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Ahead of Protests, Many Libyans Discontent With Freedom, Jobs

Ahead of Protests, Many Libyans Discontent With Freedom, Jobs

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Gallup surveys in Libya's two largest cities -- part of a wider effort -- offer a glimpse into the lives of Tripoli and Benghazi residents before protests erupted. Well-being was low in each city in late 2010, but residents of Benghazi, the epicenter of the demonstrations, were less satisfied than Tripoli residents in two areas: the freedom to choose what they do with their lives and efforts to create good jobs.


While distance and history divide residents in Libya's capital, Tripoli, and its second-largest city, Benghazi, equally low percentages of their residents were thriving last year. 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. The 13% in Tripoli and 15% in Benghazi who rated their lives well enough to be considered thriving is on the low side, compared with other populations in the Middle East and North Africa.

Benghazi's distance from the capital and its history, however, may play a role in residents' lower reported satisfaction with their freedom to choose what they do in life. Residents in the eastern coastal city have chafed under Moammar Gadhafi's leadership in the past. The 34% in Benghazi who were satisfied was lower than the percentages in other large cities in the region, including Tunis (54%). It's important to note that one in five or more in each Libyan city said they didn't know or refused to answer, which could indicate a degree of sensitivity to the question.

High unemployment and underemployment plague residents in both cities, particularly young people. Fewer residents in Benghazi (31%) than in Tripoli (44%) were satisfied with efforts to increase the number of quality jobs in their country. They found more accord when reflecting on the situation at the local level: roughly one-third were satisfied with the availability of good jobs in their communities and one-third were dissatisfied.


Libyans in both cities faced significant economic and social challenges before the protests erupted and will face even greater tests in the still uncertain future. It will be important for all Libyans to meet these challenges together.

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Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with 540 adults in Tripoli and 300 adults in Benghazi, aged 15 and older, conducted in September and October 2010. For results based on the sample of adults in Tripoli, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4.6 percentage points. For results based on the sample of adults in Benghazi, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±6.1 percentage points. 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.

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