The past often exerts a powerful hold on human imagination. In 15 of the 27 nations surveyed, a plurality says the financial situation of average people in their country is worse today than it was 20 years ago. Pluralities in seven countries believe things are better today.
Among the advanced economies surveyed, only in Poland, Sweden and South Korea do majorities believe that average people’s finances are better off today than they were two decades ago. At the same time, majorities in Greece, Italy, Spain and France say personal finances are not as good.
Sentiment in emerging markets is not much better. Only in India and Indonesia does the public express the view that average people’s financial situation is better today. Three-quarters of Tunisians and four-in-ten or more Kenyans, Brazilians and Mexicans say things are worse.
Economic nostalgia is a frequently shared sentiment among Europeans who hold a favorable view of right-wing populist parties. In Germany, 64% of AfD backers believe the financial situation of average people is worse today than it was 20 years ago. In Hungary, 54% of Jobbik supporters say things are worse today.
Conversely, if a respondent’s party is in power, they often feel better about the present than about the past. In the United States, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (48%) are more likely than Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (22%) to say that people’s financial conditions are better today than they were two decades ago. In Poland, supporters of PiS, the governing party, are more likely (80%) than others (64%) to believe that Poles’ current financial situation is better. In Hungary, supporters of Fidesz are more likely than members of other parties to voice the view that the personal financial situations today are better than they were 20 years ago (50% vs. 23%).