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Life in Libya Getting Worse Before Recent Fighting

Life in Libya Getting Worse Before Recent Fighting

by Iman Berrached and RJ Reinhart

Story Highlights

  • A record-low 19% of Libyans are "thriving"
  • 43% say they have lacked money for food, 37% for shelter in past year
  • Record-high 34% would like to migrate to another country

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Libyans' lives were already getting worse before being plunged into turmoil again in April, when renegade Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army began targeting the country's U.N.-recognized government and its capital, Tripoli. Before the recent fighting, the percentage of Libyans rating their lives positively enough to be considered "thriving" had dropped to a record-low 19%.

Line graph. The percentage of Libyans who are thriving dropped from 31% in 2012 to 19% in 2018.

Gallup asks adults worldwide to evaluate their lives on the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale, where zero represents the worst possible life and 10 represents the best possible life. Gallup classifies people as "thriving" if they rate their current life a 7 or higher and their life 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."

The one in five Libyans who were thriving in the July 27-Aug. 11, 2018, survey is well below the 31% who rated their lives this well in 2012, after the toppling of longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi. It is also well below the 26% who said they were thriving in 2015, early in the country's civil war.

Economic Outlook Bleak as Libyans Struggle to Afford Basics

Protracted fighting could further damage the already bleak picture that Libyans paint of their economic situation. A majority (52%) say their local economy is getting worse, essentially tied with the record-high 53% recorded in 2015. In 2012, in the post-Gadhafi optimism, 13% of Libyans had said their local economies were getting worse.

Line graph. More than half, 52%, of Libyans now report their local economies are getting worse.

While Libyans are just as pessimistic about where their economy is headed as they were in 2015, they are more likely to be struggling to afford the basics than they were then -- probably making them even more vulnerable now. A record-high 43% of Libyans in 2018 reported being unable to afford food at times in the past year, and a record 37% said they struggled to afford adequate shelter.

Line graph. Record numbers of Libyans were struggling to afford food and shelter in 2018.

Roughly a Third of Libyans Would Like to Migrate

Amid the worsening economic conditions and the instability in the country, a record 34% of Libyans in 2018 said they would like to leave Libya permanently. In 2012, before the country's civil war, 11% said they would like to migrate. This jumped to 29% in 2015, and has stayed at or above 25% since.

Line graph. A record 34% of Libyans would like to migrate permanently from their country.

Bottom Line

The latest instability in Libya comes as economic conditions were already in decline. Haftar has attempted to cast himself as the defender of the country in the past, helping to defeat extremist forces operating in Libya earlier in the country's civil war. However, the current struggle appears less ideological than an effort by Haftar to secure the country's resources. As such, it seems likely to exacerbate declining conditions in the country over the short term.

However, Haftar does have some international support and has met with the Italian prime minister concerning a potential truce. Additionally, the French government has expressed its interest in meeting with the former Libyan general to negotiate a cease-fire. It is unclear if this meeting will result in a cease-fire or if that truce will hold, despite support from the U.N. and other international parties. Regardless, it does not appear likely that the situation in Libya will improve in the near future.

Continued violence in Libya is likely to only further exacerbate the declining conditions in the country, encouraging further migration and instability. This instability may also spill over into Libya's neighbors, which are ill-equipped to deal with large numbers of refugees or violence related to armed groups operating within Libya.

For 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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