Gallup research about the optimism of countries in 2012 was released today. The data was compiled by asking respondents to rate their lives on the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale, where zero is the worst and 10 is the highest. Respondents were asked to rate their lives now, and then to rate their lives five years in the future. The difference between the two scores is used to calculate a country’s optimism, or, conversely, their pessimism.
There’s a lot of takeaways from the data, but one of the most fascinating is the overwhelming optimism in Sub-Saharan Africa. Take a look at this chart:
Around nine out of 10 people in all of these countries — amongst the poorest in the world — see their lives as better in five years.
Compare this with the situation in Europe:
Of course, there are some caveats. Given the nature of the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale, if a country is already rating itself 10/10, it cannot go any higher and thus cannot be optimistic. Gallup itself writes that optimism may be widespread in some African nations as “people cannot imagine that their lives could get any worse.”
However, there may be cause for real optimism in Africa. Last year Citi published a report predicting that Sub-Saharan Africa will double its share of the world’s economy, and recently updated U.N. population prediction predict a demographic shift that could see Africa’s population quadrupling by the end of the century:
Given this information, it’s understandable that African respondents to the Gallup poll were optimistic. It seems inevitable that life in Africa is going to change. It should, hopefully, be for the better.
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