Table of Contents
- Americans’ satisfaction with personal life highest in four-decade trend
- Two in three Americans say they are very satisfied, also a new high
- High-income households, Republicans, married adults the most satisfied
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Nine in 10 Americans are satisfied with the way things are going in their personal life, a new high in Gallup’s four-decade trend. The latest figure bests the previous high of 88% recorded in 2003.
These results are from Gallup’s Mood of the Nation poll, conducted Jan. 2-15, which also recorded a 20-year high in Americans’ confidence in the U.S. economy. The percentage of Americans who report being satisfied with their personal life is similar to the 86% who said in December that they were very or fairly happy — though the happiness figure, while high, is on the low end of what Gallup has measured historically for that question.
Despite some variation, solid majorities of Americans have reported being satisfied with their personal life over the past few decades, with an average of 83% satisfied since 1979. The historical low of 73% was recorded in July 1979, as the effects of that year’s oil crisis took a toll on U.S. motorists. During that poll’s fielding dates, then-President Jimmy Carter delivered his “malaise speech,” which was interpreted by some as placing blame on Americans themselves for the rough economic spot the country was in.
A 2019 survey on 10 aspects of Americans’ lives found that they are most satisfied with their family life, their education and the way they spend their leisure time — and least satisfied with the amount of leisure time they have, their household income and their job.
Two in Three ‘Very’ Satisfied With Direction of Personal Life
Gallup has asked a follow-up question since 2001 to measure the extent to which Americans are satisfied or dissatisfied with their personal life. The 65% of U.S. adults who are currently “very satisfied” marks a new high in the two-decade trend.
The more nuanced satisfaction ratings reveal that the relatively small four-percentage-point drop in personal satisfaction from 2007 to 2008 — as the global economic crisis unfolded — obscured greater movement (12 points) in the percentage “very” versus “somewhat” satisfied.
Income, Political Party, Marital Status the Biggest Factors in Satisfaction
Household income, political party affiliation and marital status are associated with the largest subgroup differences in Americans’ satisfaction with their personal life.
Roughly 95% of Americans who live in high-income households, who identify as Republicans and who are married say they are satisfied with their personal life — and about three in four among each of these groups are very satisfied.
Meanwhile, adults in low-income households are the least likely to say they are satisfied with their life, followed by Democrats and unmarried adults. Among each of these groups, small majorities report being very satisfied. Low-income Americans hold the distinction of having the lowest percentage very satisfied.
Smaller differences in personal satisfaction are seen by race and gender. Whites are a bit more likely than nonwhites to say they are satisfied (92% vs. 86%, respectively) or very satisfied (67% vs. 59%) with their personal life. And men report slightly higher levels of satisfaction than do women.
U.S. Satisfaction With Personal Life, by Subgroup
Ranked by % Satisfied
|College graduate only||93||71|
|Have children under 18||90||68|
|Have no children under 18||89||64|
|High school or less||87||62|
|Gallup, Jan. 2-15, 2020|
It’s likely no coincidence that Americans’ heightened satisfaction with their personal life comes as confidence in the U.S. economy and their personal finances are also at long-term or record highs. That two in three Americans are very satisfied is reflective of this upbeat moment in time, and whether these sentiments carry through the coming decade will be something to watch.
The vast majority of Americans in all major demographic and political subgroups are content with the way their lives are going, but the additional question on how satisfied they are provides more insight. Some groups — wealthier households, Republicans, married people — report especially high levels of satisfaction, while lower-income Americans, Democrats and those who are unmarried report more tepid satisfaction.
View complete question responses and trends (PDF download).
Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.