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Italians Losing Confidence in Their Economic Conditions

by Ian T. Brown

Express lowest confidence of major European countries surveyed

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Italian economy has lagged behind that of its European counterparts for more than a decade, partly because of high public debt and low labor productivity. When Gallup polled in Italy between May and June this year, the overwhelming majority of Italians (86%) said the economy was not good. This is a large jump from 2007, when 65% said the same.


Italians' negativity underscores the extent to which the country's weak economy is affecting its citizenry. Italy recorded the weakest GDP growth (1.4%) among G7 counties (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States) in 2007, and The Economist projects it to stay in last place in 2008 (0.3%). Thus, it is of little surprise that Italians expressed the least confidence in their current economic conditions when compared with several major European populations Gallup polled in 2008.


Gallup conducted its polling in Italy shortly after Italians elected former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi for the third non-consecutive term in April and before the Italian national statistics office reported in August that Italy's GDP had shrunk during the second quarter. While Berlusconi promised tax cuts and increased infrastructure spending to help boost the economy, his administration faces widespread discontent. A majority of Italians (67%) said the national economy is getting worse and only 12% said it is getting better, which is down from the 28% who said the same in 2007 but similar to sentiment in 2005.


Italians' low level of optimism about their economy's direction is tied for the worst among the European populations surveyed. Only in the United Kingdom and France are figures as low, at 12% and 13%, respectively. German and Spanish respondents also grew more pessimistic between 2007 and 2008, but the percentage saying the economy was getting better was not as low.

Becoming More Unhappy With Living Standards and Work

Italians' satisfaction with their standard of living held steady from 2005 to 2007 but declined in 2008. Although a majority of Italians are still satisfied with all they can buy or do, the percentage satisfied dropped from 78% in 2007 to 62% in 2008. Further, those dissatisfied rose from 21% to 36%. Compared with the other major European countries surveyed, Italians were significantly less likely to say they were satisfied with their standard of living.


Perhaps the most distressing news of all for Italy is that the percentage of respondents who believed they could get ahead by working hard fell from 62% to 50%. Again, compared with the other major European countries surveyed, Italians were significantly less likely to believe they could get ahead by working hard.


Italy's Economic Future

Berlusconi is at the helm of a country whose citizens are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with their national economy and their standard of living. Confindustria, Italy's industrial employers' association, argues that Italy is already in recession and that the GDP will continue to slow throughout the rest of 2008. Add to that the financial crisis affecting markets around the world, and the sheer incline of Italy's uphill economic battle comes into sharp focus.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 3,017 Italians, aged 15 and older, conducted between 2005 and 2008. 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 percentage points. For results based on the sample of 429 employed Italians, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±6 percentage points. 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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