09 June 2014

Today's Odd Fact: Americans Like Their Standard of Living But Don't Like the Economy

Gallup tracks Americans' perceptions. There is a curious gap between what people report about their own condition and what they make of the economy as a whole.

80% of Americans say they are satisfied with their current standard of living. 59% expect it to improve in the future. This 139% total is the highest since Gallup began to track this 6 years ago. So personally, Americans like the way things are going.

Meanwhile, only 41% of Americans think that the economy is getting better. 53% think it is getting worse.

Do the math. 59% expect things to get better for themselves but only 41% think the whole economy will: that is a gap of 18%. 80% of people are happy with their standard of living but 53% think things are getting worse: that's a gap of at least 33%.

This might be the product of the media. What do we know about 300 million other Americans other than what the media tells us? Or it could be the product of how we tend to have a higher opinion of ourselves than other people, assuming that while we're okay, they are not so okay.

For whatever reason, Americans are dismissive of institutions. And that disdain might extend to something as abstract as "the economy" along with institutions like church and state.

This tendency to be disdainful of institutions is becoming more pronounced over time but it's not the same as pessimism about life. Millennials have the least faith in any institutions, from church to government, of any generation. Interestingly, While 44% of millennials think marriage has become obsolete, 70% want to marry. We don't believe in big corporations but we will take their jobs and products. We hate government but have no compunction about calling the police or fire department. Congress we hate and our congress people we re-elect by a wide margin. And while we don't believe in marriage we're happy to say, "I do." Our personal economic situation is good but the economy is awful.

It's an odd and interesting gap between what we believe about others and we believe about ourselves. I don't really understand it and that might be one of the reasons I find it so fascinating.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This TED talk sort of ties in: http://www.ted.com/talks/malcolm_gladwell_on_spaghetti_sauce

It's about how Americans aren't very good at knowing what it is they *really* want.