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UK pessimism could be our salvation

The link between the UK and the US has become integral to both cultures and the phrase ‘special relationship’ was first coined by Winston Chur- chill in 1945.

In his Sinews of Peace address, he described a “growing friendship and mutual understanding between our two vast but kindred systems of society”.

Since World War II the relationship between the nations has been embodied by a series of close political collaborations, including Ronald Reagan’s relationship with Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair’s backing for George W Bush.

And to test the public’s attitude to the special relationship, a recent research project by YouGov and Polimetrix surveyed respondents here and across the pond to investigate each nation’s attitudes.

On certain questions such as military intervention and climate change, the views expressed were similar. On issues such as religion, there was divergence. Unsurprisingly, 80% of Americans said they believed in God compared with just 40% of Britons.

On the subject of finance and the economy, two questions received illuminating answers. When respondents were asked how optimistic they felt about the prospects for the economy over the next few years, Americans were significantly more optimistic than Brits. And when asked if they expected to be financially better or worse off this time next year, only 25% of US respondents expected bad news compared with 40% of Brits.

Considering the US is at the centre of the credit crunch, this optimism says a lot about the American psyche.

As anyone who has visited the US will know, our Atlantic cousins are anything but reserved and their outgoing natures often starkly contrast with our attitudes. But in this instance the British tendency to err on the side of caution could save us. Retaining a cautious attitude may have prevented many home owners here from stretching themselves too far. Although it will be some time before we understand the full impact of rising mortgage rates on arrears and repossessions, domestic prudence could play a part in preventing it from replicating the US disaster.

There are always exceptions and this survey of just 2,000 respondents can in no way be relied upon to provide concrete evidence. But it does highlight the myriad of differences in our cultural attitudes and the danger of assuming the situation in the UK is simply a carbon copy of the US one.

Ultimately, British caution and restraint may ensure that home owners here are better placed to withstand the liquidity crisis than our more optimistic cousins.

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