WASHINGTON, D.C. -- People living in Latin America and the Caribbean are the least likely in the world to personally feel safe in their communities, with slightly less than half of residents (46%) reporting in 2011 that they do not feel safe walking alone at night where they live.
People living in East Asia, Southeast Asia, and Northern America -- which includes the U.S. and Canada -- were the most likely worldwide to feel safe. At least three in four residents in each of these regions reported feeling safe, but as it does elsewhere around the world, people's sense of security varies by country. (Full country results are available at the end of this article.)
Majorities in 13 Latin American and Caribbean Countries Do Not Feel Safe
Latin Americans' sense of security varies across the region, from a low of 34% in Venezuela to a high of 69% in Trinidad and Tobago. Majorities in 13 of the 21 countries surveyed in the region last year said they do not feel safe, which may reflect ongoing struggles with violent crime in many of these countries, where murder rates are far higher than the annual global average of 6.9 per 100,000 people.
That one-third of Venezuelans do feel safe is not altogether surprising, given that Venezuela has one of the highest murder rates in the world, with 67 murders per 100,000 inhabitants. Venezuelans' perceptions about their safety are essentially on par with conflict-plagued countries such as Chad (30%) and Afghanistan (29%) -- illustrating that violent crime can be as devastating to one's sense of personal security as armed conflict.
Trends in Safety Perceptions Mixed in Key Countries
Trends in security perceptions among Latin American countries with chronic safety issues show mixed results. Although Venezuelans' sense of security is still lower than the 44% Gallup measured in 2006, the current figure shows some improvement from the record-low 23% recorded in 2009. Venezuelans' confidence in local police also hit an all-time low of 35% that year, but has since rebounded. Colombians' sense of security has gradually declined since 2007, but has been relatively stable since 2009. Mexico's trend has fluctuated over the past several years, but overall security perceptions remain lower than before the government crackdown on drug gangs began in late 2006.
People's perceptions of their safety can affect their behavior, possibly preventing them from engaging in everyday activities, which could have consequences on their own development -- and, in turn, on the development of their countries. These findings highlight the importance of studying people's perceptions of their own safety in addition to studying hard crime statistics. Further, Gallup data reveal that it is also important to study how different populations within countries, such as men and women, feel about their personal safety, as different groups have different experiences that leaders need to take into account.
For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact us.
Results are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews with approximately 1,000 adults per country in 148 countries and areas, aged 15 and older, conducted 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 ±3.5 percentage points to a high of ±4 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.
For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.