Belgians are more pessimistic about the future than the average European, both for themselves and for their country, according to a poll carried out by the King Baudouin Foundation on behalf of the Bertelsmann Stiftung.
Nearly two-thirds of Belgians – 64% – have a dark view of the future of the country, compared to a European average of 58%.
At the same time, while 58% of Europeans see a bright future for themselves, only 50% of Belgians agree.
In general, a majority of Europeans have a positive view of the future for themselves, but a less positive view of their country’s future – what researchers call the ‘optimism bias’, when a person believes they are less likely than others to experience a negative event. That bias crosses all ages, nationalities and genders, and has even been noted in rats and birds.
People in the age group 16-35 were more optimistic for the future of the country than people aged 46-70. And the higher the education level, the more the person was optimistic about their personal future and pessimistic for the country.
There was meanwhile one close links recorded between pessimism and political preference: people who were pessimistic about the future of their country were substantially weighted towards political parties at both extremes of the spectrum, left and right.
That also applies to some extent to Belgians. Followers of Vlaams Belang were 78% pessimistic regarding the country, but only 65% pessimistic personally. The exception was the PTB, the French-speaking party of the far left in Wallonia and Brussels. PTB supporters, the poll found, were pessimistic personally and politically in roughly equal measure.