By Jon Clifton
People in Syria and Iraq are the least likely in the world to report experiencing positive emotions, while those who live in Paraguay, Venezuela, Panama, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Kuwait are among the most positive. Regionally, Latin Americans continue to report the highest positive emotions in the world and those in the Middle East report the lowest.
Gallup measured positive emotions in 143 countries in 2012 by asking people whether they experienced enjoyment a lot, felt respected, felt well-rested, laughed and smiled a lot, and learned or did something interesting the previous day. Gallup compiles the “yes” results into a Positive Experience Index score for each country.
Despite the tendency of news media to focus on conflict and negative reports, people worldwide are generally upbeat. On average, 73% of adults worldwide say they experienced enjoyment “a lot of the day” yesterday. Seventy-two percent smiled and laughed a lot, 85% felt treated with respect, and 71% felt well-rested. Fewer adults, 45%, reported that they learned or did something interesting “yesterday.”
Since Gallup started tracking positive emotions in 2006, global positive emotions have not fluctuated much. In fact, between 2011 and 2012, only four countries experienced double-digit increases or decreases on the Positive Experience Index. The biggest decrease was in Syria, which dropped 14 percentage points. Singapore’s index score increased the most, rising 24 points.
Syria’s decline and its ranking as one of the least positive countries is not surprising – an estimated 100,000 people have now died as a result of the ongoing civil war. Syria’s index score is now at its lowest point since 2008.
Singapore had the largest year-to-year increase of 24 points. After having reported the lowest positive emotions in the world in 2011, Singapore is now in the top half of countries worldwide. The rise took place among all demographic groups, even as other societal measures remained steady. Perhaps the most significant contributing factor to the increase was the unprecedented attention leaders and the media gave the findings last year.
To assess a nation’s wellbeing, Gallup looks at how people evaluate their lives and how they experience their lives through positive and negative emotions. Using Gallup’s U.S. Daily tracking data, Nobel Prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman and Princeton professor Angus Deaton found that the more money people make, the higher they evaluate their lives overall. However, income has much less effect on daily emotions, particularly among those who earn $75,000 or more annually. Data on daily experiences provide insight into how people feel about life beyond money. For leaders who are looking for data beyond money, the way people report their emotions is a good place to start.
Results are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews with approximately 1,000 adults in each country, aged 15 and older, conducted in 2012 in 143 countries and areas. For results based on the total global sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is less than ±1 percentage point. For results based on country-level samples, the margin of error ranges from a low of ±1.7 to a high of ±5.3. 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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