Poll: The French are the World’s Most Pessimistic People

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France's President Nicolas Sarkozy delivers a speech

Philippe Wojazer/Reuters

Anyone holding their breath hoping 2011 might start with a bang of surprise can exhale. A new poll has discovered that the French are the most pessimistic people on earth. Mais duh.

The annual BVA-Gallup International survey on economic outlook around the world found the French with the most miserable expectations for the coming year—even more dismal than those they had as the truly cruddy 2010 loomed large. A similarly less-than-stunning poll discovery reflected lower optimism for the next 12 months in the developed world—particularly Europe—than in emerging areas. Topping the list of countries feeling that 2011 will be economically better than last year was Vietnam, followed by Nigeria, Ghana, China and Brazil.

The sourpusses of the planet were the French, who outpaced a trailing glum-pack of Icelanders, Romanians, Brits and Serbs. Mercifully, Ireland was not among the 53 nations surveyed by Gallup International from Oct. 11 to Dec. 3, 2010, or the picture emerging out of Europe would have really looked like an Edvard Munch painting.

(See TIME’s coverage of Ireland’s economic turmoil)

Just how bad are the European grumps? While the total global optimism index  for the next 12 months averaged to +23, Western Europe registered a big goose egg: nada, rien, nyet, nowt. That was far worse than bummed-out-but-not-despondent areas elsewhere in the developed world. Even dragged down by Casandras in Japan and South Korea, Asia as a whole was +23, while struggling North America was +24. Compare that to developing regions, where slowed but not stalled economies led to a +54 index in Latin America, and a nearly delirious +76 in Africa.

(See the 2010 Time 100 Poll)

Europe wasn’t uniform in its moroseness, though. While 61% of the French and 52% of the British expected a year of economic difficulty even worse than in 2010, only 22% of Germans and 38% of Swedes were similarly sullen. And the newest member to the community of nations, impoverished Kosovo, stepped up to save Europe from a total optimism rout by ranking 6th on the global happiness chart. Alas, such efforts by the Little Country That Could were insufficient to turn Europe’s frown upside down. But just how bad is the European mood when virtually all the region’s societies are viewing the near future in darker terms than both Iraqis and Afghans?