World

Zimbabweans’ Personal Wellbeing Declines

by Magali Rheault and Bob Tortora

Citizens report feeling less better off today than five years ago

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In Zimbabwe, food and other goods are not the only items in short supply these days. Both cash and optimism are also scarce. For several weeks, Zimbabweans have been lining up for hours outside banks to withdraw their money. Recently, the country's central bank printed new high denomination banknotes to ease the cash crunch, but the 750,000- Zimbabwean dollar bill, the highest note issued, is not even enough to buy a loaf of bread. Since 1999, Zimbabwe's economy has contracted by about 30% and with inflation currently running at 8,000%, printing more money is unlikely to stave off the country's deep crisis. Gallup data suggest the ongoing economic turmoil is taking a measurable toll on the wellbeing and optimism of the Zimbabwean people.

Gallup in 2006 and 2007 asked Zimbabweans to evaluate their personal wellbeing using the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale with steps numbered from 0 to 10, where "0" indicates the worst possible life and "10" the best possible life. Gallup specifically asked respondents which steps they stood on five years ago, where they stand now, and where they expect to stand five years from now and calculated average scores. Between 2006 and 2007, the poll results show that Zimbabweans' perceptions of their present wellbeing on the ladder declined from an average score of 3.8 to 3.2, which is a statistically meaningful change.

Furthermore, Zimbabweans think they were much better off five years ago, with an average score of 5.3 in 2007. The challenging economic conditions likely put a damper on hope for the future. When asked in 2007 where they will stand five years from now, Zimbabweans reported an average score of 3.8 versus the 3.2 average rating of their current wellbeing.

Both men and women report decreased personal wellbeing between the two surveys. In 2006, the average score for men's present standing was 3.9 and for women's, it was 3.8. But in 2007, the average score for male and female Zimbabweans had decreased to 3.2. Among age groups, younger and older Zimbabweans report the largest declines in personal wellbeing. The average score of present wellbeing among 15- to 18-year olds dropped from 4.5 to 3.1 between the surveys. A similar decline was observed among respondents aged 46 and older, where the average score decreased from 3.6 to 2.5 over the same period.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,000 adults in Zimbabwe in June-July 2007, aged 15 and older. The 2006 results are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,000 adults in Zimbabwe in April 2006, aged 15 and older. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the average margin of error for a percentage is ±5 percentage points. In addition to this sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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