What the world worries about
BREXIT in June, then Trump in November and next year the threat of Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s Eurosceptic party. Populism has rarely been so popular, and Western democratic and international institutions look increasingly fragile. A recent survey of 25 countries by Ipsos MORI, a pollster, reveals the widespread discontent on which populists have preyed. In Britain and America 60% and 63% of respondents said their country was on the wrong track. In perpetually disgruntled France, that figure is a whopping 89%.
The underlying causes of this dissatisfaction vary by country. Unemployment is the main worry in France, but not in Britain or America, where immigration and terrorism dominate. Germans, who will hold elections next year, fret about poverty and inequality. Those who vote for populist parties and politicians often focus on single issues at the expense of other problems. In Britain, less-educated white voters, who are suspected to have voted in droves for leaving the European Union, may find they suffer the most from an alternative settlement rather than full membership.
And convincing those who fail to see the benefits of the status quo can be difficult. In France, the proportion of people who worry about unemployment is five times the actual rate of the unemployed. In Britain, anxiety over immigration is more than three times higher than the percentage of the population who are immigrants. Telling voters that things they worry about are bad, but not as bad as they think, is unlikely to win over a sceptical public.