Large majorities of people in the US and in Europe want higher taxation for the rich and even pay caps for corporate executives to counter what they believe are unjustified rewards and the negative effects of globalization.
Viewing globalization as an overwhelmingly negative force, citizens of rich countries are looking to governments to cushion the blows they perceive have come from the liberalization of their economies to trade with emerging countries.
Those polled in Britain, France, the US and Spain were about three times more likely to say globalization was having a negative rather than a positive effect on their countries. The majority was smaller in Germany, with its large export base.
Corporate leaders fared little better, with 5 per cent or fewer of those polled in the US and all large European economies (except Italy) saying they had a great deal of admiration for those who run large companies. In these countries, between a third and a half said they had no admiration at all for corporate bosses.
In response to fears of globalization and rising inequality, the public in all the rich countries surveyed - the US, Germany, UK, France, Italy and Spain - want their governments to increase taxation on those with the highest incomes. In European countries, a large majority want governments to go further and to impose pay caps on the heads of companies.
Europeans still overwhelmingly support the principle of free competition within the European Union, contrary to Nicolas Sarkozy's wishes at the recent European summit, but in France, Germany and Spain, the populations want their political leaders to play a larger role in managing their economies.
The depth of anti-globalization feeling in the FT/Harris poll, which surveyed more than 1,000 people online in each of the six countries, will dismay policy-makers and corporate executives. Their view that opening economies to freer trade is beneficial to poor and rich countries alike is not shared by the citizens of rich countries, regardless of how liberal their economic traditions.
The issue of rising inequality is now high on the political agenda of every country and will feature prominently in the 2008 US presidential election.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007