Different Perspectives from Different Sides of the Pond

Topic: Pearls of Wisdom

John C.A. Stevenson CFA

July 29, 2016

Image used with permission: iStock/gerenme


Print & Share

Print

Different Perspectives from Different Sides of the Pond

The Pew Research Center conducts many interesting surveys on attitudes of the population around different issues. One such recent survey looked at how Americans and Europeans are different. Despite a shared tradition of democracy, a strategic alliance that has shaped the world politically and economically for decades, and numerous ancestral ties, American and European attitudes on a variety of topics vary widely. Some are not surprising, but we find all interesting nonetheless.

One may not be terribly surprised by the responses to the question, “Is it morally unacceptable for a married person to have an affair?” To this, 84% of Americans answered “yes”. (Editorial note: an article in Forbes suggests that between 15% and 18% of Americans have actually had an affair while married. We’ve seen other estimates that are noticeably higher.) In France, only 47% of the population think that adultery is immoral. Other European countries have a higher disapproval rate than in France, but none so high as in the U.S.

Perhaps related to this is the attitude toward religion. In the U.S., 53% of people say that religion is very important in their life. In France the number is 14%. In fact, the U.S. is an enormous outlier in this regard. Pew surveys of countries around the world show that there is a very strong correlation between national wealth and the importance of religion – the poorer a country, the more important is religion. Among wealthy countries, the U.S. stands apart from all others in how important its citizens view religion. The U.S. has much more in common with Lebanon and Turkey  in this regard than it does with Canada and Europe.

Interestingly, despite being a country of religious fervor, Americans are much more tolerant of speech that is offensive to religion or minorities. 77% of Americans are okay with insulting religion publicly and 67% think making offensive statements about minority groups is acceptable. Only 27% of Germans think this way.

Perhaps the way in which Americans are most differentiated, however, is their belief in individual liberty and the importance of individual effort. 58% of Americans believe individuals should have the freedom to pursue their goals without government interference and only 36% believe the government should ensure there is no one in need. In Spain, the ratios are reversed: 30% of the population thinks individuals have the right to pursue their goals without the government getting in the way and 67% think the government ought to ensure there is no one in need.

The most telling statistic of all in our minds, however, is the following. 73% of Americans think it is “very important” to work hard to get ahead in life. In Greece only 21% think this way. In France it is 25%. While far from the only reason, this strikingly different attitude towards work may well explain a good part of the economic success the U.S. has enjoyed over the last century.

Source: Richard Wike, “5 Ways Americans are Different From Europeans”, Pew Research Center, April 19, 2016.

More Like This...

See another CRM2 blog post that may be of interest to you.

CRM2: The Nexus Approach to our CRM2 Reports

Topic:
CRM2
Excerpt:
With changing securities regulations coming into effect, investment firms are now required to provide individual investors with specific additional in

More Like This...

See another Foundations & Endowments blog post that may be of interest to you.

Donor Advised Funds: An Overview

Topic:
Foundations & Endowments
Excerpt:
As we approach the end of the calendar year, taxes and charitable giving inevitably surface as ”things to do” in peoples’ minds. Here, we’d like to

More Like This...

See another Human Interest blog post that may be of interest to you.

COVID: An Uneven – and Unequal – Recovery

Topic:
Human Interest
Excerpt:
Canadians have had enough of the lockdown. Here we are 18 months after you first heard of the then mysterious Wuhan flu. Today, but for any curve ball

More Like This...

See another Inside Nexus blog post that may be of interest to you.

Walking Through Time: The History of Nexus

Topic:
Inside Nexus
Excerpt:
Bob Topp’s death last month triggered my memory “replay” button, likely as it did for many of us, whether as a long-time Nexus client, employee, or

More Like This...

See another Investments blog post that may be of interest to you.

Q&A From Our Quarterly Investment Review

Topic:
Investments
Excerpt:
Your Nexus investment team participates in many meetings where a company’s CEO or CFO presents to a group of investors. These meetings often have a

More Like This...

See another Pearls of Wisdom blog post that may be of interest to you.

“Work, Work, Work, Work, Work, Work”

Topic:
Pearls of Wisdom
Excerpt:
This has been a busy year. I’ve had lots happening on the home front (a wedding!) and lots going on at the office (too long to list!) Managing work

More Like This...

See another Tax Planning blog post that may be of interest to you.

The Great Transition – A Tax Efficient Withdrawal Strategy

Topic:
Tax Planning
Excerpt:
The change from “saver” to “spender” is what I call the great retirement transition. Figuring out how to draw on your retirement savings to meet your

More Like This...

See another Wealth Planning blog post that may be of interest to you.

Living to 100… Is 100 the New 80?

Topic:
Wealth Planning
Excerpt:
It’s a common saying that there are two certainties in life, death and taxes. While we have a pretty good idea when we get taxed, which feels like all

On a Side Note…

See another CRM2 Nexus Notes Quarterly article that may be of interest to you.

No posts found.

On a Side Note…

See another Foundations & Endowments Nexus Notes Quarterly article that may be of interest to you.

Donor Advised Funds: An Overview

Topic:
Foundations & Endowments
Excerpt:
As we approach the end of the calendar year, taxes and charitable giving inevitably surface as ”things to do” in peoples’ minds. Here, we’d like to

On a Side Note…

See another Human Interest Nexus Notes Quarterly article that may be of interest to you.

COVID: An Uneven – and Unequal – Recovery

Topic:
Human Interest
Excerpt:
Canadians have had enough of the lockdown. Here we are 18 months after you first heard of the then mysterious Wuhan flu. Today, but for any curve ball

On a Side Note…

See another Inside Nexus Nexus Notes Quarterly article that may be of interest to you.

Walking Through Time: The History of Nexus

Topic:
Inside Nexus
Excerpt:
Bob Topp’s death last month triggered my memory “replay” button, likely as it did for many of us, whether as a long-time Nexus client, employee, or

On a Side Note…

See another Investments Nexus Notes Quarterly article that may be of interest to you.

The Future of Money: a Digital Currency Primer

Topic:
Investments
Excerpt:
As a bottom-up investment management firm, we spend a lot of time looking at specific companies. But keeping an eye on evolving industry trends can be

On a Side Note…

See another Pearls of Wisdom Nexus Notes Quarterly article that may be of interest to you.

A Table for None, Please; Working From Home on the Rise

Topic:
Pearls of Wisdom
Excerpt:
Reading is one of the principal occupations in our profession. As we digest a wide range of material, interesting ideas and surprising facts – some

On a Side Note…

See another Tax Planning Nexus Notes Quarterly article that may be of interest to you.

The Great Transition – A Tax Efficient Withdrawal Strategy

Topic:
Tax Planning
Excerpt:
The change from “saver” to “spender” is what I call the great retirement transition. Figuring out how to draw on your retirement savings to meet your

On a Side Note…

See another Wealth Planning Nexus Notes Quarterly article that may be of interest to you.

Living to 100… Is 100 the New 80?

Topic:
Wealth Planning
Excerpt:
It’s a common saying that there are two certainties in life, death and taxes. While we have a pretty good idea when we get taxed, which feels like all