America This Week: The Twelve Polls That Caught Our Eyes In 2023

The latest trends in society and culture from The Harris Poll

As the year rapidly winds down, here are twelve surveys that tell the story of 2023. Some represent fundamental shifts in business and society. Others reveal new generational values. And some are refreshingly American. 

1. The American Dream, Redefined.

In Harris surveys with USA Today in September, (65%) of Gen Z and (74%) of Millennials said they are starting further behind financially than earlier generations at their age. And seven in ten say they have been set back financially by things out of their control, like interest rates and student loans. As a result, three-quarters (73%) of both cohorts say they’ve had to adjust what the American Dream means. In further probing, more than half believe they do not have an equal opportunity to achieve success or prosperity with hard work or even expect to own a home. Instead, status and esteem mean different things to youth. Nearly eight in ten (77%) say their earnings don’t dictate how successful of a person they are.

2. More Americans Know Their Astrology Sign Than Their Blood Type

We are a fascinating lot when it comes to remembering vital personal details. In a January Harris survey with Quest Diagnostics, such was the case when we found this diamond in the survey tables: More Americans know their astrology sign (66%) than their blood type (51%). The stat points to the gap between what we know and what we should know. (Even more Americans know their credit score: 58%). And an early sign of the Ozempic craze emerged when (22%) told us they sought health advice from social media influencers, especially Gen Z and Millennials (40% and 39%).

3. Prenups Go Mainstream

They’re not just for the rich and famous: In a September Axios-Harris Poll, half of U.S. adults say they’re open to signing a prenup, up from (42%) last year. Interestingly, younger brides and grooms-to-be are driving this paperwork before-cake trend: (41%) of Gen Z and (47%) of Millennials who are engaged or have been married said they entered a prenup. Zooming out, Americans are getting married later in life, and many have assets (or debts) they bring to the party. And according to the U.S. Census, roughly (40%) of all marriages still end in divorce.

4. The News Is Harmful To Our Health

Digital news traffic on ComScore plunged to double-digits in November, and perhaps we know why: In an April poll, we found that more than six in ten Americans (62%) said they reduced their news consumption to protect their mental health and wellness. (Notably, this strike was bipartisan, with (65%) of Democrats and (59%) of Republicans agreeing, respectively). But why does the public think a news strike is a healthy habit? Increasing polarization, misinformation, and perceived biases are factors in our survey, but too is its perceived futility:  In an October poll, over half (55%) of Americans say they ignore news about macro-issues they have no control over (Gen Z: 52%, Millennials: 69%, Gen X: 56%, Boomers+: 40%; D: 56%, R: 54%).

5. Grannies Are The Hidden Driver of America’s Economic Recovery

This poll should warrant the inclusion of Grandmas as a sector of the economy. In a surprising March Harris Poll survey with Fortune, working parents relied on grandmothers for childcare at similar rates to professional childcare/daycares (42% v. 44%). And for those working parents utilizing grandmas for childcare, two-thirds (67%) said that without grandma’s help, they would have lost their jobs. And Grannies aren’t just saving the family: (83%) of Americans say the American economy would suffer without the childcare grandmas provide.

6. Capitalism’s Crisis of Perception

Logan Roy and America’s love affair with America’s free-market enterprise is gone. In a May Forbes-Harris Poll, six in ten Americans (62%) believe that today’s capitalism isn’t working for younger generations as it did for older ones, with the same number saying it isn’t allowing Americans to meet their basic needs. And eight in ten Americans believe that “capitalism needs to evolve.” But on this point, there is a generational divide. While Americans at large believe that “capitalism is still the best option” than other systems for accumulating wealth (70%) or starting a business (68%), over half of younger Americans “would be willing to trade today’s form of capitalism for socialism” (Gen Z: 55%, Millennials: 65% v. Gen X: 43%, Boomer+: 27%).

7. Americans Support Corporate DEI (Because Everybody Wins)

When SCOTUS came for Affirmative Action on college campuses, speculation emerged that corporate diversity programs would follow. But in a landmark August Harris survey with the Black Economic Alliance, nearly eight in ten (78%) Americans support businesses taking active steps to ensure companies reflect the diversity of the American population. This is because (79%) believe racial diversity within businesses positively impacts businesses’ ability to reach (86%) and understand (84%) more customers, the ability to innovate (84%) and drive profitability (79%). This poll was so widely discussed and shared that it appeared in President Biden’s OpEd in The Washington Post.

8. Economists Are Fake News, Say Americans

Sometimes, a bad mood won’t lift. Throughout the year, Harris surveys showed tepid  American response to numerous green shoots in the economy. So we decided to construct a test: Could Americans recognize and be moved by good economic news? By giving respondents a series of actual economic facts posed as questions in a September Harris Poll with The Guardian, we found that more Americans didn’t know that the wages were rising faster than inflation (75% thought they weren’t keeping up), that the U.S. economy was growing (59% thought it was shrinking), that the S&P was up for the year (59% thought it was down), and that unemployment was nearing a 50-year low (51% thought a 50-year high).

9. Why We Prefer Lotto Tickets & Fortune Tellers Over Financial Planners

As we learned in April, when Fast Company covered our research with Empower, Americans will go to great lengths to avoid thinking about their financial planning. In a wide-ranging survey of acceptable economic levers deployed by the public, some more risky options outweighed the conventional. Take, for instance, that (71%) of Americans have bought a lottery ticket, yet only a third (33%) of Americans have talked to a financial planner. And just (24%) talk about finances with others – less than politics (43%) and even death (32%). Even (10%) have even asked a fortune teller for financial advice (Gen Z: 17%; Millennials: 24%).

10. Is Upskilling More Important Than A Degree?

Is college still worth it? In a November Harris Poll with EdAssist by Bright Horizons,  two-thirds (65%) of employees say the days of needing a traditional college degree to get a good job are over. Another (77%) believe other forms of education offer more “bang for your buck.” But one of the surprising insurgents to campus life is the phenomenon of upskilling: Nearly half of American workers (48%) told us that in a dream world, they would prefer to forego the typical education-to-career path, opting to enter the job market and employer-sponsored education later. Upskilling, after all, can be more tailored to now: (60%) of employees tell us they are currently in the market exploring new opportunities (Black: 76%, Millennials: 72%, Hispanic: 65%).

11. Guilty of Greenwashing

Everyone seems to be greenwashing, but it’s remarkably candid to hear executives call themselves out as part of the problem. In the annual Harris Poll sustainability survey with Google Cloud from April, nearly three-quarters of global executives (72%) say most organizations in their industry would be caught greenwashing if they were investigated thoroughly. Also, almost six in ten executives (59%) said their companies themselves would even be caught greenwashing. These executives also bemoan unclear sustainability metrics and poor governance over a system that needs a radical overhaul.

12. Eighty is The New Sixty

In a culture where The Rolling Stones are out on tour and Cher brags she can do a five-minute plank, the definition of what’s considered “old” today is changing. While age sixty was once considered “old” in their grandparents’ time, we found in August with Age Wave that eighty is now the median age considered “old” today by those 50+. These folks are decidedly not your grandparent’s-grandparents: eight in ten (79%) adults aged 50+ think today’s older adults are more active, open-minded, and curious (58%) than the previous generation.

Bonus Stat…

Did you catch our easter egg? We managed to get an end-of-year newsletter that strategically did not mention A.I., but we won’t disappoint. In a November New York Post, our co-CEO Will Johnson detailed how, in a 1990 Harris Poll study, 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, a similar number (82%) agreed that A.I. development threatens people’s data privacy.

We are wishing you all a joyous holiday season. We’ll be back on January 3rd. 

Download the Data

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll from December 15th to 17th, among a nationally representative sample of 2,120 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 December 15th to 17th, among a nationally representative sample of 2,120 U.S. adults.


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