WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Worldwide, adults are slightly more likely to be satisfied with the quality of the air in the city or area where they live than the quality of the water. A median of 75% of adults across more than 140 countries Gallup surveyed in 2011 were satisfied with air quality, while a median of 68% were satisfied with water quality.
Europe is the general exception; there, median satisfaction for both is relatively high and roughly the same. But in all other regions of the world -- particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where median satisfaction with water is lowest, at 51% -- there are sizable gaps between satisfaction with air and water.
Countries where adults are most satisfied with the quality of the air span Europe and Asia, with satisfaction nearly universal in highly developed countries such as Ireland (95%). But there is still a wide range of perceptions of air quality within each region. Residents of Hong Kong are the least likely to be satisfied globally (30%), while residents of city-state Singapore are among the most satisfied (91%).
The list of countries where residents are least satisfied with their air quality represents nearly every part of the world and multiple levels of human development. Less than half of residents are satisfied in Haiti (49%), Iraq (48%), Malta (47%), Angola (44%), and Hong Kong (30%).
Water Quality Perceived Worst in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, Former Soviet Countries
Ratings of water quality are highest across wealthier countries in Europe, the Americas, and developed Asia. Nearly all residents in the United Kingdom (97%), Germany (96%), Sweden (96%), Denmark (96%), and Singapore (95%) are satisfied with the quality of their water.
Perceived water quality is generally lowest in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and countries that were formerly in the Soviet Union. Seven of the 10 countries where residents are least satisfied are in sub-Saharan Africa, where residents sometimes have to walk miles for water, and waterborne and water-related diseases such as cholera are common. Congolese are the least likely in the world to be satisfied with their water, with roughly one in four satisfied.
Development Makes More of a Difference in Water Quality
There is a wider gap by development level in perceptions of water quality than air quality. Perceptions of water quality improve at each higher level of development, with a wide gulf separating countries with low development and very high human development. Among developing countries, a median of 51% are satisfied with the quality of the water where they live, compared with a median of 85% in countries with very high human development.
Having clean air to breathe and enough safe water to drink may be taken for granted in parts of the world where nearly all residents are satisfied with the quality of both where they live. But in some parts of the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa, clean water is linked to food security. Gallup data show that air quality issues can plague countries in any region and at any level of development. Water quality, on the other hand, is most elusive in the less developed world, reinforcing that although the Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of people without access to safe drinking water has been met, much work remains.
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 telephone and face-to-face interviews with 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted in more than 140 countries in 2011. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error ranged from a low of ±2 percentage points to a high of ±5.1 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.