- Average satisfaction with seven aspects of U.S. life down sharply
- Majorities still praise quality of life and opportunity for advancement
- Republicans no longer satisfied with size and power of major corporations
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans' satisfaction with seven broad aspects of the way the country functions is collectively at its lowest in two decades of Gallup measurement. This includes satisfaction with the overall quality of life in the U.S., assessments of government, corporate and religious influence, and perceptions of the economic and moral climates.
The average percentage satisfied with these seven dimensions has plunged to 39% at the start of 2021. That compares with 53% a year ago, the highest average in more than a decade amid strong economic confidence and before the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the U.S.
Line graph. Trend from 2001 to 2021 in Americans' average satisfaction ratings with seven aspects of the United States. The average peaked at 67% in 2002 and gradually descended to 53% in 2008. It was then steady near 48% from 2011 to 2019 before rising to 53% in 2020. It has plunged to 39% in 2021.
Gallup asks Americans about their satisfaction with various aspects of the country as part of its Mood of the Nation poll, conducted almost every January since 2001. The poll was not done in 2009 and 2010, two years when satisfaction was likely depressed because of economic problems stemming from the 2008 global financial crisis.
Not only is average public satisfaction with the broad contours of the country at an extreme low today, but Americans' satisfaction with each element of the index is at or near its lowest since 2001. This reflects declines of seven to 17 percentage points in the past year.
|The overall quality of life||84||67||-17|
|The opportunity for a person in this nation to get ahead by working hard||72||58||-14|
|The influence of organized religion||59||48||-11|
|The size and power of the federal government||38||31||-7|
|Our system of government and how well it works||43||27||-16|
|The size and influence of major corporations||41||26||-15|
|The moral and ethical climate||32||18||-14|
|Polls were conducted in January of each year; items are sorted by their 2021 readings|
The peak satisfaction ratings for all seven elements tracked since 2001 were recorded in 2002. That high point reflected the surge in Americans' positive feelings about the country in the immediate post-9/11 period. This year's poll was conducted Jan. 4-15, during the high point in U.S. coronavirus deaths and infections and spanning the Jan. 6 riot on Capitol Hill.
The findings at the start of 2021 contrast sharply with 2002, when at least half of Americans were satisfied with all of the dimensions except the moral and ethical climate.
Today, Americans are satisfied with only two dimensions: the overall quality of life in the country (67%) and the opportunity for a person to get ahead through hard work (58%).
For the first time, less than half of Americans are satisfied with the influence of organized religion (48%).
The 31% satisfied with the size and power of the federal government roughly ties the record lows recorded in 2011 (31%) and 2012 (29%).
Barely a quarter are now satisfied with how government is working (27%) as well as the size and influence of major corporations (26%).
A mere 18% are satisfied with the nation's moral and ethical climate, down by more than half from 47% in 2002 and lagging behind the prior low of 26% in 2019.
In addition to the seven aspects of the country tracked since 2001, the new poll updated public satisfaction with the way income and wealth are distributed, first added to the list in 2014. Since then, satisfaction with income distribution has averaged 34%, with most yearly readings hewing closely to that, including this year's 36%. The lone exception was last year, when it rose to 43%.
Republicans Sour on Government and Corporate Power as Trump Exits
This year's subdued national satisfaction ratings mask sharp partisan differences. The poll, conducted during President Donald Trump's final weeks in office, finds Republicans (including independents who lean Republican) more satisfied than Democrats (including Democratic leaners) with all but two of the items, as is typical for the party in power.
|Republicans/Republican leaners||Democrats/Democratic leaners|
|Opportunity to get ahead||82||41|
|Overall quality of life||78||59|
|Influence of organized religion||66||37|
|Way income and wealth distributed||58||18|
|Size and influence of major corporations||31||24|
|System of government||30||24|
|Size and power of federal government||20||41|
|Moral and ethical climate||17||16|
|Gallup, Jan. 4-15, 2021|
But even as Republicans led Democrats in satisfaction, they were less enthusiastic than in January 2020 on most dimensions.
With the presidency on the cusp of transitioning from Republican to Democratic control at the time of the poll, and some technology companies banning Trump and others from social media after the Capitol insurrection, Republicans' satisfaction was especially subdued in two broad areas:
Corporate America. Republicans' satisfaction with the size and influence of major corporations is down 26 points to a record-low 31% for that party.
Government. Their satisfaction with the system of government and how it's working has declined 24 points to 30%, and their satisfaction with the federal government's size and power is down 15 points to 20%.
|Size and influence of major corporations||57||31||-26|
|System of government||54||30||-24|
|Moral and ethical climate||35||17||-18|
|Overall quality of life||93||78||-15|
|Size and power of federal government||35||20||-15|
|Opportunity to get ahead||93||82||-11|
|Way income and wealth distributed||65||58||-7|
|Influence of organized religion||70||66||-4|
|Polls were conducted in January of each year|
By contrast, Democrats' satisfaction with the system of government and with corporate power showed little change, possibly because each was low to begin with. But Democrats' satisfaction with four other areas -- the overall quality of life, the moral and ethical climate, the influence of organized religion, and the opportunity to get ahead -- did see double-digit declines.
Democrats' satisfaction declined more than Republicans' only with respect to the influence of religion. This fell 12 points among Democrats to 37%, versus essentially no change among Republicans.
|Overall quality of life||74||59||-15|
|Moral and ethical climate||29||16||-13|
|Influence of organized religion||49||37||-12|
|Opportunity to get ahead||52||41||-11|
|System of government||30||24||-6|
|Way income and wealth distributed||23||18||-5|
|Size and influence of major corporations||25||24||-1|
|Size and power of federal government||38||41||+3|
|Polls were conducted in January of each year|
With the U.S. battling a global pandemic, the economy still struggling to recover from the associated slowing of economic activity, and political tensions high in the wake of the election that Trump contested, Americans' views of the country are very different today than a year ago.
This is evident in the decline in Americans' satisfaction with the direction of the country overall from 41% last January to 11% today. But the specific ratings reviewed in this report fill out the story.
Satisfaction ratings with the quality of life, the moral and ethical climate, the distribution of income and wealth, and people's opportunity for advancement have declined over the past year to a similar degree among Republicans and Democrats. At the same time, Republicans have grown especially put off by government and corporate power, while Democrats are less content with organized religion. These shifts are likely to influence the way politics and policy play out over the next year and beyond.
Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.