World

More Suffering Than Thriving in Some EU Countries

by Anna Manchin

Standard of living perceived as "getting worse" across much of EU

BRUSSELS -- More Europeans are "suffering" than "thriving" in several countries hard-hit by the financial crisis, including a number that have already introduced or are introducing austerity measures. More than one in five residents rate their lives poorly enough to be considered suffering in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Greece, Latvia, and Portugal. The largest gap between thriving and suffering is in Bulgaria, where 45% are suffering and 5% are thriving.

Percentage thriving, struggling, and suffering in the EU

Gallup classifies respondents' wellbeing as thriving, struggling, or suffering according to how they rate their current and future lives on a ladder scale with steps numbered from 0 to 10 based on the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale. People are considered thriving if they rate their current lives a "7" or higher and expectations for their lives in five years an "8" or higher. People who rate their current or future lives a "4" or lower are classified as suffering. All others are considered struggling.

Last week, in a bid to bring the financial crisis under control and to ensure the euro's survival, EU leaders agreed on stricter rules governing the level of sovereign debts and budget deficits and called for automatic sanctions for breaching them. Economic arguments support the decision to cut back on public expenditures for a prolonged period. But these arguments do not take into account the adverse effects such measures could have on overall personal wellbeing. It is still too early to tell from Gallup's data what effect, if any, that these measures might have already had.

Standard of Living "Getting Worse" in Many Countries

The financial crisis is affecting EU member countries differently depending on households' and individuals' level of accumulated wealth. In most northern and western European countries, large majorities say they are satisfied with their current standard of living, all the things they can buy and do. But in countries that entered the current crisis with weaker economies, as did several eastern and southern European countries, dissatisfaction with current standards of living is much higher.

Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with all the things you can buy and do?

One of the strongest indicators of wellbeing besides people's actual economic situation is whether they see their standard of living improving in the near future. In all but a few European countries surveyed, more people believe that their standard of living is deteriorating than believe it is improving. In some of the countries that have instituted austerity measures, such as Greece, a majority believe that their standard of living will deteriorate further.

Standard of living getting better or getting worse?

Implications

Gallup's surveys indicate considerable disparity in how residents in different European countries are experiencing the current economic crisis. In a few northern and western European countries, the majority are still thriving. In several hard-hit eastern and southern European countries, many are suffering, and bleak about their prospects. As austerity measures become the norm in more EU countries, residents' personal wellbeing merits close watching.

For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact SocialandEconomicAnalysis@gallup.com or call 202.715.3030.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face and telephone interviews with approximately 1,000 adults in each EU member state between March and June 2011. For results based on each sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error ranged from a low of ±3.5 percentage points to a high of ±4.0 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.


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