overall economic environment in their country today.

In Indonesia, where Clinton visited Wednesday, 72% of respondents said their national economy is not good and more than half (57%) said it is getting worse in a Gallup Poll conducted in March 2008. These figures are the highest economic negativity measured in Indonesia in years, and Indonesians were expressing this sentiment even before the global financial slowdown turned into a meltdown.

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With national elections occurring in Indonesia in July, economic concerns are likely to play a key role during the campaign season as more than half of Indonesians (55%) said they are dissatisfied with their personal standard of living and more than third (39%) said their standard of living is getting worse.

Clinton began her trip in Japan, which some economic experts argue has been harder hit by the economic crisis than any other developed nation. A December 2008 Gallup Poll of Japan shows more than 90% of respondents think their national economy is bad (94%) and 90% say it is getting worse.

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Speaking about the trip and her plans to meet with leaders from China, Japan, Indonesia, and South Korea, Clinton states she is "seeking greater cooperation about how together we're going to work our way through these difficult economic times." Gallup Poll data suggest the residents of these countries will welcome such efforts.

Survey Methods

Results from China are based on face-to-face interviews in 2006 and 2007 and telephone and face-to-face interviews in 2008 with approximately 3,730 in 2006, 4,238 adults in 2007, and 4,383 adults in 2008, aged 15 and older, conducted in October 2006, October 2007, and November 2008 respectively. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±2.2 percentage points in 2006 and 2008 and ±2.1 percentage points in 2007.

Results from Indonesia are based on face-to-face interviews and results from Japan and South Korea are based on telephone interviews with approximately 1,050 adults in Indonesia, 750 adults in Japan, and 1,000 adults in South Korea, aged 15 and older, conducted in March 2008 in Indonesia, December 2008 in Japan, September 2008 in South Korea, respectively. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4.3 percentage points for Japan, ±3.5 percentage points for Indonesia, and ±3.8 percentage points for South Korea.

The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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