Nigeria, Venezuela, & USA - "We're Worse Off Today Than 50 Years Ago"

Fifty years ago, the world was a very different place.

PCs and smartphones were the stuff of Sci-Fi and numerous nations found themselves at crucial crossroads in their evolution.

While Russia and US could arguably be back in another Cold War, Pew Research asked 43,000 around the world whether life is better (or worse) now than 50 years ago.

The results may surprise you...

At a country level, some of the most positive assessments of progress over the past 50 years are found in Vietnam (88% say life is better today), India (69%) and South Korea (68%) – all societies that have seen dramatic economic transformations since the late 1960s, not to mention the end of armed conflict in the case of Vietnam. A majority in Turkey (65% better) also share a sense of progress over the past five decades. In some of the more developed countries, publics also report that life is better today, including 65% in Japan and Germany, and 64% in the Netherlands and Sweden.

But not everyone is convinced that life today is an improvement over the past.

Americans are split on this issue: 41% say life is worse while 37% say better. Though the divide is, as with everything else today, extremely partisan...

Meanwhile, half or more in countries ranging from Italy (50%) and Greece (53%) to Nigeria (54%) and Kenya (53%) to Venezuela (72%) and Mexico (68%) say life is worse today.

There are wide variations in the assessment of the last 50 years across the globe...

Latin Americans stand out for their widespread negative assessment of progress over the past half-century. Venezuelans and Mexicans (72% and 68% life is worse) are the most downbeat, but nowhere in the region do more than half say life has improved for people like themselves.

Across the Middle East and North Africa, views of life today compared with 50 years ago vary substantially by country. Turkey reports the most progress in the region, with 65% saying life is better, followed by Israel, where 52% say the same about their country. Tunisians, Jordanians and Lebanese tend to say life has gotten worse for people like them, with Tunisians expressing the most widespread negativity (60%).

In sub-Saharan Africa, comparative assessments of present and past are more evenly divided. A median of 46% say life today is worse than five decades ago, compared with 42% who think life is better. Positive ratings of progress range from 47% “better” in South Africa to 36% in Ghana.

Nigeria and Kenya are the only countries surveyed in the region where more than half say life is worse (54% and 53%, respectively).

Europeans tend to see the past half-century as a period of progress. A regional median of 53% describes life as better today, compared with 30% who take the opposite view. Upbeat assessments are most common in Germany (65% better), the Netherlands (64%), Sweden (64%), Poland (62%) and Spain (60%). Greeks (53% worse) and Italians (50%) are the least convinced that life is better than 50 years ago.

The Asia-Pacific region is home to some of the most favorable assessments of progress. Vietnam (88% better) stands out, but views of life today vs. the past are also quite rosy in India (69%), South Korea (68%) and Japan (65%). Filipinos are the least sanguine about progress, with fewer than half (43%) saying life is better.

In North America, Canadians widely report progress over the past five decades (55%) while fewer Americans (37%) say the same about life in their country.

In the U.S., Republicans are more likely to say life is better today, compared with Democrats – an attitudinal shift in the wake of Donald Trump’s election as president in November 2016.

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