Older Americans, Those Who Are Religious, and Even Political Party Members are Happier

Money also helps

05:00 AM EDT Jun 3, 2015 Rating
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Older Americans, Those Who Are Religious, and Even Political Party Members are Happier

How many adults do you know who you’d consider to be very happy? Would you include yourself in that count? Statistically speaking, there’s about a one in three chance that you do: The Harris Poll® Happiness Index, which uses a series of questions to calculate Americans’ overall happiness, finds that roughly a third of Americans (34%) are very happy.

The Happiness Index looks at what’s on the minds of Americans today, and reflects attitudes toward the state of affairs in our country. What’s more, it offers a glimpse of which segments of our country’s population are most and least happy.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,215 U.S. adults surveyed online between April 15 and 20, 2015.

Better with age

Those 50 and older (36% ages 50-64, 42% ages 65+) are more likely to be very happy than their younger counterparts (percentages ranging from 30%-32% for adults under 50). Looking at how different generations respond to the series of questions on which the index is based provides some insights into the underlying factors driving these differences:

Women also happier

The Happiness Index also finds women (36%) are more likely than men (33%) to be very happy. A few specific factors appear to be driving this, with women more likely to agree that…

Something to believe in

Many Americans look to a religious community or belief system – regardless of what religion they ascribe to – for comfort and support, and religious affiliation and practices appear to make Americans more likely to be very happy.

Another factor seemingly playing a role in happiness is one’s political belief system. Both Republicans and Democrats (36% each) are more likely than Independents (32%) to be very happy.

Money matters

Money may not buy happiness per se, but having it certainly coincides with a higher probability that you’re very happy. Americans with annual household incomes under $35,000 are less likely than those earning $35,000 or more to be very happy (30% vs. 35% $35k-<$50k, 34% $50k-<$75k, 35% $75k-<$100k), while those earning $100,000 or more are especially prone to being very happy (38%).

Financial expectations appear to be just as important as what Americans are earning presently:

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TABLE 1a

HAPPINESS INDEX – Trended Breakdowns

The Harris Poll Happiness Index is calculated by taking an average (mean) of those who strongly agree with positive statements and strongly disagree with the negative ones

Base:  U.S. adults

 

2008

2009

2010

2011

2013

2015

All Adults

35

35

33

33

33

34

Gender

 

 

 

 

 

 

     Men

33

34

32

31

32

33

     Women

36

36

35

36

35

36

Income

 

 

 

 

 

 

     $34,999 or less

32

31

28

33

29

30

     $35,000 – $49,999

33

34

34

35

32

35

     $50,000 – $74,999

36

39

34

30

35

34

     $75,000—$99,999 *

38*

36*

38*

29

35

35

     $100,000+

37

38

38

Age

 

 

 

 

 

 

     18-24

29

32

26

31

31

32

     25-29

31

31

30

31

30

31

     30-39

29

31

27

29

28

31

     40-49

33

32

31

29

30

30

     50-64

36

37

37

37

36

36

     65+

47

45

44

42

41

42

Disabilities

 

 

 

 

 

 

     People with disabilities

36

33

34

34

31

33

     People without disabilities

35

36

33

34

34

35

Political Party

 

 

 

 

 

 

     Republican

39

37

34

34

35

36

     Democrat

33

36

34

36

35

36

     Independent

34

33

33

32

32

32

Education

 

 

 

 

 

 

     High school or less

35

33

31

32

34

34

     Some college

35

36

35

33

32

34

     College graduate

34

36

34

35

32

36

     Post graduate

36

39

36

39

38

37

Note: *indicates this was a net of $75K+ in those years

 

 


 

TABLE 1b

HAPPINESS INDEX – Additional Breakdowns

The Harris Poll Happiness Index is calculated by taking an average (mean) of those who strongly agree with positive statements and strongly disagree with the negative ones

Base:  U.S. adults

 

2015

All Adults

34

Region

 

     East 

34

     Midwest 

35

     South 

35

     West 

34

Children <18 in household

 

     Yes

33

     No

35

Metro status

 

     Urban

33

     Suburban

35

     Rural

36

Expectations for HH financial outlook for next 6 months

 

     Expect it to be worse

31

     Expect it to remain the same 

34

     Expect it to be better

38

Expectations for U.S. economy in the coming year

 

     Expect it to get worse

33

     Expect it to stay the same

32

     Expect it to get better

40

Religiosity (self-assessed)

 

     Not at all/Not very religious 

29

     Very/Somewhat religious

38

Attend religious services

 

     Never 

30

     Once a year or less

31

     Few times per year/1-2 times per month

35

     Weekly or more

42

 


 

TABLE 2a

HAPPINESS INDEX STATEMENTS – SUMMARY GRID

“Please indicate whether you agree or disagree with the following statements.”

Base:  U.S. adults

 

 

AGREE

(NET)

Strongly

agree

Somewhat

agree

DISAGREE

(NET)

Somewhat

disagree

Strongly

disagree

Not at all

sure

My relationships with friends bring me happiness

%

90

60

30

6

4

2

4

I have positive relationships with my family members

%

89

65

25

7

4

3

4

At this time, I’m generally happy with my life

%

82

42

40

16

11

5

2

I’m optimistic about the future

%

75

34

41

21

15

6

4

I feel my voice is not heard in national decisions that affect me

%

72

39

34

21

14

6

7

My spiritual beliefs are a positive guiding force to me

%

71

43

28

23

11

13

6

I frequently worry about my financial situation

%

67

32

35

31

19

12

3

I rarely worry about my health

%

51

16

35

48

33

15

1

I won’t get much benefit from the things that I do anytime soon

%

36

10

27

57

34

22

7

My work is frustrating

%

33

11

22

57

24

33

10

I rarely engage in hobbies and pastimes I enjoy

%

31

10

20

68

34

33

2

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100 percent due to rounding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TABLE 2b

HAPPINESS INDEX STATEMENTS – TREND

“Please indicate whether you agree or disagree with the following statements.”

Percent saying “Strongly/Somewhat Agree”

Base:  U.S. adults

 

2008

2009

2010

2011

2013

2015

%

%

%

%

%

%

My relationships with friends brings me happiness

93

91

91

93

90

90

I have positive relationships with my family members

92

90

92

91

90

89

At this time I’m generally happy with my life

83

81

80

80

77

82

I’m optimistic about the future

na

na

na

75

67

75

I feel my voice is not heard in national decisions that affect me

73

67

72

74

75

72

My spiritual beliefs are a positive guiding force to me

77

74

73

74

73

71

I frequently worry about my financial situation

65

67

66

68

65

67

I rarely worry about my health

49

54

52

50

52

51

I won’t get much benefit from the things that I do anytime soon

na

na

na

38

42

36

My work is frustrating

37

36

38

39

34

33

I rarely engage in hobbies and pastimes I enjoy

32

33

34

33

36

31

 

 

TABLE 2c

HAPPINESS INDEX STATEMENTS – By Generation & Gender

“Please indicate whether you agree or disagree with the following statements.”

Percent saying “Strongly/Somewhat Agree”

Base:  U.S. adults

 

Total 2015

Generation

Gender

Millennials

(18-37)

Gen X

(38-49)

Baby

Boomers

(50-68)

Matures

(69+)

Men

Women

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

My relationships with friends brings me happiness

90 

89

92

91

88

88

92

I have positive relationships with my family members

89 

89

91

89

88

88

90

At this time I’m generally happy with my life

82 

81

78

82

92

79

85

I’m optimistic about the future

75 

81

71

72

70

73

77

I feel my voice is not heard in national decisions that affect me

72 

73

70

72

78

75

70

My spiritual beliefs are a positive guiding force to me

71 

65

72

76

74

64

77

I frequently worry about my financial situation

67 

75

71

61

49

65

68

I rarely worry about my health

51 

56

52

47

46

54

49

I won’t get much benefit from the things that I do anytime soon

36 

35

44

34

36

39

34

My work is frustrating

33 

44

41

25

8

35

31

I rarely engage in hobbies and pastimes I enjoy

31 

32

39

27

25

31

31

 


 



Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between April 15 and 20, 2015 among 2,215 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. 

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, The Harris Poll 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.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

 

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

 

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

 

The Harris Poll® #30, June 3, 2015

By Larry Shannon-Missal, Managing Editor, The Harris Poll

About The Harris Poll®

Begun in 1963, The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys measuring public opinion in the U.S. and is highly regarded throughout the world. The nationally representative polls, conducted primarily online, measure the knowledge, opinions, behaviors and motivations of the general public. New and trended polls on a wide variety of subjects including politics, the economy, healthcare, foreign affairs, science and technology, sports and entertainment, and lifestyles are published weekly. 

Want Harris Polls delivered direct to your inbox? Click here!

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The Harris Poll Happiness Index finds that a third of Americans (34%) are very happy.

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