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Research Update

3 in 4 Sri Lankans think the country is headed in the wrong direction
More than in any other country with similar polling

Three out of four Sri Lankan adults (75%) say that the country is heading in the wrong direction in the latest IHP Sri Lanka Opinion Tracker Survey (SLOTS) polling in April 2024. Almost none (3%) say it is on the right track.

Public views about whether the country is headed in the right direction or not have remained negative since SLOTS started polling this in early 2022. But after improving initially, views have become more negative since July 2023. This is due to a steady decline in uncommitted respondents since the numbers who think the country is on the right direction have remained below 5%.

Sri Lankans are more likely to think the country is headed in the wrong direction than in any other country where this is polled. In March-April 2024, a global average of 64% of adults polled in 29 countries thought their country was headed in the wrong direction compared with 96% in Sri Lanka.1

These negative views are widely held, with little difference by gender, income level, urban and rural areas, voting preferences, and people’s views of Aragalaya. But younger Sri Lankans have been increasingly more likely than older adults to say the country is on the wrong track.

But as the country heads closer to elections, such consensus about the country’s wrong trajectory does not appear to imply any consensus about the reasons. Negative views about the country’s direction differ little by voting preferences and views of the Aragalaya, indicating that the public agrees that the direction of the country is not good, but disagrees about why.



Question wording

SLOTS polls the public’s outlook on the overall direction of the country by asking people: “Would you say things in the country are headed in the right direction or the wrong direction?”. Respondents are also allowed not to answer or to say they “Don’t know” or are “Not sure”. The percentages saying the country is moving in the right or wrong directions is based on all those who were interviewed, so numbers for right and wrong tracks will not sum to 100% because of don’t knows and refusals.

The SLOTS right direction/wrong direction question wording follows that of well-regarded national surveys in other countries, including Ipsos and Morning Consult. An alternative approach is to ask people if they are “satisfied” with the way things are going in the country, which is the approach used by Gallup, Pew, and others. Data from the United States show that these two alternative measures usually track each other closely, but there have been short periods when they differ. The commonest reason appears to be partisan differences in how the public views the government’s ability to manage current problems.2


SLOTS uses a hybrid sample of an existing national panel that was recruited face-to-face in 2019 and a sample of respondents reached by random-digit dialling (RDD) of mobile numbers. To minimize sample bias, estimates are based on weighting respondents to match the national population for age, sex, sector, ethnicity, religion, education, socioeconomic status ranking, and geographical location. Weighting is done by propensity weighting and iterative proportional fitting (raking).


Technical notes

1 These numbers differ from the preceding ones as they exclude don’t knows and refusals from the denominator when computing the percentages. This is to ensure comparability with the Ipsos estimates for other countries.

2 As discussed in Pew Research Center. Unusually Wide Gap in ’Satisfaction,’ ’Right Direction’ Measures. 2009 03/26 25   April 2024; Available from:


Recommended citation

Institute for Health Policy, May 2024, “3 in 4 Sri Lankans think the country is headed in the wrong direction”. Available at: