America This Week: Money Does Buy Happiness, Gaza’s Generational Divide, Growing AI-Phobia, and Gen Z’s Holiday Splurge.

The latest trends in society and culture from The Harris Poll

Americans went into Thanksgiving hot and bothered. In our America This Week poll, fielded November 21st and 23rd among 2,075 Americans, there’s a big bump in concern over U.S. crime rates (84%, +7%-pts from early Nov.), political divisiveness (79%, 12%-pts), affording living expenses (74%, +6%-pts), and job security (56%, +10%-pts).

But as we’ve seen with our economic data, perception sometimes isn’t aligned with reality. For instance, despite viral videos of widespread “smash and grab” shoplifting on social media, a new report from the Council on Criminal Justice shows (outside of New York) that national shoplifting rates are declining by fourteen percent.

This week, four new Harris Polls of note: In a new Harris-Empower poll, money does buy happiness (but how much might surprise you). Then, our Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll details the surprising U.S. generational divide over The Palestine/Israel crisis that’s roiling many American campuses. And AI makes us more afraid of technology in a time series Harris Poll contrasting attitudes back in 1990. And finally, pocketbooks beware: younger consumers are getting splurge-y this holiday season.

The Pay Raise People Say They Need To Be Happy: Empower-Harris Poll

People are often convinced their lives would improve if only they could climb a few rungs on the pay ladder, and according to our new research with Empower in the Wall Street Journal and CBS News, money really can buy happiness.

  • Nearly six in ten 6 (59%) of Americans believe money can buy happiness, a sentiment younger people agreed with especially (Gen Z: 67%, Millennials: 72%).
  • How much? Well, U.S. Median household income stands at about $74,000 annually, while respondents think they’d need to earn roughly $284,000 each year to achieve happiness.

  • But they would settle for less: Americans in our poll with a median salary of $65,000 a year said $95,000 would make them happy and less stressed.
  • And seven in ten (71%) agreed that “having more money would solve most of my problems,” including those with salaries of $200,000 or more.

Takeaway: “They are right, to an extent, that money can buy happiness. Many studies have found a link between income and happiness in terms of day-to-day mood and longer-term life satisfaction. Having more money would help many people afford necessities, and on average, richer people report being happier. However, according to Elizabeth Dunn, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia, “many people might be happier if they focus on the best ways to use the money they have, rather than on getting more of it” (WSJ).

Gaza Protests At Colleges Open A Generational Divide: Wall Street Journal-Harvard CAPS Harris Poll

Young activists often see the world as split between the oppressed and their oppressors – and their views are markedly different than older Americans, according to recent findings in our October Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll, reported on by The Wall Street Journal.

  • Background: A wave of pro-Palestinian protests has swept college campuses, leading to heightened tensions, counterprotests, and, in some cases, violence. The conflict has also exposed a generational divide, with many older Americans surprised at the protests’ scope and intensity.
  • Roughly half of American voters 18 to 24 years old think the grievances of the Palestinians justified Hamas’s October attack. But less than one in ten (9%) voters aged 65+ felt the same.
  • And when asked if Israel should eliminate Hamas or agree to end its campaign instead, voters 18-24 were split (End campaign: 52% v. Eliminate Hamas: 48%) while fewer than three in ten of those 45+ said to end their campaign (45-54: 31%, 55-64: 24%, 65+: 18%).
  • As reported this morning by Axios: The Education Committee said the presidents of Harvard, Penn, and MIT will appear at a Dec. 5 hearing titled “Holding Campus Leaders Accountable and Confronting Antisemitism.”

Takeaway: “Today’s college students entered elementary school as fire drills gave way to active shooter drills, and their parents navigated the 2008 recession. They came of age as the climate crisis gained attention and the 2016 election of Donald Trump polarized their communities. Their schools closed during the pandemic; then streets shut down for protests following the murder of George Floyd. Now, they are struggling with high rates of anxiety and depression as they prepare to enter an economy in which income inequality is near all-time highs” (WSJ).

AI Is Driving Up The Nation’s Technophobia: New York Post-Harris Poll

In his latest op-ed featured in the New York Post, Harris Poll co-CEO Will Johnson details how, in a 1990 Harris Poll study of American opinion, eight in ten said they were concerned about threats to personal privacy. The big issue back then? Caller ID.

  • Today, when Harris Poll posed that same question, (82%) said the same – a modest (3%) increase.
  • However, three-quarters (74%) of Americans say technology is “almost out of control” – up from (45%) in 1990.
  • Nearly (80%) say they feel like they’ve lost control over how their personal information is circulated and used (up from 71%). A similar number (82%) agree that AI development is a threat to people’s data privacy.

Takeaway: “Much of the unease comes from the unknown – the sense that tech companies are always lurking, collecting and disseminating consumers’ personal information without their knowledge or consent,” writes Johnson. “Add the fact that we may be unable to determine what is machine-made and what comes from human beings, and the effect of this tech is dizzying, if not fearsome” (NY Post).

Gen Z & MLNs Ready To Splurge This Holiday Season: Retail Brew-Harris Poll TL Practice

According to the latest research from the Harris Poll Thought Leadership Practice as covered by Retail Brew, younger shoppers say they’re willing to shell out this holiday season, even as many report being financially unprepared.

  • Over 4 in 5 (81%) Gen Z and Millennial shoppers say they’re ready to splurge this holiday season, despite (62%) saying they’re not financially prepared.
  • This wouldn’t be the first time the two demographic groups shelled out for the holidays despite a lack of funds: Over 2 in 5 (44%) Gen Z/Millennials previously went into debt to pay for gifts, and (63%) said they tend to be impulsive when holiday shopping.
  • They also aren’t skimping on themselves: Around two-thirds said they see the holidays as an excuse to indulge in personal gifts and luxury items, and (46%) “would rather spend more money on myself than on others during the holiday season.”
  • Still, this doesn’t mean they’ll pay any price: Three-quarters said they rely on discount events such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Prime Day for shopping.

Takeaway: “This data underscores Gen Z and millennials’ robust eagerness to spend liberally for personal enjoyment this holiday season,” Libby Rodney, Chief Strategy Officer and futurist at The Harris Poll, said. Rodney adds that recent economic and public health crises have led younger consumers to adopt “a blend of self-preservation” and “financial adaptability;” they’re “abandoning their budgetary constraints to escape into the holiday spirit.”

Download the Data

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll from November 21st to 23rd among a nationally representative sample of 2,075 U.S. adults.

John Gerzema headshot

John Gerzema


Download the Data

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll from November 21st to 23rd among a nationally representative sample of 2,075 U.S. adults.


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