Many citizens in the four large western industrial nations are dissatisfied with the economic system. More redistribution and a tax on the rich are not the top priorities.

Protesters on the Place de la Concorde in Paris

In the four largest western industrial nations there is a mood of change: half of the citizens in Germany, Great Britain and the United States consider at least major changes in the economic system to be necessary. In France it is even 70 percent, including the 12 percent who consider a complete overhaul of the system to be appropriate.

This is the result of a survey by the polling institute Pew in the four countries, which included 4,000 citizens in the four countries in the late autumn of last year. The greatest polarization can be seen in the United States, where 12 percent do not even consider small reforms to the system to be necessary, while 10 percent are in favor of overturning the situation.

Despite this rather skeptical attitude towards the prevailing economic system and the clouded conditions caused by the pandemic crisis, a majority of those surveyed see good chances of increasing their individual standard of living. In Germany that is 72 percent and in America 78 percent. In France, 51 percent share this confidence.

High approval of further training programs

13 percent of Germans rated their current economic situation as very good and 60 percent as good. That corresponds to three quarters of the respondents in Germany and is by far the best value in a comparison of four countries: in France only a quarter said they were doing very well or well, in England a third and in America just under half.

The pollsters put various economic policy interventions to choose from and asked how important and desirable these were. Government training programs that strengthen workers’ skills performed best. Around 75 percent of the British and 61 percent of the Germans surveyed consider them to be very important. Public housing is also seen as important by a majority.

Less significant for the respondents was an increase in social assistance for the poor, which is considered very important in England by 53 percent and in Germany by 48 percent of citizens, but in revolutionary France only 39 percent. For the French, surprisingly, higher taxes for the rich are not high on the list of priorities.

Support for redistribution is higher in other countries, even in the United States, where 45 percent consider a tax on the rich to be very important and 47 percent prioritize an increase in welfare benefits. In England, 50 percent consider the introduction of an unconditional basic income to be very important, in the other countries around a third consider it to be very important.

Two thirds of the British consider a state that regulates the economy to be good. In Germany it is still 53 percent and in the United States 46 percent.