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Who are the happiest people? Poll results are in

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How many adults do you know who you'd consider to be very happy? Would you include yourself in that count? Statistically speaking, there's about a one in three chance that you do.

The Harris Poll® Happiness Index, which uses a series of questions to calculate Americans' overall happiness, finds that roughly a third of Americans (34 percent) are very happy.

The Happiness Index looks at what's on the minds of Americans today, and reflects attitudes toward the state of affairs in our country. What's more, it offers a glimpse of which segments of our country's population are most and least happy.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,215 U.S. adults surveyed online between April 15 and 20, 2015. Full results of this study, including data tables, can be found here Happiness Index.

Better with age
Those 50 and older (36 percent ages 50-64, 42 percent ages 65+) are more likely to be very happy than their younger counterparts (percentages ranging from 30 percent-32 percent for adults under 50). Looking at how different generations respond to the series of questions on which the index is based provides some insights into the underlying factors driving these differences:

  • Matures are more likely than their younger counterparts to agree with the statement "At this time I'm generally happy with my life" (92 percent vs. 82 percent of Baby Boomers, 78 percent of Gen Xers and 81 percent of Millennials). They're also less likely than other generations to indicate frequently worrying about their financial situation (49 percent vs. 61 percent, 71 percent and 75 percent) and – as one might expect, given they're past the age of retirement – to report work frustrations (8 percent vs. 25 percent, 41 percent and 44 percent).
  • On the other hand, Millennials are more likely than any of their elders to indicate being optimistic about the future (81 percent vs. 71 percent Gen Xers, 72 percent Baby Boomers, 70 percent Matures).

Women also happier
The Happiness Index also finds women (36 percent) are more likely than men (33 percent) to be very happy. A few specific factors appear to drive this, with women more likely to agree that…

  • "My relationships with friends bring me happiness" (92 percent women vs. 88 percent men)
  • "At this time I'm generally happy with my life" (85 percent vs. 79 percent)
  • "My spiritual beliefs are a positive guiding force for me" (77 percent vs. 64 percent)

Something to believe in
Many Americans look to a religious community or belief system – regardless of what religion they ascribe to – for comfort and support, and religious affiliation and practices appear to make Americans more likely to be very happy.

  • Those who describe themselves as very or somewhat religious (38 percent) are more likely to be very happy than those who are not very or not at all religious (29 percent).
  • Looking at a more behavioral measure of religious engagement, those who attend religious services regularly (42 percent among those attending weekly or more, 35 percent among those attending a few times per year or 1-2 times per month) are more likely to be very happy than those who don't (31 percent once a year or less, 30 percent never).

Another factor seemingly playing a role in happiness is one's political belief system. Both Republicans and Democrats (36 percent each) are more likely than Independents (32 percent) to be very happy.

Money matters
Money may not buy happiness per se, but having it certainly coincides with a higher probability that you're very happy. Americans with annual household incomes under $35,000 are less likely than those earning $35,000 or more to be very happy (30 percent vs. 35 percent $35k-$50k, 34 percent $50k-$75k, 35 percent $75k-$100k), while those earning $100,000 or more are especially prone to being very happy (38 percent).

Financial expectations appear to be just as important as what Americans are earning presently:

  • Those who expect their household financial situation to be better in the next six months (38 percent) are more likely to be very happy than those expecting it to remain the same (34 percent) – who, in turn, are more likely to be very happy than those expecting it to get worse (31 percent).
  • Looking more broadly at expectations for the U.S. economy as a whole, those expecting it to get better in the coming year are more likely to be very happy (40 percent) than either those expecting it to stay the same (32 percent) or those expecting it to get worse (33 percent).

To see other recent Harris Polls, please visit TheHarrisPoll.com

TABLE 1a
HAPPINESS INDEX – Trended Breakdowns
The Harris Poll Happiness Index is calculated by taking an average (mean) of those who strongly agree with positive statements and strongly disagree with the negative ones 
Base:  U.S. adults

  2008 2009 2010 2011 2013 2015
All Adults 35 35 33 33 33 34
Gender            
     Men 33 34 32 31 32 33
     Women 36 36 35 36 35 36
Income            
     $34,999 or less 32 31 28 33 29 30
     $35,000 – $49,999 33 34 34 35 32 35
     $50,000 – $74,999 36 39 34 30 35 34
     $75,000—$99,999 * 38* 36* 38* 29 35 35
     $100,000+ 37 38 38
Age            
     18-24 29 32 26 31 31 32
     25-29 31 31 30 31 30 31
     30-39 29 31 27 29 28 31
     40-49 33 32 31 29 30 30
     50-64 36 37 37 37 36 36
     65+ 47 45 44 42 41 42
Disabilities            
     People with disabilities 36 33 34 34 31 33
     People without disabilities 35 36 33 34 34 35
Political Party            
     Republican 39 37 34 34 35 36
     Democrat 33 36 34 36 35 36
     Independent 34 33 33 32 32 32
Education            
     High school or less 35 33 31 32 34 34
     Some college 35 36 35 33 32 34
     College graduate 34 36 34 35 32 36
     Post graduate 36 39 36 39 38 37

Note: *indicates this was a net of $75K+ in those years

TABLE 1b
HAPPINESS INDEX – Additional Breakdowns
The Harris Poll Happiness Index is calculated by taking an average (mean) of those who strongly agree with positive statements and strongly disagree with the negative ones 
Base:  U.S. adults

  2015
All Adults 34
Region  
     East 34
     Midwest 35
     South 35
     West 34
Children <18 in household  
     Yes 33
     No 35
Metro status  
     Urban 33
     Suburban 35
     Rural 36
Expectations for HH financial outlook for
next 6 months
 
     Expect it to be worse 31
     Expect it to remain the same 34
     Expect it to be better 38
Expectations for U.S. economy in the
coming year
 
     Expect it to get worse 33
     Expect it to stay the same 32
     Expect it to get better 40
Religiosity (self-assessed)  
     Not at all/Not very religious 29
     Very/Somewhat religious 38
Attend religious services  
     Never 30
     Once a year or less 31
     Few times per year/1-2 times per month 35
     Weekly or more 42

TABLE 2a
HAPPINESS INDEX STATEMENTS – SUMMARY GRID
"Please indicate whether you agree or disagree with the following statements."
Base:  U.S. adults

   

AGREE

(NET)

Strongly

agree

Somewhat

agree

DISAGREE

(NET)

Somewhat

disagree

Strongly

disagree

Not at all

sure

My relationships with
friends bring me happiness
 percent 90 60 30 6 4 2 4
I have positive relationships
with my family members
 percent 89 65 25 7 4 3 4
At this time, I'm generally
happy with my life
 percent 82 42 40 16 11 5 2
I'm optimistic about the
future
 percent 75 34 41 21 15 6 4
I feel my voice is not heard
in national decisions that
affect me
 percent 72 39 34 21 14 6 7
My spiritual beliefs are a
positive guiding force to me
 percent 71 43 28 23 11 13 6
I frequently worry about
my financial situation
 percent 67 32 35 31 19 12 3
I rarely worry about my
health
 percent 51 16 35 48 33 15 1
I won't get much benefit
from the things that I do
anytime soon
 percent 36 10 27 57 34 22 7
My work is frustrating  percent 33 11 22 57 24 33 10
I rarely engage in hobbies
and pastimes I enjoy
 percent 31 10 20 68 34 33 2

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

TABLE 2b
HAPPINESS INDEX STATEMENTS – TREND 
"Please indicate whether you agree or disagree with the following statements."
Percent saying "Strongly/Somewhat Agree"
Base:  U.S. adults

  2008 2009 2010 2011 2013 2015
 percent  percent  percent  percent  percent  percent
My relationships with friends brings me happiness 93 91 91 93 90 90
I have positive relationships with my family members 92 90 92 91 90 89
At this time I'm generally happy with my life 83 81 80 80 77 82
I'm optimistic about the future na na na 75 67 75
I feel my voice is not heard in national decisions that affect me 73 67 72 74 75 72
My spiritual beliefs are a positive guiding force to me 77 74 73 74 73 71
I frequently worry about my financial situation 65 67 66 68 65 67
I rarely worry about my health 49 54 52 50 52 51
I won't get much benefit from the things that I do anytime soon na na na 38 42 36
My work is frustrating 37 36 38 39 34 33
I rarely engage in hobbies and pastimes I enjoy 32 33 34 33 36 31

TABLE 2c
HAPPINESS INDEX STATEMENTS – By Generation & Gender 
"Please indicate whether you agree or disagree with the following statements."
Percent saying "Strongly/Somewhat Agree"
Base:  U.S. adults

  Total 2015 Generation Gender

Millennials

(18-37)

Gen X

(38-49)

Baby

Boomers

(50-68)

Matures

(69+)

Men Women
 percent  percent  percent  percent  percent  percent  percent
My relationships with friends brings me happiness 90 89 92 91 88 88 92
I have positive relationships with my family members 89 89 91 89 88 88 90
At this time I'm generally happy with my life 82 81 78 82 92 79 85
I'm optimistic about the future 75 81 71 72 70 73 77
I feel my voice is not heard in national decisions that
affect me
72 73 70 72 78 75 70
My spiritual beliefs are a positive guiding force to me 71 65 72 76 74 64 77
I frequently worry about my financial situation 67 75 71 61 49 65 68
I rarely worry about my health 51 56 52 47 46 54 49
I won't get much benefit from the things that I do
anytime soon
36 35 44 34 36 39 34
My work is frustrating 33 44 41 25 8 35 31
I rarely engage in hobbies and pastimes I enjoy 31 32 39 27 25 31 31

Methodology
This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between April 15 and 20, 2015 among 2,215 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 percent 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.

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