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Saudis See Hope After Oil

Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • Almost half of those in the kingdom are thriving
  • Nationals see most improvement in life evaluation after Vision 2030
  • Saudis less optimistic than in 2015 about current economic conditions

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In Saudi Arabia, residents' ratings of their own lives climbed noticeably between 2015 and 2016. Gallup's most recent poll in the country, conducted in the spring of 2016, found that nearly half of adults (48%) rate their lives well enough to be considered "thriving," up significantly from 35% a year earlier. While more than half (51%) in 2016 give mid-level life ratings that classify them as "struggling," only 2% of respondents rate their lives poorly enough to be considered "suffering."

Life Evaluations in Saudi Arabia, Trend Since 2013

For the past decade, Gallup has asked residents of Middle Eastern 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."

Nationals' Boost in Life Evaluation May Reflect Rising Hope for Future

Such a large shift in thriving rates in a single year is rare in any country. Gallup's 2016 survey in Saudi Arabia was conducted just after the highly publicized launch of "Vision 2030," a roadmap designed to include a series of economic and social reform objectives. This included the National Transformation Plan for boosting the role of the private sector and making the kingdom a more attractive location for investment. Vision 2030 is aimed at shifting away from the kingdom's economic dependence on oil and bolstering its leadership in a destabilizing Middle East.

Life evaluations are now particularly high among Saudi nationals (as opposed to the country's large expatriate community), with 52% falling into the thriving category. This may be a reflection of the optimism many have felt with the renewed energy for future reform in the kingdom.

Percentage "Thriving," Saudi Nationals vs. Expats
Saudi Arabia life evaluation
  2015 2016 Difference
  % % pct. pts.
Saudi nationals 38 52 14
Arab expats 30 40 10
Non-Arab expats 33 42 9
Gallup World Poll

Increased Optimism Not Reflected in Short-Term Economic Perceptions

However, perceptions across the kingdom on jobs and economic conditions do not mirror the improvements in Saudi residents' overall life evaluations. While most (59%) in 2016 say now is a good time to find a job in their area, this is slightly lower than in 2015, when 64% said the same. Similarly, while two-thirds of Saudi residents (67%) have a positive view of the outlook for the national economy in 2016, this figure is down significantly from 79% in 2015.

Local Job Market vs. National Economy in Saudi Arabia

Bottom Line

Despite a series of security and economic challenges facing Saudi Arabia, residents of the country -- and Saudi nationals in particular -- now express a heightened sense of optimism about their lives. While excitement and public discourse about the Vision 2030 unveiling may have affected how the kingdom's residents, especially nationals, rate their current and future lives, perceptions of the national economy and local job market highlight deteriorating conditions in the shorter term. Delivering on the heightened hopes that the new national vision seems to have triggered will be critical for the country's future success and well-being.

Stephanie Holgado contributed to this report.

These data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results are based on landline and mobile phone interviews with 1,001 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted March 17-April 30, 2016, in Saudi Arabia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±3.8 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

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.

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