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Americans' Personal Satisfaction

Americans' Personal Satisfaction

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

by Joseph Carroll

Satisfaction With Personal Life

More than 8 in 10 Americans (84%) say they are satisfied with the way things are going in their personal lives, according to Gallup's Dec. 5-8 poll. This includes 58% of Americans who are "very" satisfied and 26% who are "somewhat" satisfied. Only 14% are dissatisfied, with 5% "very" dissatisfied and 9% "somewhat" dissatisfied.

This high level of personal satisfaction can be contrasted with the much lower level of satisfaction "with the way things are going in the United States at this time." The Dec. 5-8 poll showed that only 45% were satisfied when asked this more general question.

Gallup began asking Americans the personal satisfaction question in 1979, and the results have consistently shown a solid majority of Americans saying they are satisfied with their personal lives. Satisfaction has ranged from a low of 73% in the summer of 1979 to a high of 88% in late 2003.

Are You Happy?

Another question in the December poll asked Americans how happy they are at this time. The results show that a slight majority of Americans, 51%, say they are very happy, while 42% say they are fairly happy. Just 6% of Americans say they are not too happy right now.

These results have fluctuated over the past several years. In October 2000, 47% of Americans said they were very happy. This percentage decreased to 37% in November 2001 -- about two months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. By December 2002, nearly half of all Americans said they were very happy. This increased to 55% in December 2003. The current results are down slightly since last year's poll.

Who's Happy and Who's Not?

An analysis of the data shows interesting subgroup differences for those who describe themselves as very happy:

  • Age: Americans aged 18 to 29 are slightly less likely than people in any other age group to say they are very happy. Forty-one percent of 18- to 29-year-olds say they are very happy, compared with 53% of 30- to 49-year-olds and 54% of those aged 50 and older.
  • Income: People living in higher-income households are more likely than those in lower-income households to say they are very happy. The poll shows that 61% of Americans earning $50,000 per year or more are very happy. This compares with 46% of those earning between $30,000 and $50,000 per year, and 37% of those earning less than $30,000 per year.
  • Party ID: Republicans (with 64% saying they are very happy) are more likely than independents (43%) or Democrats (43%) to say they are very happy.
  • Church attendance: Frequent churchgoers are more inclined than those who attend religious services less often to say they are very happy. The data show that 64% of weekly churchgoers are very happy, while 56% of those who attend services almost weekly or monthly and 38% of those who rarely or never attend church express this sentiment.
  • Marital status: Six in 10 married adults (61%) say they are very happy, while only 40% of unmarried adults express this level of happiness.

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