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Venezuela's Descent: Least Safe Country in the World

Venezuela's Descent: Least Safe Country in the World
by Julie Ray

Story Highlights

  • New report shares Law and Order Index results for 135 countries
  • Venezuelans least secure -- just 12% feel safe walking alone
  • Singapore tops the world in security

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Venezuela's score on Gallup's Law and Order Index -- its annual global gauge of how secure people feel -- continued to follow the country's descent into chaos in 2016. The country's index score of 42 out of 100 was the lowest in the world last year. This number is likely even worse now as the country's economic and political crisis deepens, including the election on Sunday that critics, including the U.S. and a growing list of nations, are denouncing as a "sham."

Law and Order Index Worldwide 2016

Across 135 countries, Law and Order Index scores in 2016 ranged from a high of 97 in Singapore to the low of 42 in Venezuela. The index is based on people's reported confidence in their local police, their feelings of personal safety, the incidence of theft in the past year and -- for the first time in 2016 -- the incidence of assault and mugging in the past year.

The changes in the index scoring in 2016 make it impossible to directly compare current index scores to those released in previous years. But if the 2016 data are scored without the assault and mugging question, Singapore still scores the highest in the world (97) and Venezuela still scores the lowest in the world (29). Venezuela has been no stranger to the bottom of the list -- it was the lowest-scoring country in 2013 and 2015, and second-lowest in 2014. Singapore has been at the top since 2013.

For the complete results for each country, read Gallup's 2017 Global Law and Order report.

Venezuelans' Sense of Safety, Confidence in Police Hit Record Lows

Venezuela's scores on all of the individual questions that make up the current index were worse last year than at any point in the past decade. Just 12% of Venezuelans in 2016 said they felt safe walking alone at night where they live, and 14% expressed confidence in their police. These are not only the worst on record for Venezuela, but the worst for any country last year -- and for the past 10 years.

Trend: Venezuelans' Loss of Law and Order

To put Venezuela's 12% who feel safe walking alone at night into perspective, the next-lowest figure in 2016 was more than twice as high as Venezuela: 28% in El Salvador. Among the 12 countries in which residents are least likely to say they feel safe walking alone at night, five are in Latin America. Another six are in sub-Saharan Africa -- including two of that region's more economically developed countries, South Africa (37%) and Botswana (38%).

Safe Walking Alone at Night in Your Neighborhood
Least likely to feel safe* Most likely to feel safe
Yes, feel safe Yes, feel safe
% %
Mauritania 39 Singapore 97
Congo (Kinshasa) 39 Uzbekistan 92
Argentina 39 Iceland 88
Botswana 38 Norway 87
South Africa 37 Rwanda 87
Brazil 36 Slovenia 87
Afghanistan 36 Hong Kong 86
Liberia 35 Denmark 83
Dominican Republic 33 Switzerland 83
Gabon 33 Spain 83
El Salvador 28 Armenia 83
Venezuela 12
* In Syria, where residents were among the least likely worldwide to say they felt safe in 2015, security conditions prevented Gallup from conducting a survey there in 2016.
Gallup World Poll, 2016

At the same time, 38% of Venezuelans said they had had property or money stolen in the past year. This is up more than 10 percentage points from the previous year and a new record high for the country. Only five countries -- all in sub-Saharan Africa -- had higher percentages than Venezuela in 2016.

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Venezuela is also among the 14 countries worldwide in which at least 15% of residents say they have been assaulted or mugged in the past year -- the new question included in the index in 2016. All but one of the 14 are in sub-Saharan Africa; the lone exception is Venezuela, where 22% say they have been assaulted or mugged in the past year. In a handful of these countries in sub-Saharan Africa, about one in four say they have been assaulted or mugged in the past year.

Map: Assaulted or Mugged in the Past 12 Months

Latin America and the Caribbean Score Lowest on Security

Venezuela's scores continue to stand out even in Latin America and the Caribbean, where residents are the least likely among all global regions to feel secure in their communities. Latin America and the Caribbean scored a 64 on Gallup's Law and Order Index -- unchanged from its 2015 score. Residents of the U.S. and Canada, Southeast Asia, East Asia and Western Europe are the most likely to feel secure, with index scores of 84 or higher.

Gallup Law and Order Index Across Global Regions
2015 2016 Difference
% % pct. pts.
U.S. and Canada 83 86 +3
Southeast Asia 85 85 0
East Asia 82 84 +2
Western Europe 83 84 +1
Middle East and North Africa 79 82 +3
Eastern Europe 78 80 +2
South Asia 79 78 -1
Commonwealth of Independent States 74 76 +2
Sub-Saharan Africa 69 68 -1
Latin America and the Caribbean 64 64 0
Gallup World Poll, 2016

At the regional level, the 2016 Law and Order Index scores have remained relatively stable since 2015, changing no more than three points in any of the global regions. Scores for individual countries also changed little, with a few exceptions.

Implications

Venezuelans' falling scores on Gallup's measures of law and order are just one example of how their country has gone from one of the richest in South America to ruin in just a few short years. In fact, most aspects of Venezuelans' lives are worse now than they were before President Nicolas Maduro took office in 2013. In 2012, the majority of Venezuelans (57%) were thriving; that number stood at just 13% in 2016.

And, Venezuelans in 2016 were among the most likely in the world to report struggling to buy food their families needed -- with the 80% unable to afford food on par with populations in places such as Malawi and Central African Republic. In 2012, this percentage was just 27%.

No other country Gallup surveys has seen its people's ratings of their lives fall this far this fast in the past decade. And as bad as those ratings were last year, they are likely even worse now and not likely to get better soon. The latest violence and political turmoil will probably only make Venezuela's economic and humanitarian crisis worse -- the opposite of what Maduro says Sunday's election was designed to do.

Download the 2017 Global Law and Order report.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews with approximately 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted throughout 2016 in 135 countries. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error ranged from ±2.1 percentage points to ±5.6 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Gallup


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