America This Week: Easing Our Divisiveness, Making America Trust Again, Financial Infidelity Grows, and AI Recruiting Is More Biased Than Humans.

The latest trends in society and culture from The Harris Poll.

Happy New Year from The Harris Poll.

Quick programming note: The Harris Poll will be on the ground at CES next week, where our Risk and Reputation Unit, comprised of corporate communications, politics, and consumer research leaders, will share perspectives on how brands can best navigate the tumultuous year before the November 2024 U.S. Presidential election. We are hosting several events, including a Wednesday breakfast chaired by Communications Leader Ray Day and our co-CEO John Gerzema. Please inquire here.

Americans begin the year on a more optimistic note. In our America This Week survey, fielded December 28th to 30th, among 2,056 Americans, economic concerns, while still high, are easing (82% v. 98% in October); worries of a potential recession (71% v. 80%), or affording my living expenses (67% v. 73%). And despite a national spike,  COVID concerns are at (52% v. 57% last week).

We have four new stories to kick off the year. First, are we becoming post-toxic? Americans show growing political tolerance toward their friends and family. And in our U.S. News/Harris Poll Best Leaders Report, Americans say better leadership begins with trust.  Next, financial infidelity is wreaking havoc on relationships. Lastly, H.R., we have a problem: job candidates say A.I. recruitment tools are more biased than the people they sit across the table from.

Americans Start The Year Seeing Better in People They Disagree With: USA Today-Harris Poll

According to our co-CEO Will Johnson in USA Today and our Harris Poll Alienation Index, unity is a winning strategy.

  • Harris’ Alienation Index has measured civic disaffection for over a half-century: Americans are asked a composite of agree/disagree questions, such as “The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer” or  “The people running the country don’t care what happens to me.”
  • Debuting with a score of 29 in 1966, the index scores have gradually increased, peaking in 2014 and 2016 at a score of 70 before dipping to 66 in 2023.
  • This points to more extensive social gains masked by divisiveness, such as poverty reduction, education access, and other quality-of-life advances.
  • And even our toxicity is lessening: Harris’ new Connection Index measures how Americans relate to each other and found that (76%) of Americans see the good in those they disagree with, and (71%) have friends who hold views they don’t share. Over half (57%) feel most Americans get along with one another.
  • Please take a look at the full results here.

Takeaway: The two measures paint a more nuanced picture of our civic psyche, injecting optimism and nuance into the Alienation Index’s typically dark representation while underscoring our challenges – and perhaps lighting a path forward. And as Johnson writes, “Before being Republican or Democrat, we’re American.”

Leaders Must Re-Earn America’s Trust: U.S. News & Global Report-Harris Poll

According to our inaugural Best Leaders survey with U.S. News & Global Report, Americans feel that good leaders are in short supply and modern leadership begins and ends with trust.

  • Nearly 9 in 10 (86%) Americans are “largely disappointed” by leaders in society today, and (72%) said political leaders aren’t trustworthy today.
  • So, what do Americans want from leaders? “Trustworthiness” is the most essential characteristic of a successful, modern leader, followed by “honesty.”
  • When asked an open-ended question about how “leaders can earn trust today,” more than 1,000 Americans responded, each writing individual responses to the open-ended query. Here’s what a few of them said:

Takeaway: Aspiring leaders take note: Many respondents, however, said their trust in leaders had eroded so much that there was nothing leaders could do to right the course. “They cannot earn my trust,” one respondent wrote. “They have broken my trust over and over for decades. There is no coming back from that.”

Financial Infidelity Is The New Relationship Breaker: NerdWallet-Harris Poll

According to a recent NerdWallet survey from The Harris Poll in The Los Angeles Times, many Americans aren’t sharing financial truths with their loved ones.

  • Love might not cost a thing, but your lies will add up: More than 2 in 5 partnered Americans (43%) say they have withheld financial information or lied about it to their significant other, such as the amount they spent on a purchase (23%), their income (14%), their credit score (12%), and how much credit card debt they have (10%).
  • While 2 in 5 Americans (40%) say having a credit card your partner doesn’t know about is OK, nearly half of Americans (49%) say the same about savings.
  • But they aren’t telling mom and dad either: (39%) of Americans in the survey say they’ve withheld financial information or lied about finances to their parents.

Takeaway: “Financial secrets can thrive in the dark, potentially feeding the cycle of shame or abuse that prevents you from seeking help,” says Melissa Lambarena, a credit card expert at NerdWallet. “If you can cautiously bring those secrets to light with someone who can offer a safe space – a loved one or a professional at a trusted organization – you might find the guidance or support that’s been missing to thrive financially.”

A.I. Recruiting Tools Are More Biased Than Humans, Job Candidates Say: American Staffing Association-Harris Poll

According to our recent research with the American Staffing Association, as covered by Forbes, American job seekers believe A.I. recruiting tools are rich with data bias.

  • One-third (34%) of employed Americans believe that A.I. recruiting tools are more biased than humans alone – increasing to half (49%) of current job seekers but only (29%) of those without job change plans.
  • Yet, nearly 2 in 5 (39%) job seekers have used A.I. tools for job applications.
  • Younger and BIPOC are more likely to utilize A.I. when applying for jobs: Over a third of younger (Gen Z/Millennials: both 39%), Hispanic (36%), and Black (34%) respondents have used A.I. to assist in their applying (v. Gen X: 19%, Boomers+: 6%, white: 17%).

Takeaway: While some job seekers use A.I. tools themselves, it “does not equate to trusting A.I. to make fair hiring decisions,” said ASA chief executive officer Richard Wahlquist, who suggested that hiring managers “increase transparency and accountability in their hiring processes and use tools that meet current and emerging antibias standards.”

Download the Data

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll from December 28th to 30th, among a nationally representative sample of 2,056 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 28th to 30th, among a nationally representative sample of 2,056 U.S. adults.


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