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Americans' Life Ratings Reach Eight-Month High

Americans' Life Ratings Reach Eight-Month High

by Alyssa Brown

Improvements in life ratings mirror better standard of living perceptions

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans' life ratings were better in April than in any month since August of last year. The U.S. Life Evaluation Index score of 50.0 in April is up from 48.4 in March, but is still below the five-year monthly high of 51.1 from January 2011. Americans' life ratings have steadily improved each month since November, when they sank to their lowest level in more than a year (47.2).

Gallup-Healthways Life Evaluation Index Scores

Republicans' and independents' life ratings declined last November -- the same month in which the Democratic presidential candidate won re-election -- resulting in the Life Evaluation Index slipping to a 13-month low. The decline was short-lived and Americans' life ratings have trended upward each month since November.

Americans' life ratings continued to improve even during the fiscal cliff negotiations in December and after budget sequestration cuts took effect in March. Americans' life ratings did not show the same resiliency during the 2008 and 2009 economic recession and, to a lesser extent, during the August and September 2011 debt ceiling negotiations and the subsequent downgrading of the U.S. credit rating.

The Life Evaluation Index, part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, classifies Americans as "thriving," "struggling," or "suffering" according to how they rate their current and future lives on a ladder scale with steps numbered from 0 to 10 based on the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale. The overall Life Evaluation Index score is calculated by subtracting the percentage of suffering Americans from the percentage of thriving Americans.

The percentage of Americans who rated their lives well enough to be classified as thriving increased to 53.5% in April, up from 51.7% in March, and is the highest this measure has been since last August. The current percentage of Americans who are "thriving" is slightly below the five-year high of 54.3% from February 2011.

The percentage of Americans who were struggling declined in April to 43.0% from 45.0% in March. The percentage suffering remained essentially unchanged at 3.5%, compared with 3.3% in March.

Thriving, Struggling, and Suffering by Monthly Averages

Americans' Life Ratings Still Mirror Their Standard of Living Perceptions

The steady increase in Americans' life ratings since November closely mirrors their improving standard of living perceptions, as has typically been the case since Gallup began daily tracking in 2008. While Gallup's Life Evaluation Index reached an eight-month high in April, Gallup's Standard of Living Index hit a five-year high for the monthly average. Both indexes have improved or held steady each month since November.

Similarly, Gallup's U.S. Economic Confidence Index in April tied the five-year monthly best.

While Americans' confidence in the economy fell slightly in March after the budget sequestration cuts took effect, their standard of living perceptions and life evaluation ratings did not decline. Still, the first quarter averages for all three indexes are higher than the fourth quarter of 2012.

Life Evaluation, Standard of Living, and Economic Confidence

Bottom Line

Americans' life ratings have steadily improved since November and reached an eight-month high in April. These improved ratings coincide with Americans' growing confidence in the economy and their improving standard of living perceptions.

Thus far in May, the Life Evaluation Index is 49.8, down slightly from 50.0 in April. It remains to be seen whether Americans' life ratings will be high enough in the second half of the month to extend the eight-month improvement streak.

About the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index tracks wellbeing in the U.S. and provides best-in-class solutions for a healthier world. To learn more, please visit

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey April 1-30, 2013, with a random sample of 15,241 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 ±1 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% cell phone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phones 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.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit


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