Poll: Recession hit Bulgarians hardest

Flower stand in Istok quarter of Sofia, 10 September 2011.

Nearly nine out of ten Bulgarians have been personally affected by the economic crisis.

That’s a key finding from this year’s Transatlantic Trends, the German Marshall Fund’s latest annual survey of European and American public opinion.

And it provides fresh evidence of the brutally uneven impact of the economic crisis on industrialized nations. While some countries were feeling the pain acutely when the poll was taken last spring, others were actually doing better.

Some 89 percent of Bulgarians reported experiencing personal trouble, up five points from last year, and the highest rate among the 12 European nations surveyed. Americans weren’t far behind at 82 percent, a seven-point jump from 2010.

On average, just 61 percent of Europeans said they were feeling the economic crisis on a personal level. Turkey’s situation improved by more than 20 points, with 55 percent of respondents feeling the economic crisis firsthand this year. In Germany, 45 percent said they were experiencing trouble, while in Sweden the rate was just 31 percent.

What should be done? Unsurprisingly, there was a broad range of opinion on the question of whether to stimulate local economies with more government spending. But if you expect penny-pinching Germans to be lined up on one side and profligate Portuguese on the other, think again.

Forty-two percent of Germans said the government should increase spending levels or keep them the same, while a whopping 80 percent in Portugal want to hit the brakes and decrease spending. In the U.S., 36 percent think spending levels should be held steady or increased, compared to 52 percent of Bulgarians.

But the survey also reveals rumblings of discontent. As the Sofia Echo notes in a careful reading of the data (see item Q6.4,) 75 percent of Bulgarians say they are somewhat or very dissatisfied with the way their own government has handled the economic crisis. By that measure, only two countries – Spain and Romania – are doing worse.

American respondents weren’t asked that specific question, but on another item, 53 percent expressed disapproval with President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy. Forty-five percent approved, while two percent refused to answer the question.

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