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Are You Happy? Most Americans Say They’re Satisfied with the Lives They Lead

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RISMEDIA, August 17, 2007—Overall, recent studies show Americans are definitely satisfied with the life they lead. Almost all (94%) say they are satisfied, with over half of U.S. adults (56%) saying they are very satisfied with the life they lead and 38% somewhat satisfied. Just 6% are not satisfied with the life they lead. This level of satisfaction is up slightly from earlier this decade: in 2005, nine out of 10 were satisfied and in 2003, 91% were satisfied with the life they led.

While this overall satisfaction with life is across all age groups, there is a generational difference with the level of satisfaction. Echo Boomers (those aged 18-30) are evenly split with 48% saying they are very satisfied and 47% who are somewhat satisfied. Matures (those aged 62 and older), on the other hand, are clearly of a different mind as over two-thirds (69%) are very satisfied while just one-quarter (24%) are somewhat satisfied with the life they are leading.

This Harris Poll was conducted by telephone by Harris Interactive® among a nationwide cross section of 1,010 U.S. adults between July 10 and 16, 2007.

Looking Back Five Years

When comparing their present situation with five years ago, over half (54%) of adults say their situation has improved while one-quarter (28%) say it has stayed about the same and 17% say it has gotten worse. The number of those who say their lives have improved is about the same as in 2005 (56%) and still up from 2003’s 49%.

Where one lives is a definite indicator of how the past five years has treated them. Southerners and Westerners are more likely to say that their lives have improved (60% and 62% respectively) while half of Midwesterners (49%) and only 42% of Easterners say their lives have improved in the past five years. While Echo Boomers and Generation Xers (those aged 31-42) are more likely to say their lives have improved (66% and 71% respectively), Matures are not of the same mind. Just one-quarter (27%) of this generation say their lives improved in the past five years while over half (52%) say it has stayed about the same.

Looking Ahead Five Years

If things have gotten better in the past five years, Americans expect things to be even better in the next five years. Three in five (62%) say expect their personal situation to improve in the next five years while three in ten (30%) say they expect it will stay the same and just 7% expect it to get worse. The number of those who expect things to stay the same is the highest it has been – in 2003, 26% said things would stay the same while in 2005, just 22% felt this way.

There are again strong regional and generational differences in life expectations. Westerners are by far the most optimistic as over two-thirds (68%) say things will improve while just 56%t of Easterners feel this way. Also, the younger you are, the better you feel about the future. Well over four in five of Echo Boomers (85%) and 82% of Gen Xers feel their personal situation will improve compared to just 58% of Baby Boomers (those aged 43-61). Matures are of a completely different mind in looking ahead as just under one-quarter (23%) expect their personal situation to improve while over half (58%) say things will stay about the same and 18% feel it will get worse.

So What?

When asked about the country, people do not feel things in the United States are going well as just 19% say things in the country are moving in the right direction1. But, when asked about their personal lives, not only are they satisfied, they’ve become more so in the past five years and expect to be things to be even better five years from now. People not only can, but are separating out the negativity they feel in the country as a whole, and are still content with where they personally are with their lives.

Methodology

The Harris Poll® was conducted by telephone within the United States between July 10 and 16, 2007 among a nationwide cross section of 1,010 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race, education, number of adults, number of voice/telephone lines in the household, region and size of place were weighted where necessary to align them with their actual proportions in the population.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

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