Grim expectations

A survey so soon after the worst crisis that most of the participants might have ever experi-enced is not expected to produce pretty results. Nevertheless, the extent of the pessimism is surprising. As expected, the assessment of the current economic situation is miserable: 59% of the German respondents consider it as bad, against 30% in 2019. The situation is worse in France (81%) and Italy (80%). However, the outlook for the future is just as bleak, especially in France (82%) and Italy (77%); but even just under half of the German respondents (49%) have little hope for better times ahead. This deep pessimism contrasts with the fact that the overwhelming majority of German respondents (65%) say that they are not affected by the corona crisis, at least not economically (France: 62%, and Italy: 57%). And 74% of German respondents are also satisfied with the government's actions during the crisis (France: 47%, and Italy: 58%). The fight to flatten the curve was relatively successful. Moreover, companies and employees adjusted in record time to the lockdowns. While in the economy, this has sparked a pioneering spirit, seeing Covid-19 as a game changer, which makes something new possible, new working methods, for instance, there seems to be nothing comparable in the political sphere: A new spirit of optimism to make changes possible and break-up encrusted structures can hardly be detected. Instead, many respondents seem to have fallen into political apathy, confidence in the future has reached a new nadir.

This deep pessimism also infects how the EU is seen. Despite the agreement on the EU Recovery Fund, which could mark a turning point not only in the joint fight against the pandemic but also in the workings of the EU in general, the majority of respondents in all three countries – 54% in France, 52% in Germany and 61% in Italy – think that Corona will tend to reduce solidarity between EU members. This skepticism is also reflected in the assessment of the EU Recovery Fund itself. 37% of the German participants reject the decisions on joint bor-rowing and distribution as a grant; only 17% see this as a model for the future (the rest sees it as an one-off emergency measure or is undecided). While some politicians euphorically praised the agreement on the Recovery Fund as the "Hamiltonian moment" of the EU, the vast majority of respondents is rather unimpressed. There seems to be a deep-seated distrust of the EU – now even in Germany. The EU sceptics are this year not only in the majority in France and Italy (net percentage  of -19% and -17%, respectively), but also in Germany: 31% of German respondents have a negative view of the EU, compared to only 27% with a positive image (33% are neutral and 9% undecided). Last year, the supporters were still ahead with 14 percentage points.

The Allianz Pulse 2020

Based on the experience of the lockdown, one would have expected respondents to be almost enthusiastic about the blessings of digitalization. Nothing. The answers are almost identical to the previous year – with the French respondents quite hostile towards digitalization: Only 20% see more benefits in digitalization, against 23% who see more disadvantages. In Germany, on the other hand, supporter of digitalization outnumber opponents by a wide margin of 25 percentage points (Italy: 29 percentage points). Nonetheless, German respondents remain concerned over data protection, the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation notwithstanding: 42% of them (France: 37%, and Italy: 28%) are concerned about how their data is handled on the Internet. This lack of confidence in data security also has tangible consequences for combating the pandemic. Around one third of respondents in each country – 38% (France), 34% (Germany) and 27% (Italy) – refuse to share personal data via a corona app to track the path of infection.

The topic of climate protection is given high priority by the respondents. When asked to rank different social goals, 31% of German respondents put climate protection first (France: 34%, and Italy: 31%). Jobs follow by a wide margin, with 19% of those surveyed giving this topic top priority (France: 24%, and Italy: 19%). But the rate of one third is rather below expectations. The dominance of the topic of climate protection is further relativized if not only the top priority is taken into account, but also the share of respondents who put the topic in one of the first three places. In the case of climate protection, this is 58% of German respondents – but 60% in the case of jobs (France: 63% vs 62%, and Italy: 59% vs 58%). The unanimity of the respondents in all three countries is remarkable: A majority of participants in all three countries is not prepared to subordinate everything else to the goal of climate protection. The spirit of the yellow vest protests is still virulent. Another question related to climate protection – the willingness to pay more for climate-friendly products – underlines this: 44% of German respondents say they are not prepared to pay more for climate-friendly products (France: 46%, and Italy 36%). Another sobering result: A good third of those surveyed – 39% (France), 35% (Germany) and 32% (Italy) – reject price increases for gasoline and thus the concept of a carbon tax. Many policymakers and economists present the recovery after Corona as a great chance for climate policy, accelerating the green transformation. But this year’s Allianz Pulse shows that the topic remains a sensitive one. Very few respondents seem prepared to make deep cuts. After the pandemic-induced economic slump of recent months, this is hardly surprising. Climate policy remains a tightrope walk between what is socially desirable and what is personally acceptable. There is no easy solution. Misinterpreting the experience of the Corona crisis and succumbing to the temptation of supposedly unrepentant debt making would be a grave mistake – and nothing more than a Pyrrhic victory for the “Generation Greta” who will end up paying the bill.

Contact

Arne Holzhausen
Allianz SE
Patricia Pelayo Romero
Allianz SE