Pessimism in face of the future: Portugal’s mental state reflects in their voting

By CDI Staff |
Young man and Portugal flag
Hugo Teles / Unsplash

Since 2022, the Portuguese have increasingly expressed pessimism about their future. They worry about their financial responsibilities and fear their income might not be enough to cover basic expenses. The radical change in the political status quo in Portugal’s recent elections is proof of the current mental state of the country.

The Portuguese went out to vote with an enthusiastic 66% participate rate; this hasn’t occurred in 30 years. Chega (meaning Enough), a five-year-old party, came in a close third place right behind the established Social Democrat and Socialist parties. Capturing over 1 million votes, Chega says it aims to “tackle Portugal’s multiple crises.” Yet Josué Da Ponte, secretary general of the Portuguese Evangelical Alliance, said to Evangelical Focus that Chega’s discourses often focus on “speech against immigrants and some ethnic groups.” 

Wide-spread frustration in Portugal appeared in two recent studies. The Observatory of Portuguese Society (PSO) conducted a survey at the Catholic University of Lisbon in 2023, and Intercampus, a market research company in Portugal, led the other for Gallup International Association (GIA). The Gallup study compared Portugal with other 40 countries. In a statement, Intercampus said, “Portugal is the fifth most pessimistic country in the world.”

Da Ponte believes this is the time for the church to help those who need it the most. Churches need to respond to the “many families struggling just to have food on the table as young people leave our country.”

He explained the gap between the high cost of life and low wages makes life in Portugal highly unsustainable. The housing prices have become, “very expensive and take a huge part of a family’s budget.”

This causes a problem for future generations as younger, recent graduates opt to emigrate to different countries in search of well-paying jobs that cover their expenses. “Many of [the recent graduates] are recruited when they’re still in university,” Da Ponte said. “People need stability…  Here it’s very difficult to rent an apartment, to start a family, to get further in life.”

Da Ponte exhorts people to pray for Portugal and the younger generation striving to grow in the country, not only for their physical lives but for their spiritual lives.

Churches struggle to find leaders because young people are moving out of Portugal. Da Ponte encourages people to pray for Portugal’s teenagers. “We need to renew the leadership and invest in young disciples,” Da Ponte said. “Because in this is the stage of their life, many are moving away from the church.”

According to the PSO, half of those surveyed – between the ages of 20 and 69 – admitted, “being pessimistic or very pessimistic with the majority believing that they will find it difficult to maintain their standard of living.” In the GIA study, 63% of the respondents admitted thinking 2024 would be a year of “difficult economic prosperity.”

Most respondents recognized they’ll have to depend on their savings to overcome the cost of living, “since they will have some or great difficulty in maintaining their standard of living.” 53% said it would be difficult, whereas only 13% mentioned they would be able to maintain the standard of living they kept until now.