skip to main content
Before Boston Bombings, U.S. Satisfaction Up to 30%

Before Boston Bombings, U.S. Satisfaction Up to 30%

Highest reading since November

PRINCETON, NJ -- Three in 10 Americans were satisfied with the way things are going in the U.S. before Monday's bombing attacks at the Boston Marathon. That is the highest since last fall, when satisfaction rose during September, October, and November, coincident with the 2012 presidential election campaign.

In general, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time?

These results are from Gallup's Economy and Personal Finance poll, with interviewing conducted April 4-14. On April 15, bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing at least three people and injuring more than 100 others. The bombing attacks brought the terrorism issue to the forefront of the news, and could affect the way Americans view conditions in the U.S.

Americans' satisfaction levels have been fairly low for most of the last six years. Aside from last fall's ratings in the 30s, the only other times satisfaction reached that level was in May through August 2009, during the early months of Barack Obama's presidency. Satisfaction has not been at the 40% level since July 2005, and not at the 50% level since January 2004.

Gallup has asked the satisfaction question monthly since April 2000, and periodically since 1979. The historical average satisfaction rating is 38%, with a high of 71% in February 1999 and a low of 7% in October 2008. Satisfaction reached as high as 70% in the months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Democrats, Nonwhites Most Satisfied Among Key Subgroups

Democrats (48%) and nonwhites (46%) are most likely to express satisfaction with conditions in the U.S. Young adults' and liberals' satisfaction also exceeds 40%. These four groups usually also rank among President Obama's strongest supporters. Not surprisingly, then, Republicans, at 12%, are least satisfied among key subgroups.

U.S. Satisfaction, by Major Demographic Group, April 2013

Democrats' and independents' satisfaction has increased since March -- when 21% of all Americans were satisfied -- while Republicans' views are essentially unchanged.

U.S. Satisfaction, by Political Party, March vs. April 2013

Democrats' satisfaction was consistently higher than 50% between September and November 2012, so it is not quite back to where it was during the immediate pre- and post-election period.


Americans' satisfaction with the way things are going in the U.S. reached 30% immediately before the Boston bombing attacks, a level rarely seen in Gallup's monthly updates over the last six years. It is unclear what impact the attacks may have on Americans' opinions about current conditions in the U.S. Often a high-profile tragedy can rally Americans together and make them think more positively about the country and their government leaders, as occurred after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. On the other hand, renewed concern about terrorism could make Americans feel less safe, and therefore less positive about the current state of affairs in the U.S.

One indicator of whether the Boston bombings will produce a change in satisfaction will be the trajectory of President Obama's approval rating in the coming days. His approval rating has hovered near the 50% mark this month, ranging between 47% and 50% in Gallup Daily tracking. Should Obama's approval rise above 50% in the coming days, it will suggest the attacks led Americans to rally around their leaders, and likely to feel more positively about the country more generally.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted April 4-14, 2013, with a random sample of 2,017 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cellphone numbers are selected using random digit dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, cellphone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2012 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the July-December 2011 National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the 2010 census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit


Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030