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In Face of Global Downturn, Polish Relatively Optimistic

by Ian T. Brown

Economic pessimism less severe than in Germany or Hungary

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Poland's heavily regulated economic policy, which once drew scorn from international critics, may be helping to keep some Polish heads high. A Gallup Poll in late December 2008 and January 2009 found Poles' attitudes about the future of their national economy were relatively more optimistic than either Hungarians or Germans surveyed in roughly the same period.


Twenty-seven percent of Polish respondents said economic conditions were getting better, compared with just 4% of respondents in Hungary and 16% in Germany. Moreover, 38% of respondents in Poland said conditions were getting worse, compared with 74% of those surveyed in Germany and 82% in Hungary. Additionally, 26% of Poles said economic conditions were staying the same, which is at least twice as high as in the other countries.

Poland and Hungary rely heavily on Germany for exports and imports (the German market accounts for at least quarter of each in both nations). Yet, in terms of GDP growth, Poland has outperformed Hungary and Germany in recent years.And because of Poland's tight monetary policy and staunch government regulation, The Economist forecasts its economy to recover more quickly than the other two countries. (In fact, Poland was one of the few EU countries to register economic growth in the first quarter of 2009.)

Gallup data show that the global downturn had a relatively smaller increase on Polish respondents' pessimism toward their national economy between 2007 and early 2009. In late 2008 and early 2009, 38% said economic conditions were getting worse, a 12-percentage-point increase from May 2007. Increases in Hungary and Germany were larger, up 19 points and 38 points, respectively.


The pattern was not the same when looking at percentages of respondents who said the economy was getting better. Between 2007 and early 2009 that percentage fell by 24 points in Poland, with more Poles shifting toward believing the economy was staying the same or getting worse. In Germany, the percentage who thought conditions were getting better dropped 36 points. In Hungary, the percentage of respondents who thought the economy was getting better fell less than in the other two countries -- from 20% in 2007 to 4% in early 2009.


Polish respondents are not the only ones who are relatively optimistic about their economic future. The most recent European Growth and Jobs Monitor report, issued in March 2009, ranked Poland the second most economically competitive country among 14 European countries. Competitive is of course a relative term, because most European economies are now facing economic contraction. But economic confidence in Poland may help to cushion the blow, keep consumers spending, and leave the country on track to join the euro zone in the next three to five years.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews conducted between January 2007 and January 2009 with at least 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, in each country. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error ranges from ±3.5 percentage points in Poland to ±3.7 percentage points in Germany. 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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