Harris Poll Alienation Index Climbs Again as Two-Thirds of Americans Feel Alienated

    New York, N.Y. – November 12, 2013 – Americans have had a lot to deal with from Washington, D.C. There was the government shutdown, the threat that the country might default on its payments and the problems which have plagued the website for ACA, as well as partisan bickering over both the website and the health care law itself. All of this is likely contributing to a greater sense of alienation among the U.S. public, as reflected in the latest Harris Poll Alienation Index, which finds that the level of alienation among Americans has gone up 4 points since 2011 (the last time this was asked) and 15 points since 2010.

    Almost every year since 1966, the Harris Poll has measured how alienated Americans feel and then calculated the Harris Alienation Index based on the results. The questions measure how much, or how little, people feel their interests are heard and addressed by people with power and influence. This year the Harris Poll Alienation Index is at 67, compared to 63 in 2011, 52 the year before and 53 in 2009, during the first year of President Obama’s administration. The last time the Alienation Index was in the 60s was during Bill Clinton’s administration.

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,368 adults surveyed online between October 16 and 21, 2013 by Harris Interactive. This is the first time this survey has been conducted solely online.

    The Index is based on replies to five questions, many of which show major changes since last year.

    • 85% believe that the people running the country don’t really care what happens to you, compared to 73% in 2011 and 50% in 2010
    • 80% of all adults believe the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, compared to 73% in 2011;
    • 69% believe that most people in power try to take advantage of people like you compared to 63% two years ago and 53% in 2010;
    • 61% believe that what you think doesn’t count very much anymore, down from 66% in 2011; and
    • 38% believe that they are left out of things going on around them, compared to 41% in 2011.

    In addition, nine in ten Americans (90%) feel that the people in Washington are out of touch with the rest of the country, compared to 87% in 2011 and 70% in 2010. However, this question is not used in the calculation of the Alienation Index, because it was not asked before 1992.

    Different Groups Feel Differently

    As Congress’s approval numbers hit a record low of 4% and President Obama sees his approval numbers also low, is there a political difference on alienation? Actually, this is something the political parties feel similarly on, as Republicans score a 65 and Democrats score a 66 in the Alienation Index; Independents score a 68. When it comes to generation, the middle ages feel most alienated, with both Gen Xers and Baby Boomers scoring a 69 on the Index, compared to a 65 for Echo Boomers and a 62 for Matures.

    There is also an education gap, as those with a high school education or less are most likely to feel alienated (71) compared to scores of 60 among those with a college degree and 58 among those with a post graduate degree.

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    TABLE 1

    ALIENATION INDEX

    The Harris Interactive Alienation Index is calculated by taking an average (mean) of those who agree with five of the six statements (see Table 5)

    YEAR

    PRESIDENT

    INDEX

    2013

    Obama

    67

    2011

    Obama

    63

    2010

    Obama

    52

    2009

    Obama

    53

    2008

    G.W. Bush

    58

    2007

    G.W. Bush

    56

    2006

    G. W. Bush

    54

    2005

    G. W. Bush

    55

    2004

    G. W. Bush

    50

    2003

    G. W. Bush

    54

    2002

    G. W. Bush

    52

    2001

    G. W. Bush

    47

    2000

    Clinton

    55

    1999

    Clinton

    62

    1998

    Clinton

    56

    1997

    Clinton

    62

    1996

    Clinton

    62

    1995

    Clinton

    67

    1994

    Clinton

    65

    1993

    Clinton

    65

    1992

    G. H. W. Bush

    65

    1991

    G. H. W. Bush

    66

    1990

    G. H. W. Bush

    61

    1989

    G. H. W. Bush

    58

    1988

    Reagan

    54

    1987

    Reagan

    55

    1986

    Reagan

    60

    1985

    Reagan

    56

    1984

    Reagan

    55

    1983

    Reagan

    62

    1982

    Reagan

    56

    1978

    Carter

    51

    1977

    Carter

    59

    1976

    Ford

    57

    1974

    Nixon

    59

    1973

    Nixon

    55

    1972

    Nixon

    44

    1971

    Nixon

    40

    1969

    Nixon

    36

    1968

    Johnson

    36

    1966

    Johnson

    29

    The Alienation questions were not asked in 1967, 1970, 1975, 1979, 1980, 1981 and 2012.

    Please note, starting in 2013 the Alienation Index was conducted online and not be telephone

     

    TABLE 2

    ALIENATION INDEX UNDER EIGHT PRESIDENTS

    President

    Years With Data

    High

    Low

    Average

    Barack Obama

    4

    67 (2013)

    52 (2010)

    59

    George W. Bush

    8

    58 (2008)

    47 (2001)

    53

    Bill Clinton

    8

    67 (1995)

    55 (2000)

    62

    George H. W. Bush

    4

    66 (1991)

    58 (1989)

    62

    Ronald Reagan

    7

    62 (1983)

    54 (1988)

    57

    Jimmy Carter

    2

    59 (1977)

    51 (1978)

    55

    Gerald Ford

    1

    57 (1976)

    57 (1976)

    57

    Richard Nixon

    5

    59 (1974)

    36 (1969)

    47

    Lyndon Johnson

    2

    36 (1968)

    29 (1966)

    32

    Note: Please note that in 2013 the Index was conducted online and not by telephone

     

    TABLE 3

    ALIENATION INDEX: DECADE AVERAGES (MEAN)

    The 1960s

    34

    The 1970s

    52

    The 1980s

    57

    The 1990s

    63

    The 2000s

    53

    The 2010s (so far)

    65


    TABLE 4

    ALIENATION INDEX – BY DEMOGRAPHIC GROUP (2013)

    Base: All adults

    Total

    All Adults

    67

    Sex

    Male

    67

    Female

    67

    Age

    Echo Boomers (18 – 36)

    65

    Generation X (37 – 48)

    69

    Baby Boomers (49 – 67)

    69

    Matures (68+)

    62

    Education

    High School or less

    71

    Some College

    67

    College Graduate

    60

    Post Grad

    58

    Party

    Republican

    65

    Democrat

    66

    Independent

    68

    Metro Status

    Urban

    65

    Suburban

    66

    Rural

    69

    Household Income

    Under $35,000

    72

    $35,000-$49,999

    73

    $50,000-$74,999

    66

    $75,000-$99,999

    66

    $100,000+

    59

     

    TABLE 5

    ALIENATION – INDIVIDUAL QUESTION TREND

    Now I want to read you some things some people have told us they have felt from time to time. Do you tend to feel or not feel (READ LIST)?

    Those saying Yes, feel this way

     

    1972

    1977

    1985

    1990

    1992

    1994

    1995

    1996

    1997

    1998

    1999

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    What you think doesn’t count very much anymore

    50

    61

    62

    62

    62

    66

    71

    65

    63

    60

    62

    The rich get richer and the poor get poorer

    67

    77

    79

    82

    83

    78

    79

    76

    78

    72

    74

    Most people with power try to take advantage of people like yourself

    43

    60

    65

    64

    71

    70

    72

    67

    69

    58

    60

    The people running the country don’t really care what happens to you

    46

    60

    57

    53

    60

    63

    60

    59

    57

    54

    68

    You’re left out of things going on around you

    25

    35

    48

    44

    48

    49

    51

    43

    43

    33

    46

    The people in Washington are out of touch with the rest of the country

    N/A

    N/A

    N/A

    N/A

    83

    83

    81

    75

    76

    76

    72

     

    2000

    2001

    2002

    2003

    2004

    2005

    2006

    2007

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    The people running the country don’t really care what happens to you

    53

    36

    44

    46

    44

    53

    53

    59

    The rich get richer and the poor get poorer

    69

    69

    72

    69

    68

    75

    72

    73

    Most people with power try to take advantage of people like yourself

    59

    48

    61

    60

    53

    60

    54

    57

    What you think doesn’t count very much anymore

    56

    49

    55

    56

    51

    53

    52

    55

    You’re left out of things going on around you

    39

    33

    30

    40

    34

    35

    38

    36

    The people in Washington are out of touch with the rest of the country

    73

    51

    60

    67

    67

    74

    68

    75

     

    2008

    2009

    2010

    2011

    2013

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    The people running the country don’t really care what happens to you

    62

    53

    50

    73

    85

    The rich get richer and the poor get poorer

    71

    66

    68

    73

    80

    Most people with power try to take advantage of people like yourself

    59

    57

    53

    63

    69

    What you think doesn’t count very much anymore

    57

    56

    52

    66

    61

    You’re left out of things going on around you

    41

    35

    37

    41

    38

    The people in Washington are out of touch with the rest of the country

    83

    72

    70

    87

    90

    Not included in the Alienation Index

    Note: Until 2010, these questions were always asked at the end of the year, usually in November or December.

     

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between October 16 and 21, 2013 among 2,368 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, Harris Interactive 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 Interactive 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 the Harris Interactive 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 Harris Interactive.

    J43567

    Q955

    The Harris Poll® #81, November 12, 2013

    By Regina A. Corso, SVP, Harris Poll and Public Relations, Harris Interactive

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