In this column I present WIN/Gallup International’s 38th End of Year Survey, which explores the outlook, expectations, views and beliefs of 64,002 people from 65 countries across the globe. GORBI, the Georgian member of Gallup International has been part of this initiative since the early 90s. The Georgian segment was conducted in December 2015 among 1,000 randomly selected respondents focusing on two parameters – optimism and economic well being. While both are subjective variables, the survey gives the common reader an overall understanding on global trends and current public sentiment.
From the global perspective, the survey found that approximately half (53%) of those asked about 2015 think it will be a better year than 2014, up by 5% from last year. The number of those who think it will be worse has dropped by 5% to 15%. Africa (75%) and Asia (63%) are the most optimistic about next year. Conversely, Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean and North Africa region (MENA) and Western Europe proved to be regions most pessimistic about 2015, with 28%, 27% and 26% respectively.
Nigeria proved to be the most positive country about 2015 - 85% of respondents think it will be better. This is in spite of plunging oil revenues and increased violence as Boko Haram gains in strength. Presidential, local and state elections originally scheduled for this month may have played into Nigeria’s high hopes for a better 2015. In contrast, Lebanon was most pessimistic with just 26% saying that they believe it will be better and 52% believing it will be worse. The war in Syria and potential for renewed hostilities with Israel could be some contributing factors.
Among former Soviet Bloc countries covered in this poll, Azerbaijan and Ukrainian are the most optimistic about the next year, with 53% of their populations holding this hope. Georgians (49%) are not far behind. Meanwhile, every third respondent in Kazakhstan (34%) and Latvia (33%) and fewer in Armenia (30%) and Russia (29%) believe in a rosy 2015.
Chart 1: “Optimists” among selected countries. Numbers in brackets indicate country’s order in the list of surveyed countries.
Western economies on the slide?
When asked if next year would bring economic prosperity, 42% of respondents believed it will be better whilst 23% believe it will be one of economic difficulty. However, respondents in Western European countries continue to believe that economies will struggle during 2015, with 44% believing next year will be the same as 2014, 40% believing it will be a difficult year and just 12% believing it will be one of economic prosperity. Such sentiment has carried over from the year before, when 42% also believed 2014 would be one of economic difficulty and 11% thought they would experience increased prosperity.
In addition to being optimistic about 2015 as a whole, Nigeria also proved to be the most optimistic about the economy with 80% believing it will be a prosperous year. The most pessimistic countries surveyed were France, Serbia, Greece and Belgium where 57%, 56%, 54% and 54% respectively said that the next year would be one of economic difficulty and only 6%, 15%, 12% and 4% respectively believing it would be a year of economic prosperity.
Chart 2. Net Economic Optimism (better – worse). Numbers in brackets indicate country’s order in the list of surveyed countries.
Georgia ranked #13 out of 65 countries with a 37% net rating; Azerbaijanis are more optimistic (despite the dramatic drop in oil prices) and Ukrainians, Latvians and Russians each have a positive net rating.
As mentioned above, this data is based on a subjective assessment and in reality 2015 may be a difficult year for the region. Much depends on the crisis in Ukraine and whether an enduring peace settlement can be brokered that Moscow accepts. Either way, Ukraine’s economy is tinkering on verge of collapse, with the hryvnia having recently lost 30 percent of its value against the dollar in less than two days. The Georgian, Armenian and Azerbaijani economies each have varying degrees of dependence on remittances from the Russian Federation, where hundreds of thousands of relatives are supporting their families back home. Any further deterioration of the Russian economy due to continued sanctions, low oil prices and war would certainly have a negative effect on the strength of regional currencies and consequently on the overall state of the economy.
GORBI is a regional hub for partner organizations and international clients. Since 2003, GORBI remains an exclusive member of Gallup International research network for its two decades of experience in survey research in post-Soviet Union countries, as well as Mongolia and Iraq.