WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The large majority of Americans (69%) say they are better off financially than their parents were when they were the same age. However, this is down slightly from 74% in 1998, the last time Gallup asked the question.
The same Nov. 28-Dec. 1 Gallup poll also finds Americans only somewhat less likely now than in the more economically robust 1998 to be satisfied with their future prospects, income, net worth, and housing situation. Taken together, these results reveal that the majority of Americans do feel good about their personal financial situations, despite the struggling national economy.
Seniors More Positive Than Younger Generations
Four in five Americans aged 65 and older say they are better off financially than their parents were at their age. This is somewhat higher than the 64% to 70% of younger age groups saying the same.
High-income Americans are significantly more likely than those with lower incomes to say they are doing better financially than their parents were when they were the same age. Still, even a majority of lower-income Americans say they are better off financially than their parents were.
These patterns by age and income are the same now as they were in 1998.
Most Americans still think they are doing better financially than their parents did when they were the same age. This is positive news, given the difficult state of the U.S. economy over the past several years -- with millions of Americans seeing their home values deteriorate and jobs evaporate.
But Americans appear to be more upbeat when comparing their current situations with the past than with the unknown future. A Gallup survey from earlier this year found fewer Americans than ever saying today's youth will have a better life than their parents. And, while seniors and high-income Americans are the most positive regarding how they themselves are doing today compared with their parents, both groups were the least likely to predict that today's youth will be better off than their parents. So those who are most likely to think they are doing better than previous generations of Americans are apparently the least optimistic that future generations will enjoy the same prosperity.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Nov. 28-Dec. 1, 2011, with a random sample of 1,012 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 maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 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 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 2010 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 www.gallup.com.