In a Year of Alt-Facts and Mean Tweets, America’s National Smile Widens

From North Korea to opioids, there has been no shortage of worrying news washing over Americans, and yet America’s overall happiness is up two points from last year to 33% according to the 2017 Harris Poll Survey of American Happiness. Within this small uptick of felicity are perhaps lessons we can all use for a sunnier disposition.

America’s rising happiness seems to be in part about letting go and turning back to our families, communities, and faith. While three-quarters of Americans say, “my voice is not heard in national decisions that affect me,” (up from 73%) the American Happiness Index was positively influenced by personal and autonomous factors, including;

  • 86% agree “I have positive relationships with my family members”
  • 71% agree “My spiritual beliefs are a positive guiding force to me” (vs. 66% in 2016)
  • 53% say, “I rarely worry about my health,” up from 48% in 2016

What does concern Americans is being present amid texting, multi-tasking and jobs that bleed us of any free time. More than a third of Americans in 2017 say “I rarely engage in hobbies and pastimes I enjoy” (37% vs. 33% last year). At the other end of this stress spectrum is retired Americans, who are significantly happier than the unemployed or the employed. Older people (ages 65+) are the happiest of all age groups and most probably do not have Snapchat or 360-degree performance reviews.

These findings suggest that America is happier, but not that happy. However, our data suggests we’ve never really been that happy; the Happiness Index reported historically high levels of American happiness at 35% in 2008 (the first time the study was run), and that was in the middle of the middle of the global financial crisis. Perhaps we as a society see happiness as a future state of being. After all, 43% of us say “I won’t get much benefit from the things that I do anytime soon.” But we still love to run.


About The Harris Poll Happiness Index:
The Index was started in 2008 and asks Americans (on an agree/disagree scale) about nine areas in their lives that contribute to their overall happiness and takes an average of those who strongly agree with the positive statements and strongly disagree with the negative statements. These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,202 U.S. adults aged 18+ surveyed online between May 11 and 22, 2017. For more information see Methodology here.

This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English and Spanish, within the United States between May 11 and 22, 2017 among 2,202 adults aged 18+, with oversamples of 464 Hispanics and 150 Asians. 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.

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