European governments have solid public support, at least for now, for the spending cuts they are making in an effort to boost economic recovery, according to the latest Financial Times/Harris opinion poll.
The survey also indicates that a majority of people in the European Union’s five largest countries disagree with the decision of governments to let their budget deficits rise in order to combat the financial crisis that erupted in 2008.
Moreover, the results suggest that the austerity measures now being introduced across Europe need not be politically fatal for governments as long as they give convincing explanations for their actions. However, the full impact of the austerity measures has yet to be felt in most countries.
Asked if public spending cuts were necessary to help long-term economic recovery, 84 per cent of French people, 71 per cent of Spaniards, 69 per cent of Britons, 67 per cent of Germans and 61 per cent of Italians answered Yes. In the US, 73 per cent of Americans agreed.
Only 38 per cent of Italians, 33 per cent of Germans, 31 per cent of Britons, 29 per cent of Spaniards and 16 per cent of French people thought that public spending cuts would harm the economic recovery. Some 27 per cent of Americans agreed.
Asked if they preferred public spending cuts or tax rises as a way to reduce budget deficits and national debts, strong majorities in the five EU countries as well as the US were in favour of spending cuts.
Similarly conservative views on public expenditure emerged when people were asked if EU governments were right to engage in large-scale deficit-spending after the 2008 crisis. In all five EU countries, a majority – ranging from 68 per cent in France and Italy to 54 per cent in the UK – said the governments were wrong to have done so.
According to the survey, large majorities in every country agree with the proposition that the high budget deficits and subsequent spending cuts call for a re-examination of Europe’s generous welfare state.
The survey makes clear, however, that Europeans and Americans would like to see the pain spread around. Asked which policy area should bear the brunt of the cuts, a majority in the US and every European country except the UK put aid to developing countries and defence in the first two places, although not always in that order.
In all five EU countries and the US, there was next to no support for cutting expenditure on police services, healthcare and education.
The FT/Harris poll was conducted online by Harris Interactive among 6,164 adults aged 16 to 64 in France, Germany, Spain, the UK and the US, and adults between 18 and 64 in Italy, between June 22 and July 1.
Source: Financial Times