Paul Moran: It's time to take stock of our future amid new spirit of fear and loathing

Paul Moran

BOTH our rational and emotional reaction to the times we find ourselves in (whether through our own fault or not) are quite instructive, if not alarming.

There is no doubt that we are not only living in financially turbulent times, but also we are saddled with a sense of pessimism and fear.

Drawing from several sources, we have identified how people are coping, or not, as we struggle to chart a path through this recession.

As part of our recent Evening Herald/Millward Brown Lansdowne poll of Dubliners, we posed this question: Have people contacted their bank or any other financial institution in the past 12 months to renegotiate or restructure any loan or mortgage they may have?

The results are frightening. One in six (16pc) of Dubliners admitted they have done so. At this stage in our journey to tackle our economic mountain, this does not bode well.

We are only in the foothills; EU/IMF bailout stipulations have only begun to kick in and there are no discernible green shoots (whilst exports may look good on the balance sheet, they have a negligible effect on job creation or consumer spending).

In addition, interest rates are on the up and up, and in the not too distant future.

So who is suffering most?

Gender shows no significant differences -- we are all in this together on that front.

In terms of social class, it is the most affluent in society, the professional ABs, who have been most affected at this stage -- 19pc of them have entered re-negotiations, versus just 12pc of DEs. Those who are self-employed are also under the cosh -- 22pc of them have done the same.

This is, however, a tale of the generations. It is the 35- to 49-year- olds, those who arguably benefited most from the boom, that are now suffering most and the dream they were sold has turned into a nightmare.

A quarter of them are struggling. A further 18pc of the next youngest cohort has also had to act to remedy their financial pressures.

It seems that these two age groups, most likely to have young families, are bringing their children up while facing the spectre of debt.

So is there light at the end of the tunnel?

To a large proportion of Dubliners, not so. Around (11pc) feel there will be a noticeable uplift in the economy within two years.

Whilst we technically may come out of recession, it would seem that this will be scant consolation for many.

Those most optimistic are the young -- 14pc of them feel we will recover within two years. But as we saw previously, these younger Dubliners are also most likely to consider emigration over the next year.

Most stark, however, is that over four in 10 Dubliners feel we are in this for the long haul -- 41pc -- feel it will be more than five years before the much vaunted uplift occurs in a meaningful way.

The older age groups are most pessimistic -- half of them believe in a five-year-plus time span. What is also interesting is that just 5pc do not know. We nearly all have an opinion on this one, and generally a negative one at that.

Looking at how we felt when we actually voted, we have our Millward Brown Lansdowne/RTE Exit Poll to cast light on our emotions. In essence, you could sum it up as a case of fear and loathing at the ballot box.

We asked the nation to evaluate six emotions as to how they felt the country was going as they cast their ballot -- anger, fear, confidence, hope, worry and outrage.

In terms of positive emotions, Dubliners were marginally less likely to endorse them than the national average, whilst when negative emotions were put to them, they were generally more likely to endorse them instead.

The overriding emotions felt by Dubliners was a combination of anger and outrage (60pc of us feel very angry, with 55pc feeling very outraged). But can this negative energy be translated into something productive?

For many, it seems not -- they second wave of emotion is worry (44pc being very worried), and fear (over a third feeling the same).

Perhaps most insightful is the lack of faith in how the country is going these days -- just 14pc of us feel very hopeful, and a mere 6pc very confident.

Interesting and sobering times ahead.

Paul Moran is a Research Project Manager with Millward Brown Lansdowne