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84% of us are happy, but only 27% think things are going well
Posted by: McQ on Thursday, January 03, 2008

Can someone explain why, if everyone is so darned happy, the majority of us seem to think that life for rest of our countrymen and women is not going so well?

I use, as the basis for that question, this survey:
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.
That paragraph doesn't quite do justice to the numbers involved here. 84% say they're satisfied with the way things are going in their personal life at this time, while only 14% are dissatisfied.

Yet, only 27% of Americans said they were satisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time.

So where (he said, knowing full well "where" when he asked the question) is this dissatisfaction with the way things are going coming from? How can 84% be satisfied with our personal lives if 73% of us also think that the rest of the country is in sorry shape?

Well (he asks innocently) who has been trying to talk us into a recession for a few years? And who continues to suggest to those 84% of happy people how lousy and expensive their health care is? And who or what has told us for years that certain politicians are inept, incompetent and border-line criminal? And who or what has told us that all the ills of the world are the result of America, the world is going to come to a boil because of America and, beside all of that, American's are a bunch of loud, large, naive, spoiled, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals hated by the rest of the world?

You tell me - who or what do you think has helped shape this 73% belief that things aren't going well out there?

(HT: Dave Budge)
 
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George Bush!

(but of course)
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
For some reason, happy people still percieve that other people’s lives must not be satisfactory, therefore things aren’t going well overall.
 
Written By: Jimmy the Dhimmi
URL: http://mooreisfatduhimstoopidilikeanncoulterandchickenfries.ytmnd.com/
Well I think this makes sense, 38% of the Sheeple give McHaliburton a favourable rating, how can the rest of us judge the state of the nation as "good" when this is possible? Truly, when 123.5% of us agree that "that Man" and "His Vice President" have been "dealt with" then and only THEN can thngs be said to be "acceptable". "Good" involves unicorns, rainbows, and chocolate fountains....."Great" involves Mr Reeve walking again, a hope cruelly dashed by the Theo-Con Cabal Dominating this Nation for the last 8 years.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Only a true political junkie can think that people’s personal happiness in some way should correpond to what they think about the direction our political leaders are taking the country. If anyone let their personal happiness be controlled by that, they would be, in essence, putting their happiness in the hands of politicians. As someone who would describe myself as very happy, but who believes the direction the country is going is wrong — and who sees economic stagflation on the horizon — I’d point out that happiness, to be real, has to be from inside you. True happiness requires you not let outside conditions determine your emotional state.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
And now let’s have a second verse of Kum-By-Ya!
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
So, the answer is - I’m okay, you’re not (not really...but I couldn’t resist)

What the Prof might find interesting was nationally people were most unhappy about the country during the last days of his favorite President’s administration in July 1979.
Heh, who knew....(except those of us who had to live through it of course).

Economy & war in Iraq are the reasons most listed in the December survey on National satisfaction.
Which, we’ve been constantly told for well over a year, are both going badly (in the face of various bits of contrary evidence in both cases).
I’d point out that happiness, to be real, has to be from inside you. True happiness requires you not let outside conditions determine your emotional state.
Outside conditions not setting my emotional state? You mean like, by avoiding the Network News at 6:00 and 10:00 PM?
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
It makes sense to me. Things are currently fine for me. Do I see a brighter or a darker furture? I’ll side with darker. The government is one colossal screw up after another. At some point there will be a price to pay for this. Since I am moderately successful and the Democrat party seems poised to have a lock on power, I belive I’ll be made to pay the price of our governments incompetence.

So I’m happy with my personal life, but I don’t think it will stay that way with how the country is going.

 
Written By: tkc
URL: http://
You know what that survey means on Kos’ site. That Americans are head-in-the-sand stupid and ignorant to boot. I haven’t looked yet, but it’s just a matter of time. Don’t ask how I know this.
 
Written By: Rob
URL: http://
I can certainly see why the democrats are in pain. Clinton ran a slogan, "It’s the economy stupid!" Let’s take a look.

The economy is running like a top. Our GDP grew at 4.9% in the 4th quarter of 2007 for the 12 the straight quarter. Trade deficit is too high, mostly due to oil, but it’s down 11% from the same quarter last year. Inflation is also oil driven at 3.6%. Even with the war and oil prices spiking, the budget deficit is at 1.2% of GDP, the lowest in 40 years. Tax revenue is up 6.7% due to economic growth, spurred by the Bush tax cuts. The Bush economic policies have added $3,600 to per capita income after taxes, and adjusted for inflation.

Unemployment is at 4.7% nationwide. (4% is considered the frictional number.) In the big cities and across the rust belt, numbers are as high as 12-15%, but where I live it’s less than 2%. Essentially, anyone here who wants a job, has one.

The Dow is bobbing through 13,000, fretting about mortgage defaults and the housing bubble. My broker has no trouble taking 7.5% income without drawing down value. I play with a small percentage. I bought Apple at $41 and I’ve been shorting the New York Times since July.

If an old retired simple soldier like me can get by, life is good. I can see why the "I feel your pain" crowd is not happy.
 
Written By: Arch
URL: http://
tkc:

If you see the government as the problem, why vote for the people who want to give it more control over the country?

If you think you are not paying enough tax, drop me a line and I’ll let you pay mine.
 
Written By: Arch
URL: http://
The same thing happens when educational attitudes are surveyed. The vast majority are happy with their local schools, but the vast majority also think the educational system is in shambles.
 
Written By: JWG
URL: http://
What the Prof might find interesting was nationally people were most unhappy about the country during the last days of his favorite President’s administration in July 1979.
My favorite ex-President. Can’t say I give really high marks for his Presidency. But July 1979, with stagflation, the fall of the shah in Iran (though interestingly that’s before the hostages were taken) and the general pessimism of that time, yeah that makes sense.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Only a true political junkie can think that people’s personal happiness in some way should correpond to what they think about the direction our political leaders are taking the country. If anyone let their personal happiness be controlled by that, they would be, in essence, putting their happiness in the hands of politicians
Except that I’m constantly told that everything bad is Bush’ fault.

 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
Erb and tkc’s comments only make sense if the ’whole country’ poll asked about people’s satisfaction with the way things "are headed" (future prediction). The actual poll asks about "are going at this time" (current state, the same term used in the personal satisfaction survey). It’s possible the people being polled know as little about the terms used in discussing politics as Erb, but I doubt they took the same phrase to mean different things each time it was used.
 
Written By: Ted
URL: http://
Only a true political junkie can think that people’s personal happiness in some way should correpond to what they think about the direction our political leaders are taking the country. If anyone let their personal happiness be controlled by that, they would be, in essence, putting their happiness in the hands of politicians

Except that I’m constantly told that everything bad is Bush’ fault.
You’re being told that by other true political junkies.

. It’s possible the people being polled know as little about the terms used in discussing politics as Erb
Oh, nice cheap shot ;-)
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
I was listening to a podcast at Econtalk where the guest suggested one reason why happiness levels stay the same despite vast progress during this century is that evolutionary psychology means that humanity is a bunch of worry warts.

Basically the early humans who constantly worried and fretted and planned for the future did better and survived where the happy go lucky ones didn’t do so well.

Therefore we tend towards pessimism.

Another theory I would consider would be the media. Bad news sells better than good news, and it will affect you at some level. Want to feel better about the world? Read the tech section of the Economist. Seriously, it makes you feel way more optimistic.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
It’s the media’s relentless drumbeat. Every positive statistic is followed by a "but the forecast is for disaster."

Well, after the 27th false prediction of recession, I stopped listening. Will we have one, sometime? Yes. But for every recession we have, five will be predicted.
 
Written By: MarkD
URL: http://
I can’t recall who it was, Bruce — it’s been several months since I saw it somewhere around the ’sphere — who went to some length at pointing out that life in a decadent culture can actually be quite pleasant for a while.

I see no necessary contradiction in the numbers, at all.

After all: the ride only stops on impact.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
There is a gap between people’s perception of their own lives which they gain through personal experience versus their perception of the lives of others which they gain largely through the media.

Forgive the self-reference, but there is a pretty good post on this issue at:

The Happiness Gap — Economy, Jobs, Money & Government
 
Written By: Kurt Brouwer
URL: http://www.fundmasteryblog.com

 
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