Economic situation in Europe: almost back to 2007

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In most of Europe, 50 to 90% of people judge the current economic situation as bad. This chart is based on the data collected for the Eurobarometer in November 2016:

The picture is mostly unsettling, but the changes since early 2016 are generally encouraging; the EB report states that "[s]ince spring 2016, positive assessments of the national economy have become more widespread in 21 Member States, with double-digit increases in Finland (40%, +13 percentage points), Belgium (49%, +12), Ireland (64%, +11) and the Czech Republic (60%, +10)." The conclusion of the report also includes this comparison with 2007:

41% of Europeans see their national economic situation positively, a proportion breaking the 40% threshold for the first time since autumn 2007. However, the gap between countries continues to widen on this indicator, with 87 percentage points separating Luxembourg (90% “good”) and Greece (3%).

Two other countries are worth watching. In France, where a new president will be elected in a few months, only 15% of respondents thought that the state of the economy was good. The subjective perceptions reflect reality: for about a decade, average annual GDP growth in France has been basically flat (0.2%):

Source: WEO Statistical Appendix; Oct. 2016

On the other hand, in the Netherlands (where general elections are scheduled to take place in a few weeks), the sentiment is virtually reversed: 18% of Dutch respondents judge the national economy to be in a poor state, but nearly everyone else thinks that the state of the economy is good.

That could mean that the protest vote might end up smaller than anticipated.

But if the economy is not a salient issue, it's possible that many voters will think about non-economic party positions, so the aggregate data certainly doesn't guarantee that incumbents will do well.

Are France and the Netherlands really different?

Objectively, growth in the Netherlands was no better (at least in the period between 2010 and 2015) compared to France.

It looks like some other objective factor (probably a tighter labor market) is causing Dutch respondents to be more upbeat about the economy than their French counterparts.

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