> Pct. pessimistic: 30%
> Moody’s sovereign credit rating: Aa3
> Life expectancy: 83.4 years
> Unemployment (2011): 4.55%
Japan was deeply effected by the March 2011 earthquake, which led to the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Even without this catastrophe, Japan faces significant long-running economic issues, such as significant government debt, deflation and an aging population. In 2011, Japan’s net government debt reached an estimated 126.6% of GDP — the third-highest rate in the world. Another source of concern has been deflation. Japan’s average consumer prices were lower in 2011 than in 2001, making it the only country that did not experience inflation over the decade. Meanwhile, Japan has had six prime ministers in the past six years.
> Pct. pessimistic: 30%
> Moody’s sovereign credit rating: A2
> Life expectancy: 79.3 years
> Unemployment (2011): 8.08%
In 2011, Slovenia’s credit rating was downgraded twice in three months by Moody’s to A1. Unemployment has also been steadily increasing since the start of the recession, reaching more than 8% in 2011. As with other pessimistic countries in the European Union, the economic crisis appears to be the leading cause of a lack of confidence in the future. According to a poll conducted by Ipsos in 2011, more than half of Slovenians felt that the economy was in “very bad” shape, and a third believed the country would get weaker within the next six months.
> Pct. pessimistic: 32%
> Moody’s sovereign credit rating: Ba3
> Life expectancy: 79.5 years
> Unemployment (2011): 12.74%
For years, Portugal enjoyed an abundance of cheap credit. But without much fiscal control, its debt grew to more than 100% of its GDP in 2011. Portugal asked the EU for a bailout in April 2011 to escape its massive debt. In May 2011, the parties agreed on a $115 billion bailout over three years as officials worried about the consequences of austerity measures. Unemployment steadily increased and reached 12.7% in 2011. NPR interviewed Luis Pais Antunes, former lawmaker and economist, who blames economic mismanagement for the debt, saying the economy has had little growth in the past decade while the government continued to finance infrastructure. Lastly, Prime Minister Sócrates resigned after parliament rejected his austerity plan in March 2011. All these economic and political developments likely led to the pessimism many Portuguese feel about their future.
> Pct. pessimistic: 33%
> Moody’s sovereign credit rating: N/A
> Life expectancy: 75.9 years
> Unemployment : 8.61% (2010-most recently available)
Unlike other countries on this list, Syria’s pessimism is rooted in the violent conflicts currently gripping the nation. In the past year, Syrians have had little reason to be optimistic, as the government’s response to popular protests that began in March 2011 has been exceptionally violent. As the conflict has evolved, military defectors have formed the “Free Syrian Army” to oppose the government of Bashar Al Assad. Among the atrocities committed by the government have been the use of troops and heavy weapons in densely populated areas. According to the Associated Press, in July the Red Cross announced that the Syrian conflict had become a civil war, citing increases in violence in the country.
2. Czech Republic
> Pct. pessimistic: 33%
> Moody’s sovereign credit rating: A1
> Life expectancy: 77.7 years
> Unemployment (2011): 6.70%
Despite its location in the heart of Europe, the Czech Republic’s economy has remained relatively stable, but debt became a pressing issue by the end of 2011. The Ministry of Finance reported a dim fiscal outlook in November 2011, citing the spread of the debt crisis to eurozone countries and weakening demand for Czech exports. As a result, the country’s central bank maintained a benchmark rate of 0.75%, a record low, to buoy the economy.
> Pct. pessimistic: 42%
> Moody’s sovereign credit rating: C
> Life expectancy: 79.9 years
> Unemployment (2011): 17.31%
Greeks citizens are more pessimistic about the future than residents of any other nation and for good reason. Much of this pessimism is grounded in the country’s recent economic deterioration. In early 2010, reflecting mounting international concerns over the country’s massive government debt, Standard & Poor’s downgraded Greece’s debt to junk status. In May 2010, eurozone countries and the IMF agreed to a 110 billion euro bailout to prevent Greece from defaulting on its debt. Greece’s output fell by 3.5% in 2010, followed by an even larger decline of 6.86% the next year. In 2011, Greece’s net sovereign debt rose to an estimated 350 billion euros, or 160.8% of GDP — a higher percentage than any other country. That same year, the eurozone and IMF agreed to a second bailout of 130 billion euros, which was implemented in 2012.
-Michael B. Sauter, Alexander E. M. Hess and Lisa Nelson