Living in an age of fear

In: Uncategorized

9 Dec 2007

An international opinion poll conducted in 20 countries by GfK Research on behalf of the Wall Street Journal Europe shows how gloomy contemporary opinion tends to be. According to the main article in Friday’s (7 December) Weekend Journal Europe:

“the most surprising detail of the survey statistics was the overall negative outlook. “It is striking how negative the attitude is in Europe, but even more so in the U.S.,” where 62% said society was getting worse, says Mark Hofmans, a managing director in GfK’s Brussels office, who analyzed the survey results…

“The survey didn’t point to a single source of dissatisfaction among Europeans but showed a diverse set of worries. Terrorism ranked as the biggest fear for 17% of those surveyed, but issues such as war (15%) and global warming and environmental degradation (14%) were also major concerns.

“By comparison, in the U.S., moral decay was the single-largest worry, cited as the paramount problem by 20% of respondents. In Europe, only 11% of those surveyed said moral decay was their main source of anxiety.

“India, with its booming economy, was the most optimistic country included in the survey, with 51% of respondents saying global society was getting better. By contrast, only 20% of Europeans and 22% of Americans said society is improving. Turkey, where global warming was the single-largest worry for 27% of respondents, was among the most pessimistic countries included in the survey — only 13% of those polled said global society is getting better, while 72% said it is deteriorating. (The most negative overall was Greece — devastated by forest fires last summer — where 74% said life is getting worse.)”

In other words the mood is overwhelmingly downbeat despite the fact that objective trends are generally improving. This is one of the key paradoxes I hope to examine in my forthcoming book.

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