Still Feeling Good

Maybe money isn’t everything. In the latest installment of the Harris Poll’s annual Feel Good Index, the number of Americans who feel good about the economy was down again (to 39 percent, vs. 47 percent in 2001 and 68 percent in 2000). Nonetheless, the number of people feeling good about “the quality of your life overall” (92 percent) was nearly unchanged from 2001 (94 percent) and 2000 (91 percent). There was a dip in the number of people feeling good about their standard of living (84 percent this year, 90 percent last year), but that puts it just a single percentage point below the number for 2000. The sharpest year-to-year decline was in the number who feel good about their “financial security for the future,” which fell to 56 percent this year from 67 percent last year. Still, the positive vote on this issue is a percentage point higher than in 1997, when the economy was thriving. (One caveat: The polling preceded the worst of the recent stock-market losses.) The biggest gain, meanwhile, was in the number of people saying they feel good about “the morals and values of Americans in general” (44 percent this year, 40 percent last year). It’s tempting to see this as a sign of post-Sept. 11 solidarity, but the number has been trending upward since 1999, when it stood at 36 percent. There was negligible change over that period in the number of respondents who feel good about “the morals and values of people in your community” (69 percent this year vs. 70 percent in 1999). Elsewhere in the poll, we can infer that people are happier with parents and/or children and/or siblings than with spouses: Nearly all the respondents (96 percent) said they feel good about “your relations with your family”; among people who are married, sharply fewer (60 percent) said the same about their marriages. The findings also suggest people should get out of the office and see their friends more often. Eighty-eight percent said they feel good about their social life, while just 62 percent of employed respondents feel good about their jobs.