Trans-Atlantic Jitters

If it’s true that misery loves company, Americans will be heartened to learn that many Europeans are also spooked by the turmoil in the world’s financial markets. A Financial Times/Harris Poll bears the tidings. When Americans were asked to assess the effects on their personal financial situation, 14 percent said it’s had a “major impact” and another 28 percent cited a “moderate impact.” Thirty-six percent said there’s been a “slight impact,” and 21 percent said they’ve experienced “no impact.” (Though the wording of the poll didn’t specify whether the impact was positive or negative, we’ll go out on a limb and guess that most respondents had the latter variety in mind.)

In continental Europe, home of the mighty euro, respondents in Italy were even more likely than Americans to cite a major impact (29 percent) or a moderate impact (33 percent). France’s major-plus-moderate total was nearly identical to that of the U.S. (15 percent major, 30 percent moderate), as was Spain’s (14 percent major, 31 percent moderate). Of the four euro-zone countries surveyed, only Germany had fewer people feeling significantly affected by the current financial turmoil (11 percent major, 15 percent moderate). Across the English Channel, just 5 percent of British respondents said they’ve experienced a major personal impact, with another 13 percent citing a moderate impact. Forty-seven percent in Britain said they’ve felt no personal impact.

What about the immediate future? Twenty-four percent of Americans are “extremely” or “very” worried about their personal financial situation in the next six months. That’s lower than the incidence of such worry in France (34 percent), Italy (33 percent) and Spain (28 percent), but higher than the level in Germany (15 percent) and Britain (13 percent).