WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Well-being in Egypt and Tunisia decreased significantly over the past few years, even as GDP increased. In Egypt, where demonstrations have prompted President Hosni Mubarak to give up power after elections this fall, the percentage of people "thriving" fell by 17 percentage points since 2005. In Tunisia, where mass protests toppled the country's government last month, the percentage of people Gallup classifies as thriving fell 10 points since 2008.
Gallup classifies respondents worldwide as "thriving," "suffering," or "struggling" based on how they rate their current and future lives on the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving ladder scale, with steps numbered from 0 to 10. The declining percentage of those in Egypt and Tunisia who rate their lives well enough to be considered thriving reveals that these populations, as a whole, have become increasingly negative about their lives over the past few years.
In Egypt, all income groups have seen well-being decline significantly since 2005, with only the richest 20% of the population trending positively since 2009. In Tunisia, well-being for all groups has declined since 2008 at similar rates.
As a result of these declines, well-being in these countries now ranks among the worst in the Middle East and North Africa region, on par with Libya, Palestinian Territories, Iraq, Yemen, and Morocco. When more people were thriving in Egypt and Tunisia in past years, their well-being ranked toward the higher end for the region. Thus, it is important to consider the current state of well-being in each country as well as the trend and trajectory.
The data underscore how traditional economic metrics can paint an incomplete picture of life in a given country. Over the same period that well-being decreased in Egypt and Tunisia, GDP increased. This is particularly noteworthy because previous Gallup research, by Angus Deaton, Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, and Gallup researchers, has found well-being to be highly correlated with GDP per capita.
Gallup's global well-being metrics make clear that leaders cannot assume that the lives of those in their countries would improve in tandem with rising GDP. The traditional GDP gains seen in Tunisia and Egypt alongside declines in well-being and subsequent political instability are evidence of this. Together, the data strongly suggest leaders need to follow much more than GDP to effectively track and lead the progress of their nation.
For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact SocialandEconomicAnalysis@gallup.com or call 202.715.3030.
Results are based on face-to-face interviews in Egypt and Tunisia with approximately 2,000 adults in each country, aged 15 and older, in 2009 and 2010. Surveys in Egypt in 2009 took place March 7-22 and Aug. 11-19; in 2010, they were conducted March 13-23 and Sept. 25 to Oct. 26. Surveys in Tunisia in 2009 took place Feb. 20 to March 25 and Aug. 2-22; in 2010, they were conducted Feb. 3 to April 27 and Sept. 10 to Oct. 25. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±2.5 percentage points. Results in Egypt and Tunisia prior to 2009 are based on approximately 1,000 face-to-face interviews each year.
All other results for countries mentioned in this article are based on face-to-face interviews in 2010 with approximately 2,000 adults in each country. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±2.6 percentage points. Surveys in Arab Gulf countries were conducted with nationals and Arab expatriates. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
Editor's note: This article includes revisions to reflect that 12% of Egyptians were "thriving" in 2010, rather than 11% as stated in some instances in the original version.