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05/23/2013

Canadians among happiest in survey of 39 countries

You may not be shocked to learn global attitudes have changed for the worse since the global economic downturn, according to new Pew Research Center findings of widespread gloom in 34 of 39 countries surveyed.

The mood is notably worse in advanced and developing economies and only slightly higher in emerging markets, Pew found, pointing to China and Malaysia, where large majorities (85 per cent and 82 per cent, respectively) say their country is moving in the right direction.

But Canadians nevertheless came up roses among their advanced-economy peers in the survey, with 55 per cent of those surveyed expressing satisfaction with the trajectory of the country. That figure is second only to Germany (57 %) and well ahead of the United States (31 %), the United Kingdom (26 %) and France (19 %).

Spain, Italy and Greece, driven by the crosswinds of debt and austerity (debtsterity?), occupied the unhappy basement with single-digit contentment levels of 5, 3 and 2 per cent, respectively.

On the question of personal economic conditions, Canadians actually top the list of all 39 countries, with 82 per cent describing their own situation as good (that's a tie, actually, with an equal number of Malaysians expressing the same sentiment). 

The Pew findings are slightly different when it comes to the question of optimism for the coming year, with Americans among the most hopeful, with 44 per cent anticipating things will improve in the next 12 months, compared to 29 per cent of Canadians.

Pew also asked about inequality and whether people would like to see their leaders focus on narrowing the gap between rich and poor. Here, 45 per cent of Canadians described inequality as "a very big problem." 

But the Canadian figure is dwarfed by responses almost everywhere else Pew asked the question, with majorities in 31 of 39 countries describing the rich/poor gap as a very big problem for their societies.

Pew's 91-page report was shown to the Toronto Star on embargo. But the full findings, including methodology, are up now at pewglobal.org.

Mitch Potter is the Star's Washington Bureau Chief, his third foreign posting after previous assignments to London and Jerusalem. Potter led the Toronto Star’s coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he won a 2006 National Newspaper Award for his reportage. His dispatches include datelines from 33 countries since 2000. Follow him on Twitter: @MPwrites

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