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Americans' Life Ratings Level Off

Americans' Life Ratings Level Off

by Alyssa Davis

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans' life ratings leveled off in June, after inching up for three consecutive months. The U.S. Life Evaluation Index score edged down to 50.3 in June, similar to the 50.5 in May.

Gallup-Healthways Life Evaluation Index monthly averages

Americans' life ratings, which Gallup and Healthways began tracking daily in January 2008, started steadily improving in March, at about the same time that Americans' economic confidence and satisfaction with the way things are going in the U.S. began to improve. But, Americans' economic confidence retreated in June from May's improved level and U.S. satisfaction dropped slightly, as life ratings leveled off.

The most significant changes in the index since Gallup began tracking in 2008 were the severe drop in 2008 leading to the all-time low of 37.3 in February 2009, and the drop early last fall, coinciding with the looming debt ceiling deadline that was settled at the last minute.

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.

Democrats' Life Ratings Up, Republicans' Down

The gap between Democrats' and Republicans' life ratings has widened considerably since Democrats' life ratings began surpassing Republicans' in February 2012. Democrats' Life Evaluation Index score was 55.7 in June, higher than Republicans' 49.5, and independents' 46.9.

Democrats' and Republicans' life ratings were generally similar in 2011, with both showing decreases in the late summer and early fall and increases near the end of the year. The 2012 divergence, also apparent in partisan ratings of the national economy, is likely an effect of the presidential election campaign, with an incumbent Democrat seeking re-election. As such, Democrats may be more inclined to evaluate national and personal conditions more positively, and Republicans to evaluate the same conditions less positively.

Gallup-Healthways Life Evaluation Index Monthly Averages, by Political Party

Gallup did not see a similar divergence in the 2008 election year. Rather, Republicans maintained a wide lead over Democrats in life evaluation ratings throughout the year, the last year of George W. Bush's presidency when John McCain and Barack Obama were campaigning to be his successor. Despite the relative drop in Democrats' ratings at the end of last year, Democrats have still, on average, had higher life evaluation ratings than Republicans since Obama took office.

The future trajectory of Democrats' and Republicans' life ratings may be tied to the outcome of the 2012 presidential election. After Bush left office and Obama became president, Democrats' life evaluation ratings improved, while Republicans' worsened.

Bottom Line

The three-month improvement streak in Americans' life ratings came to an end in June. Americans' life ratings leveled off at the same time that their confidence in the economy and satisfaction with the direction of the U.S. has slightly dropped.

Although Americans' overall life ratings were flat in June, the gap between Democrats' and Republicans' life ratings widened. Democrats' life ratings started to surpass Republicans' in February and have remained higher since. The outcome of the 2012 election will almost certainly have an effect on how Democrats and Republicans rate their lives in the future.

About the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index tracks well-being in the U.S., U.K., and Germany 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 June 1-30, 2012, with a random sample of 30,294 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

Life Evaluation Index figures from January 2008 to April 2009 reflect re-estimates calculated to address context effects that Gallup discovered after the data were originally published.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point.

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 includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone 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 by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2011 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

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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