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Freedom Rings in Places You Might Not Expect
Gallup Blog

Freedom Rings in Places You Might Not Expect

As Americans get ready to celebrate 242 years of independence next week, nearly nine in 10 of them are satisfied with the freedom they have to choose what they do with their lives. But while most Americans are happy with their freedom, how do most people outside the United States feel about theirs?

The short answer is -- pretty good.

Every year, Gallup asks people in more than 140 countries a simple question: "In your country, are you satisfied with your freedom to choose what you do with your life?"

On average, 80% of people worldwide reported in 2017 that they were satisfied with their freedom -- the highest percentage to date in Gallup's global tracking over more than 10 years. In fact, this percentage dropped below a majority in just seven countries last year.


The upward trend is largely attributable to at- or near-record-level satisfaction in the world's most populous countries -- China, India, the United States, Indonesia and Pakistan. For example, 85% in China are satisfied with their personal freedom, which is up from 76% the last time Gallup asked the question in 2013. In India, a record-level 86% are satisfied, up six percentage points from the previous year.

China's and India's levels of satisfaction are both above the global average -- but they aren't the highest. The top of the list includes some of the wealthiest, most developed nations in the world, but also a few that typically that don't score well on global freedom rankings, including historically repressive regimes such as Uzbekistan. The appearance at the top of the list of countries not usually associated with freedom could reflect social desirability to answer this question positively, as well as fear on the part of respondents about how a negative answer might be interpreted.

Most and Least Satisfied With Freedom Worldwide
Most satisfied Least satisfied
Uzbekistan 97% Bosnia and Herzegovina 53%
Cambodia 96% Moldova 52%
Denmark 96% South Korea 52%
Finland 96% Mauritania 49%
Norway 95% Haiti 48%
United Arab Emirates 95% Tunisia 46%
Canada 94% South Sudan 44%
Iceland 94% Algeria 42%
New Zealand 94% Greece 42%
Costa Rica 93% Afghanistan 41%
Sweden 93%
Gallup World Poll, 2017

The countries with the fewest people expressing satisfaction with the freedom in their lives are war-torn countries like South Sudan and Afghanistan. Poor economic conditions in countries such as Haiti or Greece probably explain their respective standings; in fact, before the economic collapse in Greece, 70% were satisfied.

Land of the Free?

Although the U.S. has been known as the leader of the free world, it does not make the top of the list -- and Americans were in a very different place ahead of the last election. In 2016, the U.S. tied the previous low, with 75% of people satisfied with the freedom they have to choose what they do with their lives. The decline saw the U.S. fall from 11th in the world to the bottom half. Over the past year, however, the U.S. has almost perfectly rebounded -- moving back to 87% of Americans feeling satisfied with their freedom.


Some of the rebound might be related to economics. Recent improvements in the stock market -- and even the possibility of higher paychecks -- might be influencing how people feel about their overall freedom.

Another potential driver could be the election of Republican President Donald Trump. Indicators like economic confidence are highly driven by politics in the U.S. -- meaning when a Republican is in office, Democrats are less like to think the economy is going well and vice versa. Gallup does not collect political affiliation in its global surveys, so we are unable to test whether this is the case. However, we did see that Americans who disapproved of the leadership of the U.S. in 2016 were less likely to say they were satisfied with their freedoms (67%) than those who approved (90%).

How people perceive their own freedom will be different. Globally, people may see their freedom through economics first before anything else. This highly aligns with Gallup's previous research on the Coming Jobs War, which found that "what the whole world wants is a good job."

Americans celebrate their country's freedom next week. With much of the world unable to experience the same freedoms that Americans enjoy, it is remarkable that so many are still able to celebrate freedom on their own terms.

Satisfaction With Freedom to Choose What You Do With Your Life
Uzbekistan 97
Cambodia 96
Denmark 96
Finland 96
Norway 95
United Arab Emirates 95
Canada 94
Iceland 94
New Zealand 94
Costa Rica 93
Sweden 93
Malta 92
Netherlands 92
Philippines 92
Singapore 92
Slovenia 92
Mauritius 91
Nicaragua 91
Australia 90
Guatemala 90
Ireland 90
Portugal 90
Rwanda 90
Switzerland 90
Bahrain 89
Luxembourg 89
Thailand 89
Uruguay 89
Honduras 88
Kuwait 88
Myanmar 88
Panama 88
Paraguay 88
Austria 87
Ecuador 87
U.S. 87
Bangladesh 86
Bolivia 86
India 86
Belgium 85
China 85
Dominican Republic 85
Indonesia 85
Kenya 85
Kosovo 85
Malawi 85
Mexico 85
Jamaica 84
Kyrgyzstan 84
Trinidad and Tobago 84
Colombia 83
France 83
Germany 83
Hong Kong 83
Nepal 83
Argentina 82
Nigeria 82
Botswana 81
Estonia 81
Mozambique 81
Poland 81
Saudi Arabia 81
United Kingdom 81
Lao People's Democratic Republic 80
Namibia 80
Peru 80
Romania 80
Tanzania 80
Zambia 80
Czech Republic 79
Morocco 79
Sri Lanka 79
Chile 78
Cyprus 78
South Africa 78
Tajikistan 78
Gambia 77
Ghana 77
Japan 77
Libya 77
Brazil 76
Jordan 76
Cameroon 75
El Salvador 75
Georgia 75
Israel 75
Spain 75
Uganda 75
Zimbabwe 75
Albania 74
Lesotho 74
Taiwan 74
Liberia 73
Macedonia 73
Guinea 72
Mali 72
Ivory Coast 71
Ethiopia 71
Congo (Brazzaville) 70
Croatia 70
Kazakhstan 70
Pakistan 70
Sierra Leone 70
Benin 69
Russia 69
Togo 69
Turkmenistan 69
Azerbaijan 68
Congo (Kinshasa) 68
Lithuania 68
Iran 67
Senegal 67
Slovakia 67
Bulgaria 66
Mongolia 65
Serbia 65
Central African Republic 64
Hungary 64
Latvia 64
Niger 64
Gabon 63
Italy 63
Palestinian Territories 63
Turkey 63
Venezuela 63
Iraq 61
Montenegro 61
Armenia 60
Chad 60
Lebanon 60
Belarus 58
Burkina Faso 58
Madagascar 57
Egypt 56
Yemen 56
Ukraine 54
Bosnia and Herzegovina 53
Moldova 52
South Korea 52
Mauritania 49
Haiti 48
Tunisia 46
South Sudan 44
Algeria 42
Greece 42
Afghanistan 41
Gallup World Poll, 2017


Jon Clifton is Global Managing Partner at Gallup.

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