PEAK DEUTSCHLAND

Germans think that things can’t get much better than this

“In most nations, people say their country is heading in the wrong direction and most voice the view that economic conditions are bad.” That’s the rather gloomy conclusion from a new poll of people in 44 countries by the Pew Research Center.

Not everyone is so downbeat, though. Among developed countries, Germans bucked the trend, with a comfortable majority saying that the economy is good and that they are satisfied, in general, with “the way things are going.” The European Central Bank recently unveiled a range of emergency measures to boost the sagging euro zone economy, but the bloc’s biggest member—and paymaster—is doing just fine, thanks.

But it might not last. Pew asked people about their current assessment of the economy as well as their expectations for the future. Looking ahead, it turns out that Germans aren’t as bullish as the headline results suggest.

Only 26% of Germans think that their economy will improve in the coming year, which puts them near the bottom of the rankings. In fact, the gap between the share of people who think current economic conditions are good and those who think it will improve in the future is the widest of any country in Pew’s survey.

In part this reflects the fact that Germany has outperformed its neighbors in recent years, and people realize that its export-led economy can’t keep that up forever. But as we have written before, pessimism about the future also appears to be something of an inborn trait among Germans, at least when they’re questioned by pollsters. In some ways, it might be the secret of their success—always hope for the best, but expect the worst.

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