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U.S. Satisfaction

What We Measure

U.S. Satisfaction reflects Americans' assessments of conditions in the country in the broadest sense. The trend is a useful indicator of a president's reelection prospects and seat turnover in midterm congressional elections.

U.S. Satisfaction

Why it matters

Why Does U.S. Satisfaction Matter?

U.S. Satisfaction is Gallup's version of the "right track/wrong track" questions asked by many polling firms over the years. It was first asked in 1979 and, after being updated frequently for two decades, Gallup instituted it in 2001 as a monthly measure within the ongoing Gallup Poll Social Series. As such, U.S. Satisfaction has now been measured over 400 times and is the longest-running continuously updated measure of this important construct in the annals of public opinion data.

In Gallup's 40-plus years of measuring U.S. Satisfaction, the record high was 71% in February 1999. At that time, the U.S. economy was in the midst of the technology boom, featuring long-term economic growth coupled with stable prices for goods. The record low of 7% occurred in October 2008 during the global financial crisis. The historical average level of satisfaction since 1979 has been in the mid-30s in recent years.

Since 1989, Gallup has conducted most of its nationwide U.S. surveys by telephone, using random-digit-dialing (RDD) methodology. Gallup’s telephone polls were initially conducted in the continental U.S. only, but Hawaii and Alaska were added to the sampling frame in 2008. Cellphones were also introduced in 2008 and have become an increasingly large proportion of the samples, conforming with government estimates of the cellphone-only population among U.S. adults. The typical sample size for these surveys has been 1,000 national adults, aged 18 and older. The margin of sampling error is specific to each survey but has generally been ±3 or ±4 percentage points.

Before 1989, Gallup conducted its national polls primarily through face-to-face interviews in the continental U.S. with approximately 1,500 adults. These had a margin of sampling error of ±3 percentage points. From 1935 to 1970, the polls were conducted with adults aged 21 and older; in 1971, after the voting age was lowered to 18, Gallup expanded the sampling frame to include 18- to 20-year-olds.

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