Yemenis Report More Negative Emotions Than Saudis

by Magali Rheault

About one-half of Yemenis say they worry a lot, versus 30% of Saudis

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Yemen's position on the Arabian Peninsula is unique. As an oil-poor country in this oil-rich region, Yemen is located at the entrance to the Bab el-Mandeb strait, a vital chokepoint between the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden through which about 40% of all oil tankers travel every year. Although the country is currently a small oil producer, the World Bank predicts that by 2018, Yemen will stop production. And with limited other natural riches, Yemen's biggest resource may be its people.

Traditional development indicators, such as life expectancy at birth and literacy rate, paint a challenging portrait of the country. But subjective measures that rely on Yemenis' self-assessment of their emotions and experiences provide another important tool to gauge their wellbeing, which affects their ability to lead productive lives. A Gallup Poll conducted in 2007 in Yemen reveals that majorities of Yemenis report positive experiences, but many also report experiencing negative emotions. In addition, Yemenis are less likely than Saudis, on average, to rate their lives positively and predict a better future.

In early 2007, a few months before protests over poor economic conditions erupted in July in some southern cities, Gallup asked Yemenis to think about experiences they had the day before. While majorities of Yemenis report having many positive experiences, a comparison with Saudi Arabia, their northern neighbor, provides some important regional context. The percentages of Yemenis who say they were treated with respect (82%) and smiling a lot (63%) are on par with those reported in Saudi Arabia, where 80% and 69%, respectively, say the same.

But when asked about other important experiences, Yemenis' and Saudis' responses differ greatly. Fifty-five percent of Yemenis versus 72% of Saudis say they feel well rested. Fewer than 4 in 10 Yemenis (38%), compared with 58% of Saudis, say they learned something or did something interesting the day before. And when asked if they would like to have more days like yesterday, the gap between Yemenis and Saudis stretches to 26 percentage points (47% to 73%, respectively).

The poll results also reveal that Yemenis are more likely than Saudis to report experiencing negative feelings. Almost one-half of Yemenis (48%) say they worry a lot, compared with 30% of Saudis. At least one-third of Yemenis also report feeling a lot of boredom (41%) and anger (37%). The corresponding Saudi percentages are 28% and 25%, respectively. Yemenis are also more likely than Saudis to say they are depressed (28% of Yemenis, compared with just 10% among Saudis). Additionally, Yemenis are far less likely than Saudis to report feeling enjoyment (54% vs. 82%) and love (46% vs. 75%).

Findings from the Gallup World Poll's ladder question summarize the stark contrast between Yemenis' and Saudis' ratings of their personal status. When asked where they currently stand on the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale numbered from zero at the bottom to ten at the top, where "0" indicates the worst possible life and "10" indicates the best possible life, the mean score for Yemenis is 4.5 versus 7.0 for Saudis. And although Yemenis think they will be better off five years from now as their mean score reaches 5.7, it is still well below Saudis' expectations of a better future as their mean score is 7.7.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,000 adults in Yemen in December 2006-January 2007 and with 1,000 respondents aged 15 and older in Saudi Arabia in June 2007-July 2007. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. 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.

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