First international poll by global union reveals deep mistrust of economic decision makers

The first international public opinion polling commissioned by the Brussels-based global union representing 175 million union members across the world shows deep uncertainty, fear and political disempowerment across half the G20 economies, six European countries and four emerging economies.

The poll commissioned by the International Trade Union Confederation from global market research company TNS covers a total of 13 countries.

Released on the eve of the meeting of the Mexico G20 summit starting 18 June, the General Secretary of the ITUC, Sharan Burrow, said the poll showed widespread opposition to austerity measures, a collapse in the belief that governments are operating in the interests of their voters, and strong support for labour laws across the 13 countries polled.

The results of the poll, conducted in May in Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, UK and the USA, sounded a warning bell for not just those governments, but for global financial governance, Ms Burrow warned.

The poll showed:
- 58% of people think their country is going in the wrong direction;
- 66% think that future generations will be worse off;
- 67% think that international banks and financial institutions have too much influence on the economic decisions of their governments. Conversely, 67 % think that voters don’t have enough influence on economic decisions.

“The democratic contract with voters is broken in many countries, and governments must pay heed to their people or we risk increasing political and economic instability.

“Global economic orthodoxy is widely rejected by the populace, and this up-swell of anti-government and anti-austerity opinion across so many nations should cause urgent re-thinking at the global level.

“Given a choice of economic policies, 66% of people support government action to invest in job creation to allow economies to grow and pay off debts compared with only 24% who want debts paid off now by cutting back on government spending,” said Sharan Burrow.

The poll also showed growing levels of uncertainty about the family income and job security:
- One in seven respondents are working poor – without enough money for basic essentials like housing, food and electricity;
- For 58% of people, their income has fallen behind the cost of living;
- One in three people think their jobs are less secure than two years ago.

The poll showed strong rejection of the austerity policies being followed by some governments, and support for jobs and investment in infrastructure.

“The poll, across 13 countries, including half of the G20 countries, shows the public are not with their governments, are not buying the austerity message, and are deeply pessimistic,” Ms Burrow said.

Ms Burrow said that the poll results suggested widespread anger against those perceived to have caused the global financial crisis, and resentment at who is having to pay for the mistakes of governments and the international banking and finance industry.

The poll showed:
- 78% of people think international banks and financial institutions should pay more for the global financial crisis;
- 45% of people think small business should pay less for the financial crisis and 50% think workers should pay less to fix the financial crisis.

In a world first, the poll also tested support for basic labour laws across the population in the 13 countries.

“This poll of the general public also showed strong support for laws that protect rights for workers,” Ms Burrow said.

- 70% think current laws do not protect workers’ job security;
- 89% of people support the right to join a union;
- 86% of people support the right to collectively bargain.

The international union movement will present the views of working people to world leaders gathering in Los Cabos for the G20 Summit 18-19 June.

The findings of this study represent the opinions of more than 1.4 billion people, or 20 percent of the current world population. 14% of respondents were union members.

Anker Solutions, based in the Netherlands, was responsible for questionnaire design, analysis and report writing.

TNS Opinion carried out the fieldwork from 10 April - 6 May 2012. Quota samples were used to reflect national proportions in terms of age, gender and region. In each country, approximately 1,000 respondents were interviewed, with a total of 13,087 respondents.