BRUSSELS -- Greeks in 2012 remained the most pessimistic in the world about the direction of their lives. Nearly four in 10 Greeks expect their lives in five years to be worse than their present lives. At least three in 10 adults expect their lives to get worse in three other European countries: the Czech Republic (33%), Slovenia (32%), and Hungary (29%).
Last week, Greece and its creditors agreed on the terms of continued bailout payments. Greece will continue to implement austerity measures demanded by the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, which will mean further public-sector cuts. With its economy in shambles after years of austerity measures and depression, an unemployment rate of 27% -- and double that among young people -- and frequent protests against the government's austerity plans, Greeks do not have much hope that their situation could improve in the near future.
Gallup asks respondents to rate their current and future lives on a ladder scale with steps numbered from zero to 10 based on the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale. Gallup labels those who rate their future lives higher than their current lives as optimistic and those who rate their future lives lower than their current lives as pessimistic. Those who rate their future lives the same as their current lives fall into neither of those groups.
Technically, those who rate their current lives a 10 cannot select a higher rating for the future and therefore cannot be termed "optimistic," even if rating one's current life as the best possible life and saying that one's life in five years will continue to be the best life possible can be seen as the ultimate optimism. It is also important to note that some ratings may reflect cultural differences and may not be tied to real expectations of negative or positive experiences in the future.
Europeans Remain the Least Optimistic
In almost all countries in the world, more people are likely to think their lives will get better than that their lives will get worse, and this is true whether they rate their current lives high or low. In 2012, the only exceptions were in Greece, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia, where more residents expected their lives to be worse in five years than to be better.
In most European countries, people's optimism about their lives remained the same or declined in 2012. In a majority of the 29 European countries surveyed in 2012, less than a third of the population was optimistic about their future. In 12 European countries, at least one in five expected their lives to get worse. This suggests that the 2008 financial and economic crisis, especially in countries that have implemented strict austerity measures, has had an adverse and lingering effect on peoples' current lives and their expectations for the future.
Africans Among the Most Optimistic
Some of the most optimistic countries are those with the lowest current life ratings -- reflecting the belief that their current situations are poor and can only get better. Optimism may be more widespread in these countries simply because people cannot imagine that their lives could get any worse. Nearly everyone in Burkina Faso, Comoros, Niger, Benin, Guinea, and the Somaliland region, and nine in 10 or more in Chad, Rwanda, and Senegal rate their future lives higher than their present situations.
Europeans as a whole, and many residents in Southern and Eastern European countries in particular, continue to feel the effects of the ongoing economic crisis. Peoples' satisfaction with their current lives has not recovered, and in most countries, expectations for the future continue to be lower. Europeans' general lack of optimism may have serious consequences for Europe's political and social stability as well. People living in other parts of the world are much more optimistic about their futures. Compared with Africa or Asia, where people see their future in brighter terms, many Europeans remain skeptical that their life situations will improve in the future.
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Results are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews with approximately 1,000 adults per country, aged 15 and older, conducted in 141 countries and areas in 2012. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error ranged from a low of ±1.6 percentage points to a high of ±5.6 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.