The Credit Suisse Progress Barometer measures the desire for progress in society, politics and economy around the globe.
For this year’s edition, 16,000 citizens in 16 different countries on six continents (all except Antarctica) were interviewed and asked to share their views.
The questionnaire for the Progress Barometer was developed and launched in Switzerland in 2018 and taken to a global level in 2019. gfs.bern worked with local experts to ensure that the concept and questionnaire were adapted to reflect the context and characteristics of each country individually.
At the heart of the concept are 30 statements referring to 10 aspects of progress in society, politics and the economy in each case. For each of these aspects respondents were asked to indicate whether – in their opinion – the wheels of progress should move much faster (indicating desire for progress) or whether they should stop and be reversed (indicating aversion to progress).
This index allows opinions on progress within a country to be compared by looking at the areas of politics, society and the economy separately. Moreover, it also provides the opportunity to compare the 16 countries included in the study, thus helping us understand the readiness for progress around the world.
The process of adapting the questionnaire to each country brought to light how subjective progress as a notion is and how dependent it is on personal opinion and cultural background. Progress in one particular area can be viewed very favourably in one country, whereas in another country it might be seen as quite problematic. Progress is also not always seen as positive. The political zeitgeist, for example, suggests an increase in political polarization for the future – a development that many citizens would definitely prefer to reverse.
In addition to collecting information on where the citizens want their country to go in the future, the Progress Barometer also looks at the past and how citizens evaluate the changes their country has seen in the last ten years.
This cockpit is a portrait of how progress is seen in the United States in 2019. Readiness for progress is discussed for the areas of politics, society and the economy – as well for the country overall. The 30 items used to calculate the progress indices are displayed in a progress map showing readiness for progress on the x-axsis and the unanimity with which this progress is demanded on the y-axsis.
For methodological information, please consult the info box at the end of the cockpit.
Of all the 16 countries surveyed, the US is the one with the second-lowest desire for progress across all areas covered in the survey. It is also the country where respondents feel by far the greatest need to dial back on political developments.
Like in many other countries, gender equality, the expansion of public childcare and electric mobility are the issues where progress is most desired in the US. The need to move ahead in these areas clearly transcends nations, as do two of the most talked-about current political movements: the climate strikes and the #metoo debate, the latter actually originating in the US.
Gay rights are a subject of controversial discussion in the US, the debate about “values” being one of the most defining topics on the political stage. Most respondents clearly prefer to see progress when it comes to granting gay people more rights. However, people also want to dial back on developments in the area of religion, which is becoming less and less important in people’s everyday lives, a view that speaks to the more conservative side of the values-debate.
The possibilities that social media provide for people to force politics and politicians to become more accessible constitutes an area in which people favour progress. At the same time, it is in the US that terms such as “fake news” and “alternative facts” were born. The issue of disinformation, also enabled by digitalization, is therefore one of the most critical of all – rivalled only by the great political polarization in the country, which people would equally like to see reversed.
Where there is progress, there is usually also someone fearful of being left behind. While people show a clear desire for progress on the issue of lifelong learning and the spending of taxpayers’ money on research, they are much less inclined to see progress in the transition away from a traditional industrial, production-based society towards a knowledge-based and service-oriented society.
Trade policy is a hotly debated policy both in the US and on the global stage. While it is by no means one of the top progress issues, people tend to be in favour of increasing exchanges with other nations rather than dialling back on trade. Similarly, people tend to be in favour of maintaining the status quo when it comes to the influx of foreign experts, development assistance or the transformation of society through immigration or the strategy of lowering corporate taxes to attract multinational corporations to settle in the US.
The US is pulled in two different directions when it comes to the nation’s willingness for progress: On the one hand, the country wants to see more progress on societal issues.
On the question of economic developments people want to preserve the status quo, but would clearly like to turn back a page or two when it comes to US politics. Across all the issues surveyed, this pull from two sides results in an average value that suggests an overall preference for preserving the status quo.
When asked how US citizens themselves would rate progress, 48% think the US is very progressive or somewhat progressive when it comes to societal issues, and 52% are of the opinion that the US is progressive on economic issues, whereas only 36% rate the US progressive when it comes to current political developments.
A majority of Americans (81%) look to the future with optimism or at least with mixed feelings . Only a small proportion (13%) are downright pessimistic. However, as in all countries surveyed, respondents view the outlook for their children more negatively: 63% think they will be less well off than the respondents themselves. More than half of those who consider themselves to be part of the US middle class fear for their social and economic status (66%). A majority also fear they will not have enough to live comfortably when they are retired (55%).
Looking back on the past 10 years, an absolute majority of Americans feel that national unity has deteriorated (63%). A deterioration is also perceived when it comes to social security (56%) and urban infrastructure (51%). An improvement, on the other hand, is seen in the area of sustainable technologies (53%).
67% believe that good social change always implies tolerance in dealing with minorities and 65% think that conflicts must be resolved without weapons. This leaves 19% and 21% respectively who don’t necessarily agree with these statements. While this is a considerable amount, it lies within the average of all 16 countries surveyed. Another issue is the divide between rich and poor: while 61% feel this divide is increasing only 51% think the government should do more to prevent this development – even at the cost of higher taxes. Compared to the other countries, this is a rather low proportion.
66% of the population wants more government intervention to prevent companies from polluting the environment. This figure is relatively low compared to other countries, even if a majority is in favour. A comparatively high proportion of 54% think the solution to save the climate lies in new technologies.
on behalf of: Credit Suisse
basic population: USA’s citizens with the right to vote
fieldwork: Cint AB
surveying: online panel
survey period: 20.09.2019-18.10.2019
sample size: min. 1000 per country, USA (N=1003)
margin of error: at 50/50 (and 95 percent probability) USA (± 3.1)
quota characteristics: age/gender interlocked
weighing: age/gender/political party preference
survey duration: average survey time in minutes in USA = 16
Progress Index and Items:
Respondents were asked the following question: „For each of the areas below, assess the current development and imagine this development as a wheel that turns. For each case, decide whether the development should be accelerated or reversed.“ Ten statements asking about a development in society, economy and politics each were surveyed in all 16 countries. The adaption of these items to best suit the countries context were made in cooperation with local experts.
The following items were surveyed in the USA:
Progress items economy:
service-based society: The USA produces fewer goods and is turning into a service-based society.
digitalization: Digitization/robotization makes our working lives easier and more efficient, but it also makes traditional professions redundant.
free trade: The trade of goods is getting freer and more global.
lifelong learning: You have to do regular on-the-job training in order to keep up.
production outsourced: Many aspects of production are moved abroad.
low corporate taxes: Because of low corporate tax rates, many international companies move their head offices to the USA.
influx foreign experts: The USA needs more and more experts from abroad.
tax money for research: To strengthen the USA as a research location, more taxpayers‘ money is spent on research.
development of agricultural land: Growing cities and major industrial and infrastructure projects mean that more and more agricultural land is being developed/Major infrastructure projects and ideas means that more and more cultivated land is built on.
e-mobility: Electric cars allow even more individual mobility with reduced emissions of climate-damaging substances./Mobility with electrically powered cars allows even more individual mobility with reduced emissions of climate-damaging substances.
tax money for research: To strengthen the USA as a research location, more taxpayers money is spent on research.
Progress items society:
gender equality: Gender equality is promoted in all areas of life.
urban-rural contrast: People living in big cities and in small towns in the rural areas have fewer and fewer interests in common.
gay rights: Gay couples increasingly enjoy equal rights in all areas of life.
expansion public childcare: Public daycare and childcare services are being expanded.
increase life expectancy: Advances in medicine means that we are healthier into old age, but at the same time we’ll have to work for longer.
migration transforms society: Immigration transforms the composition of societies./Transmigration transforms the composition of societies.
sense of purpose in work: People increasingly look for passion and meaning in their work.
petrol tax: Additional taxes on petrol are demanded worldwide in order to slow down climate change.
secularization: Religion has less and less influence on the law and govermnet.
vulnerability indigenous lifestyle: In a modern society, there is less and less room for the style of living of indigenous people.
Progress items politics:
underground transport: Some have suggested shifting transportation to an underground road or rail network to ensure that Japan retains ist beautiful landscape.
increase in pension deductions: Wage deductions for pensions are increasing because people are living longer.
increase in development aid: the USA’s contributions to global development cooperation are increasing.
dependence on international agreements: When it comes to its global market position, the USA is increasingly dependent on international agreements with other countries.
individualization and self fulfillment: With increasing individualization, social pressure diminishes and everyone can live by their own values.
regulation increase: More and more everyday things are becoming more strictly regulated./The state ensures that many parts of life and work are clearly regulated.
transition to knowledge based society: The USA is turning into a knowledge-based society and is spending less on agriculture and instead more on universities and higher education.
accessability trough social media: People can organise themselves spontaneously via the internet and force policy-makers to become more accessible to the public.
polarization: Politics is becoming increasingly polarised and cooperation between the parties more difficult.
media diversity vs. reliability: While more and more sources of information are available to form a political opinion, the facts become less important.