Mark Dolliver’s Takes

Satisfied? It depends. Polls often make do with a general question as to whether people are satisfied with conditions in the country or with their own lives. Some Gallup data released last month provides a more detailed look at such matters.

On the broad question of whether they’re satisfied “with the way things are going in the U.S. today,” just 35 percent said they are. But majorities were more upbeat about several aspects of national life. Among these: 74 percent were very or somewhat satisfied with “the position of women in the nation,” 55 percent with “the position of blacks and other racial minorities in the nation,” 53 percent with “the nation’s security from terrorism” and 52 percent with “the state of the nation’s economy.” At or near the bottom of the satisfaction standings were “the level of immigration into the country today” (24 percent), “the availability of affordable healthcare” (25 percent) and “the nation’s efforts to deal with poverty and homelessness” (27 percent). Thirty-five percent said they’re satisfied with “the moral and ethical climate.” Thirty-nine percent said as much about “the size and influence of major corporations,” falling short of the 44 percent who said the same about “the size and power of the federal government.” Still, 70 percent said they’re satisfied with “the opportunity for a person to get ahead by working hard” and 86 percent with “the overall quality of life.”

A separate Gallup survey sought a more personal assessment of respondents’ lives. In this poll, 84 percent said they’re “satisfied with the way things are going in their personal lives,” including 55 percent who described themselves as very satisfied. Fifteen percent declared themselves dissatisfied, including 5 percent who were very much so. The same poll found 49 percent rating themselves “very happy,” with 47 percent “fairly happy”and 4 percent “not too happy.” Income was a dividing line: The “very happy” vote was 63 percent for those with household income of $75,000-plus, vs. 36 percent for those in the under-$30,000 bracket.

But money isn’t everything. Analyzing data from the past three years, Gallup found that “marriage may be more strongly associated with personal happiness than money. Those who are married at any income level are as likely (if not more likely) to report being happy than even the wealthiest people who are not married.” For instance, 56 percent of marrieds in the low- income bracket said they’re very happy, as did 50 percent of singles in the top bracket. Best is to have money and a spouse: 67 percent of marrieds in the $75,000-plus cohort said they’re very happy.