skip to main content
Life Ratings Plummet in Venezuela, Thriving at 10-Year Low

Life Ratings Plummet in Venezuela, Thriving at 10-Year Low

by Johanna Godoy and Justin McCarthy
Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • Nearly half of residents struggled to afford food in past year
  • Majority find it difficult to get by on current household income
  • Satisfaction with standard of living also at 10-year low

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Twenty-nine percent of Venezuelans rated their lives positively enough to be considered "thriving" in 2015 -- the lowest figure in the 10 years Gallup has been tracking this measure -- and about twice as many (61%) are "struggling." These numbers were almost flipped in 2010 when Venezuela led the region in thriving. These are just two of several measures that illustrate how Venezuelans' lives have been turned upside down as their country teeters on the brink of collapse.


For the past decade, Gallup has asked residents of Latin American countries and the rest of the world to evaluate their lives on the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale, where "0" represents the worst possible life, and "10" represents the best possible life. Gallup classifies people as "thriving" if they rate their current lives a 7 or higher and their lives in five years an 8 or higher, and "suffering" if they rate both their current and future life situations a 4 or lower. Those in the middle are "struggling."

These latest data come amid seismic political shifts in Venezuela's political landscape. A victory by the opposition party in December's parliamentary elections, in response to the deeply unpopular President Nicolas Maduro, has initiated volatile partisan warfare among the government's three branches. A mass effort to recall Maduro is underway, with nearly 2 million Venezuelans signing a petition to oust him. The political drama is intensified by the dire needs of the country's 30 million people, whose food and basic services have been cautiously rationed. Venezuelans also suffer water and electricity shortages, inflation and violent crime as the price of oil, the country's main export, has plummeted.

The government has taken measures such as reducing public-sector work hours, with an exception of workers in the food industry. Meanwhile, private food corporations have been ordered to evacuate their warehouses for government-built, low-income housing. Maduro has placed blame for much of the nation's woes on the private sector, which has had an icy relationship with the president.

Nearly Half of Venezuelans Report Inability to Afford Food in Past Year

Nearly half of Venezuelans (45%) say there have been times in the past year when they did not have enough money to buy food that they or their families needed. Although there have been times over the past decade when as many Venezuelans have been struggling to afford food, the proportion has been above 40% since 2013.


Grocery shopping in Venezuela has become a daunting task. In addition to the massive price inflation, food and other necessities are in great shortage -- leading to government rationing of products and long lines for customers.

Majority Find It "Difficult" or "Very Difficult" to Get by on Current Income

For the first time since Gallup began tracking the measure, the majority of Venezuelans (58%) now say they find it "difficult" or "very difficult" to get by on their current income. This comes despite four minimum wage hikes enacted by Maduro in 2015. The president ordered yet another 30% increase on May 1. But severe inflation continues to limit any benefit from salary increases.

Venezuela3 (1)

About half as many Venezuelans (39%) report that they are "living comfortably" or "getting by" on their current household income as they did in 2008 (75%). The latest figure is a new low in the trend and is the first time that less than half of residents report having positive feelings about their household income.

Majority of Venezuelans Now See Their Standard of Living as Getting Worse

Also for the first time in the past decade, the majority of Venezuelans see their living standard as getting worse. They are now more than three times as likely to say their standard of living is "getting worse" (58%) as they are to say it is "getting better" (18%).


Bottom Line

Venezuelans will face myriad economic and political challenges in the coming years. The country's economy crumpled with dramatic drops in oil prices in 2014 and 2015 -- and improvements in several measures of residents' well-being may be at least somewhat contingent upon a rebound in oil prices. Many criticize the oil-focused mentality of the government before the price drop as leaders failed to diversify the economy and spent the commodity's earnings so quickly, positioning Venezuela for an economic struggle once prices fell.

A political battle within different branches of the country's government is further complicating things for Venezuelans. As a newly empowered opposition party in the nation's Congress spars with the president and Supreme Court, political change is less than certain. All the while, critics of how the government has handled the food crisis argue that it could be easing strains on farmers, which would, in turn, alleviate the overall crisis.

Historical data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,000 adults in Venezuela, aged 15 and older, each year. The most recent survey was conducted Oct. 27-Nov. 18, 2015. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±3.8 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.

Learn more about how the Gallup World Poll works.

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030