Some Things May Not Be Going Well in the United States, But on the Whole, It’s Better Here Than in the Rest of the Developed World

    New York, N.Y. – May 12, 2014 – A new Harris Poll measures what Americans think about the United States or, more specifically, how they rate 16 elements of American life and then how these elements compare with other developed nations.

    For here in the United States, strong majorities of the public give high marks to science and technology; the Constitution; TV, movies and entertainment; the quality of life; public safety; colleges and universities; and civil rights. Large majorities give poor marks to our political system, public schools, the health care system, the economic system and the legal system.

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,300 adults surveyed online between April 16 and 21, 2014.

    Aspects of American life which get the most positive ratings, defined as those who rate them excellent or pretty good, are:

    Science and technology 70%

    The Constitution 64%

    TV, movies and entertainment 64%

    The quality of life 62%

    Public safety 58%

    Colleges and universities 58%

    Civil rights 57%

    Items that receive positive ratings from roughly half of Americans are:

    The standard of living 51%

    Equality of opportunity 50%

    The elements that receive the lowest positive ratings (where large majorities give either only fair or poor ratings) are:

    The legal system 39%

    The economic system 34%

    The health care system 32%

    Public schools 31%

    The political system 22%

    Other elements that receive low ratings, but better than those above, are:

    The environment 42%

    The system of government 41%

    U.S. versus other developed nations.

    Overall, majorities of Americans see the United States as being better than other developed nations. At the top, almost two-thirds (64%) say the Constitution is better while two in five each say TV, movies and entertainment (62%); the standard of living (60%); and quality of life (60%) are all better. Other elements where at least half of U.S. adults say they are better than other developed nations are:

    Equality of opportunity 56%

    Civil Rights 55%

    Public Safety 54%

    Science and Technology 53%

    Colleges and universities 50%

    There are five other elements where the U.S. is seen by more Americans to be better than worse, but not seen by majorities as better. Those are:

    The legal system 48% better/37% the same/16% worse

    System of government 47% better/36% the same/17% worse

    Economic system 47% better/36% the same/17% worse

    The environment 43% better/39% the same/17% worse

    The political system 41% better/36% the same/23% worse

    There are two areas seen as being worse in the United States than in other developed nations. More than two in five Americans (42%) say the health care system is worse in the U.S. while 27% say it’s about the same and 32% believe it is better. Two in five (40%) say public schools are worse, 31% believe they are better and 29% say they are the same in the United States as in the rest of the developed world.

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    TABLE 1a

    NATIONAL RATINGS – SUMMARY TABLE

    On a different topic, how would you rate each of the following in the United States?

    Base: All adults

    Excellent/ Pretty good (NET)

    Excellent

    Pretty good

    Only fair/ Poor (NET)

    Only fair

    Poor

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Science and technology

    70

    17

    53

    30

    25

    5

    Constitution

    64

    28

    36

    36

    26

    10

    TV, movies and entertainment

    64

    22

    41

    36

    25

    11

    Quality of life

    62

    11

    51

    38

    31

    7

    Public safety

    58

    7

    52

    42

    33

    8

    Colleges and universities

    58

    11

    48

    42

    34

    8

    Civil rights

    57

    12

    45

    43

    33

    10

    Standard of living

    51

    10

    41

    49

    37

    12

    Equality of opportunity

    50

    11

    39

    50

    35

    15

    Environment

    42

    4

    39

    58

    48

    9

    System of government

    41

    9

    32

    59

    33

    26

    Legal system

    39

    5

    34

    61

    38

    23

    Economic system

    34

    4

    30

    66

    46

    20

    Health care system

    32

    5

    28

    68

    38

    30

    Public schools

    31

    3

    29

    69

    46

    22

    Political system

    22

    3

    19

    78

    37

    41

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

     

    TABLE 1b

    POSITIVE NATIONAL RATINGS – BY POLITCAL PARTY, GENERATION & GENDER

    On a different topic, how would you rate each of the following in the United States?

    Percent saying Excellent/Pretty good

    Base: All adults

    2010 Total

    2014 Total

    Political Party

    Generation

    Gender

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    Millennials (18-36)

    Gen Xers (37-48)

    Baby Boomers (49-67)

    Matures (68+)

    Male

    Female

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Science and technology

    75

    70

    76

    69

    68

    70

    66

    71

    75

    74

    66

    Constitution

    70

    64

    71

    64

    65

    59

    61

    69

    69

    69

    60

    TV, movies and entertainment

    62

    64

    55

    73

    63

    76

    68

    57

    46

    65

    62

    Quality of life

    66

    62

    69

    62

    58

    66

    55

    62

    64

    65

    59

    Public safety

    56

    58

    65

    57

    57

    57

    56

    61

    59

    65

    52

    Colleges and universities

    65

    58

    61

    60

    56

    57

    54

    59

    63

    59

    58

    Civil rights

    58

    57

    66

    52

    58

    55

    51

    61

    58

    60

    55

    Standard of living

    56

    51

    59

    48

    48

    51

    46

    51

    53

    56

    45

    Equality of opportunity

    52

    50

    62

    44

    48

    50

    45

    53

    51

    54

    46

    Environment

    44

    42

    51

    41

    39

    41

    41

    43

    46

    48

    38

    System of government

    43

    41

    43

    43

    39

    42

    33

    41

    50

    46

    36

    Legal system

    37

    39

    42

    40

    36

    40

    34

    38

    56

    41

    37

    Economic system

    28

    34

    34

    38

    30

    32

    34

    34

    37

    40

    28

    Health care system

    33

    32

    25

    45

    28

    31

    28

    33

    40

    36

    29

    Public schools

    32

    31

    33

    36

    28

    31

    30

    32

    35

    30

    32

    Political system

    23

    22

    22

    27

    15

    30

    18

    19

    16

    24

    20


    TABLE 1c

    NEGATIVE NATIONAL RATINGS – BY POLITCAL PARTY, GENERATION & GENDER

    On a different topic, how would you rate each of the following in the United States?

    Percent saying Only fair/Poor

    Base: All adults

    2010 Total

    2014 Total

    Political Party

    Generation

    Gender

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    Millennials (18-36)

    Gen Xers (37-48)

    Baby Boomers (49-67)

    Matures (68+)

    Male

    Female

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Political system

    77

    78

    78

    73

    85

    70

    82

    81

    84

    76

    80

    Public schools

    68

    69

    67

    64

    72

    69

    70

    68

    65

    70

    68

    Health care system

    67

    68

    75

    55

    72

    69

    72

    67

    60

    64

    71

    Economic system

    72

    66

    66

    62

    70

    68

    66

    66

    63

    60

    72

    Legal system

    63

    61

    58

    60

    64

    60

    66

    62

    54

    59

    63

    System of government

    57

    59

    57

    57

    61

    58

    67

    59

    50

    54

    64

    Environment

    56

    58

    49

    59

    61

    59

    59

    57

    54

    52

    62

    Equality of opportunity

    48

    50

    38

    56

    52

    50

    55

    47

    49

    46

    54

    Standard of living

    44

    49

    41

    52

    52

    49

    54

    49

    47

    44

    55

    Civil rights

    42

    43

    34

    48

    42

    45

    49

    39

    42

    40

    45

    Colleges and universities

    35

    42

    39

    40

    44

    43

    46

    41

    37

    41

    42

    Public safety

    44

    42

    35

    43

    43

    43

    44

    39

    41

    35

    48

    Quality of life

    34

    38

    31

    38

    42

    34

    45

    38

    36

    35

    41

    TV, movies and entertainment

    38

    36

    45

    27

    37

    24

    32

    43

    54

    35

    38

    Constitution

    30

    36

    29

    36

    35

    41

    39

    31

    31

    31

    40

    Science and technology

    25

    30

    24

    31

    32

    30

    34

    29

    25

    26

    34

     

    TABLE 2a

    U.S. BETTER/WORSE THAN OTHER DEVELOPED NATIONS – SUMMARY TABLE

    Thinking of this same list, where do you think the United States stands on these in comparison with other developed nations?

    Base: All adults

    Much/ Somewhat better (NET)

    Much better

    Somewhat better

    About the same

    Much/ Somewhat worse (NET)

    Somewhat worse

    Much worse

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Constitution

    64

    33

    31

    27

    9

    5

    3

    TV, movies and entertainment

    62

    30

    32

    27

    10

    7

    3

    Standard of living

    60

    22

    38

    27

    13

    10

    3

    Quality of life

    60

    24

    36

    29

    12

    9

    3

    Equality of opportunity

    56

    21

    36

    30

    13

    10

    3

    Civil rights

    55

    20

    35

    32

    13

    10

    3

    Public safety

    54

    17

    37

    33

    13

    10

    3

    Science and technology

    53

    17

    36

    31

    16

    14

    2

    Colleges and universities

    50

    16

    35

    31

    18

    14

    4

    Legal system

    48

    14

    34

    37

    16

    10

    5

    System of government

    47

    19

    29

    36

    17

    11

    6

    Economic system

    47

    13

    34

    36

    17

    13

    4

    Environment

    43

    13

    30

    39

    17

    14

    4

    Political system

    41

    12

    28

    36

    23

    16

    6

    Health care system

    32

    11

    20

    27

    42

    28

    13

    Public schools

    31

    9

    22

    29

    40

    30

    10

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

     

    TABLE 2b

    U.S. BETTER THAN OTHER DEVELOPED NATIONS – BY POLITICAL PARTY, GENERATION & GENDER

    Thinking of this same list, where do you think the United States stands on these in comparison with other developed nations?

    Percent saying Much/Somewhat better

    Base: All adults

    2014 Total

    Political Party

    Generation

    Gender

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    Millennials (18-36)

    Gen Xers (37-48)

    Baby Boomers (49-67)

    Matures (68+)

    Male

    Female

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Constitution

    64

    67

    65

    64

    59

    60

    69

    64

    69

    59

    TV, movies and entertainment

    62

    57

    68

    62

    68

    66

    62

    44

    63

    62

    Standard of living

    60

    65

    60

    58

    53

    53

    68

    64

    61

    59

    Quality of life

    60

    66

    59

    58

    55

    53

    67

    63

    61

    59

    Equality of opportunity

    56

    64

    52

    56

    51

    51

    63

    57

    58

    55

    Civil rights

    55

    60

    53

    54

    46

    49

    65

    54

    57

    52

    Public safety

    54

    60

    53

    52

    49

    49

    60

    55

    57

    51

    Science and technology

    53

    61

    49

    54

    50

    52

    59

    48

    58

    49

    Colleges and universities

    50

    53

    51

    48

    45

    50

    55

    47

    51

    49

    Legal system

    48

    52

    48

    46

    43

    42

    53

    55

    50

    46

    System of government

    47

    53

    48

    45

    40

    41

    55

    54

    52

    43

    Economic system

    47

    52

    48

    45

    41

    41

    54

    50

    51

    43

    Environment

    43

    49

    44

    40

    35

    41

    49

    51

    47

    39

    Political system

    41

    49

    44

    34

    37

    35

    46

    44

    41

    40

    Health care system

    32

    35

    34

    25

    28

    29

    35

    33

    35

    28

    Public schools

    31

    36

    34

    27

    28

    31

    35

    25

    29

    33

     

    TABLE 2c

    U.S. WORSE THAN OTHER DEVELOPED NATIONS – BY POLITICAL PARTY, GENERATION & GENDER

    Thinking of this same list, where do you think the United States stands on these in comparison with other developed nations?

    Percent saying Much/Somewhat worse

    Base: All adults

    2014 Total

    Political Party

    Generation

    Gender

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    Millennials (18-36)

    Gen Xers (37-48)

    Baby Boomers (49-67)

    Matures (68+)

    Male

    Female

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Health care system

    42

    42

    40

    46

    40

    46

    41

    38

    40

    43

    Public schools

    40

    35

    40

    45

    41

    39

    39

    45

    42

    39

    Political system

    23

    21

    18

    30

    22

    27

    21

    24

    23

    23

    Colleges and universities

    18

    17

    19

    19

    23

    19

    14

    17

    19

    17

    Environment

    17

    14

    16

    22

    21

    20

    16

    10

    16

    18

    System of government

    17

    18

    14

    19

    17

    21

    15

    16

    16

    18

    Economic system

    17

    19

    15

    17

    18

    18

    15

    16

    15

    18

    Science and technology

    16

    13

    18

    16

    15

    17

    16

    15

    14

    18

    Legal system

    16

    15

    13

    19

    15

    19

    15

    13

    17

    15

    Equality of opportunity

    13

    8

    17

    14

    17

    16

    10

    12

    13

    14

    Standard of living

    13

    14

    14

    13

    15

    17

    10

    13

    13

    14

    Public safety

    13

    10

    13

    16

    14

    18

    11

    11

    13

    13

    Civil rights

    13

    9

    17

    12

    15

    15

    9

    15

    11

    15

    Quality of life

    12

    10

    13

    12

    13

    15

    9

    10

    10

    13

    TV, movies and entertainment

    10

    15

    7

    10

    8

    8

    12

    16

    12

    9

    Constitution

    9

    12

    7

    9

    10

    8

    8

    11

    8

    10

     

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between April 16 and 21, 2014 among 2,300 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® #46, May 12, 2014

    By Regina A. Corso, VP The Harris Poll and Public Relations Research

    About Nielsen & The Harris Poll

    On February 3, 2014, Nielsen acquired Harris Interactive and The Harris Poll. Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence and mobile measurement. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA and Diemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit www.nielsen.com.