Thursday, 3 February 2011

Some interesting Egypt statistics

One of the questions asked by Pew Global Attitudes Project in their 2009 survey was "how satisfied are you with your life overall?" (As far as I can tell they didn't ask the same question in their 2010 survey).

Of the 25 nationalities surveyed, Egyptians were by some way the least satisfied with their lives. 60% of Egyptians surveyed, more than any other nationality, said they were dissatisfied with their lives. Of these, 34% said they were very dissatisfied with their lives, again higher than in any other country. Bear in mind the survey included countries such as India, Kenya and Nigeria, which are substantially poorer than Egypt. Such high levels of dissatisfaction perhaps help explain the degree of anger shown by anti-Mubarak demonstrators in recent days. (Unfortunately, Tunisia wasn't included in the survey).

Perhaps ominously, Jordan was the next most unhappy country (56% dissatisfied, including 30% very dissatisfied).  Perhaps surprisingly, the other two Arab countries surveyed, Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories, were much happier (as were Israel and Turkey, the other two Middle Eastern countries surveyed).

Egyptians were also the least satisfied with their household income (again Jordan was the second least satisfied country), with their jobs (Jordan the third least satisfied this time), and with their personal economic situation (Jordan did a bit better here, coming in as fourth most dissatisfied, with Lebanon just behind Egypt as second most dissatisfied). Indians were most satisfied with their personal economic situation, suggesting that absolute income levels have little to do with levels of satisfaction (especially as the poll includes numerous developed western countries). I should be clear that I'm cherry-picking to an extent here - the survey asked tons of questions, and Egyptians weren't the most negative in anything like all of them - but they were in most of the questions about personal circumstances.

One final point worth making is that Egyptians were amongst the less likely to say that they were sometimes unable to afford food - only 16% said that had been the case during the previous year, less than (shockingly) the US, where the figure was 23%. (However, Egyptians were up there with some of the worse countries in terms of being unable to afford health care). This seems to suggest that pure economic and food inflation-based explanations of the Egyptian uprising  are off the mark; Egyptians are clearly unhappy for a number of reasons, but being amongst the poorest or hungriest people in the world isn't one of them. I wonder if things like comparing their own situation to that in Gulf Arab countries for example, or even just watching a lot  foreign TV, plays a role. At any rate, that inability to buy food doesn't seem be a comparatively big problem in Egypt seems to suggest that the explanation for the unrest is at least is more about political frustrations (frustration with a leader who just won't go away, hatred of the police and so on) than socioeconomic ones,  a view I lean towards already.

The full report is here: CONFIDENCE IN OBAMA LIFTS U.S. IMAGE AROUND THE WORLD - 25-Nation Pew Global Attitudes Survey.

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