Most Americans “Very Satisfied” With Their Personal Lives

by Joseph Carroll

Slim majority also say they are “very happy” at this time

PRINCETON, NJ -- As Americans look ahead to the new year and reflect on the year past, a recent Gallup Poll finds the public generally content with their own lives. Most Americans say they are generally happy, with a slim majority saying they are "very happy." More than 8 in 10 Americans say they are satisfied with their personal lives at this time, including a solid majority who say they are "very satisfied." This personal satisfaction level contrasts sharply with the low level of satisfaction Americans express with the way things are going "in the United States at this time." Republicans, married adults, those residing in higher income households, parents of young children, those attending church weekly, and whites are most likely to say they are satisfied and happy at this time.

Personal Satisfaction

According to the Dec. 6-9, 2007, poll, 84% of Americans say they are satisfied with the way things are going in their personal life at this time, while 14% are dissatisfied. These results have been fairly stable since Gallup first started tracking Americans' personal life satisfaction in 1979. The percentage of Americans who say they are satisfied with their personal life has averaged 82% over this period, with a low of 73% in July 1979 and a high of 88% in December 2004. (It is worth noting that in the same Dec. 6-9 survey only 27% of Americans said they were satisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time, providing a vivid contrast between Americans' view of things "out there" across the country and their view of their own personal lives.)

Of the 84% of Americans who are satisfied with their personal life, 59% say they are "very" satisfied, while 25% say they are "somewhat" satisfied. The percentage of Americans who are very satisfied is up slightly from 55% last year, and while similar to other ratings going back to 2001 (when Gallup began asking this question annually), this 2007 percentage is the highest since that time. In December 2002, just 50% were very satisfied, the lowest in the past seven years.

Happiness

Most Americans say they are generally happy. Gallup's question asks respondents to choose one of three alternatives to describe their current happiness situation - "very happy," "fairly happy," or "not too happy." The results show that 52% choose the very happy option, and 40% say they are fairly happy. Few Americans (just 6%) say they are not too happy at this time. The percentage of Americans saying they are very happy has not shown much change in the past few years, and is on the high end of what Gallup has measured historically. The high point in the times Gallup has asked this "happiness" question came in December 2003, when 55% of Americans said they were very happy. The low point understandably came shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when just 37% said they were very happy.

Republicans vs. Democrats

Republicans are more likely than independents or Democrats to say they are very satisfied with their personal lives and that they are very happy. But all three party groups are happy and satisfied on an absolute basis. This conclusion is based on an analysis of the combined results of the last three surveys, conducted from 2005 through 2007, in which Gallup asked these two questions.

Upper vs. Lower-Income Households

Americans residing in higher income households are substantially more likely than those in lower income households (particularly those earning less than $30,000 per year) to say they are very satisfied with personal lives and are very happy.

Married vs. Unmarried Americans

Nearly two in three married adults say they are satisfied with their personal lives, while just 45% of unmarried adults say this. In terms of personal happiness, 59% of married adults say they are very happy, compared with 41% of unmarried adults.

Churchgoers vs. Non-Churchgoers

At least 6 in 10 Americans who attend church services every week say they are very satisfied with their personal lives and are very happy. These percentages are lower among those who attend services less often or not at all.

Whites vs. Blacks

The solid majority of whites, 58%, say they are very satisfied with the personal life at this time, much higher than the 39% among blacks. Whites (52%) are just slightly more likely than blacks (44%) to say they are very happy.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,027 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Dec. 6-9, 2007. 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. 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.
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