The FINANCIAL -- Ahead of the swelling protests in Venezuela, just 13% of Venezuelans in 2016 rated their lives positively enough to be considered "thriving" -- a far cry from the 57% who were thriving the year before President Nicolas Maduro took office.
No other country has seen its people's ratings of their lives fall this far this fast in the past decade. But in 2016, for the first time, Venezuelans were also more likely to be "suffering" than "thriving" -- creating a climate ripe for the massive protests that are now entering their fourth week.
For the past decade, Gallup has asked residents of Latin American countries and the rest of the world to evaluate their lives on the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale, where "0" represents the worst possible life and "10" represents the best possible life. Gallup classifies people as "thriving" if they rate their current lives a 7 or higher and their lives in five years an 8 or higher, and "suffering" if they rate both their current and future life situations a 4 or lower. Those in the middle are "struggling."
The new low in the percentage of Venezuelans whose ratings are thriving comes amid dramatic political and economic upheaval that continues to unfold in Latin America's fifth-largest country. Anti-government protests broke out in early April after the increasingly unpopular president and the Supreme Court attempted to strip the nation's congress of its power. The opposition is promising the "mother of all marches" on Wednesday, coinciding with the anniversary of Maduro's inauguration, according to Gallup.
Nine in 10 Venezuelans Say National Economy Is "Getting Worse"
Venezuelans' life evaluations have plummeted along with their confidence in the economy. Nine in 10 Venezuelans (91%) say their national economy is "getting worse," the highest in a decade. Few are optimistic; currently, a mere 5% say the economy is "getting better." The percentage who say economic conditions are worsening has climbed significantly since 2012.
Maduro has been roundly criticized for his state-driven style of handling the economy, under which the bolivar, Venezuela's currency, has now languished to a point where some shopkeepers would rather weigh than count bolivar bills. Maduro has threatened seizure of businesses, blamed the private sector for the country's economic woes, cut government workers' hours and ordered a massive increase in the minimum wage. Meanwhile, the government has ceased publication of the country's money supply data as inflation has risen sharply. The International Monetary Fund predicts that Venezuela is on track to see inflation rise to over 2,000% next year.
Four in Five Venezuelans Have Struggled to Afford Food Over the Past Year
The national conflict has taken a physical toll on Venezuelans. As the economy continues to languish and residents wait in long lines for basic goods that often run out, Venezuelans are now among the most likely in the world to report struggling to buy food. Four in five (80%) say there have been times in the past year when they did not have enough money to buy food for themselves or their family. This is on par with Central African Republic (83%) and Malawi (82%).
One in Four Satisfied With Availability of Quality Healthcare
Meanwhile, one in four Venezuelans (25%) report being satisfied with the availability of quality healthcare in their city or area -- the lowest point in nearly a decade. In comparison, about three times as many reported being satisfied in 2007. This comes as the country faces a dire hospital crisis, with the country's Medical Federation reporting that Venezuelan hospitals had less than 5% of the medicines they need.
If observers of Venezuela's economic crisis thought the country's dire situation couldn't have gotten worse last year, they were proven wrong. Venezuelans are nearly unanimous in their view that the economy is getting worse. This is abundantly clear to them as they wait in long lines to buy flour and sugar, and as their government works to remove the 100-bolivar bill from circulation. Meanwhile, hospitals can do little for those in need.
Venezuelans' lives have been upended as a result of the political and economic chaos, and, for the first time in a decade, they are more likely to be suffering than thriving in their self-evaluations of their lives. With government interventions -- which have been largely derided as counterproductive and ineffective -- failing to alleviate the pain Venezuelans experience on a daily basis, it is difficult to see when this will end.
The country's dismal situation could have long-lasting effects on Venezuela's competitiveness, as educated youth flee. Meanwhile, Venezuela's problems have escalated tensions with its neighbor, Colombia, as Venezuelan residents have turned to Colombia for goods they cannot get at home. In Latin America more broadly, some observers see the crisis as a larger decline of the region's political left, with political or economic struggles persisting in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia and Ecuador.