As governments across the developed world continue to deal with rising inflation and other economic problems, citizens in multiple national contexts still want to see more done to build up left-behind regions in their countries. A recent Global Progress and YouGov survey from August and September 2022 of more than 14,000 respondents in 11 countries directly tested the issue of pursuing overall growth regardless of distributional effects versus policies to help less well-off regions.
Respondents were asked: “Which of the following best reflects your view?” and given the following two options:
- “Government should try to maximize its efforts to build a successful economy, even if that means growth favors those regions that are already well-off.”
- “Government should maximize its efforts to build a successful economy in less well-off regions, even if that means less growth overall.”
As seen in Figure 1, pluralities of citizens in all 11 countries surveyed favor doing more to build a successful economy in less-developed regions, even at the expense of overall growth.
The margin between the public desire for more evenly spread regional economic development versus overall growth is greatest in the United Kingdom, at 53 percent to 18 percent, or 35 percentage points; France, at 49 percent to 21 percent, or 28 percentage points; Germany, at 48 percent to 22 percent, or 26 percentage points; and Spain, at 52 percent to 27 percent, or 25 percentage points, and is lowest in the United States, at 33 percent to 23 percent, or 10 percentage points, and Sweden, at 39 percent to 31 percent, or 8 percentage points. Notably, large chunks of voters in these countries don’t know what they think about the trade-off or reject the two choices.
What’s the point on regional development? Citizens in multiple democratic contexts want to see their governments do more to build successful economies for their nations—but not at the expense of future efforts to bring underdeveloped regions up to par with economically better-off regions.
Governments, therefore, should focus on finding the right balance between growth that often favors well-educated and richer areas of their nations and policies that direct more resources to those regions with fewer opportunities. Both goals are important to voters across the globe.