BRUSSELS -- While EU residents' optimism about their own personal financial situations in 2010 doesn't yet indicate a full recovery from the financial and economic crisis, Gallup surveys show some people's outlooks are slowly getting better. A median of 29% this year said their living standards were getting better, still down from 39% in 2007, but up from 22% in 2009.
EU residents in nearly every country surveyed in 2010 were more optimistic than or as optimistic as they were in 2009 about their standard of living. Britons, the Irish, and the French were significantly more optimistic, with the percentage of people saying their living standards are getting better increasing at least 10 percentage points since 2009. However, in most countries the increases were much smaller. In Germany, Sweden, and Finland, where optimism did not change much, if at all during the economic crisis, optimism in 2010 returned to or surpassed 2007 levels.
Residents in several countries, including Greece, Portugal, Romania, Cyprus, and Austria, became more pessimistic. In some cases, there were double-digit increases in the percentage of those who said their standard of living was getting worse, namely Greece (+28 points) and Romania (+22 points), which were likely fueled by dissatisfaction with short-term austerity measures and fears about the long-term effects of bailouts.
The large range in levels of optimism across Europe in the past year illustrates how stronger economies in northern Europe were less affected and recovered more quickly from the financial and economic crisis, while those in eastern and southern Europe continued to suffer as their economies struggled. Five percent in Lithuania said their standard of living was getting better compared with 58% who thought so in Sweden. Those who thought their standard of living was getting worse ranged from 1 in 10 in Denmark (11%) to a majority of 60% in Romania. The human cost of the economic crisis is distributed unevenly across Europe.
Within many European countries, the public is highly divided on what the future holds. In France, Germany, Belgium, Ireland, and the Netherlands, respondents were about evenly split as to whether their standard of living was getting better or getting worse. In a few countries where recovery has been stronger, there was more of a difference in opinions: Sweden (45 points), Denmark (38 points), Finland (21 points), the United Kingdom (17 points), and Poland (12 points).
With a few exceptions, Europeans have not yet recovered the optimism they had about their financial situations in 2007. In most of Europe, the general tendency seems to be toward a new level of normal since 2009; improvements have been slow, and weaker economies in the East have been the slowest to recover. In Greece and Romania especially, bailouts and austerity measures have weakened people's hope for future improvement, which could potentially further damage their respective economies' ability to recover.
Results are based on face-to-face and telephone interviews with approximately 1,000 adults in each EU member state between May and August 2010. For results based on each sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error ranged from a low of ±3.5 percentage points to a high of ±4.0 percentage points.