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Friday, October 30, 2009

2010 Here We Come

With the 2010 congressional midterm elections officially one year away on Monday, it's worth underscoring that we may be in for yet another wild election season. Last month, we found Republicans nearly tied with Democrats in our "generic ballot" for Congress -- a world of difference from the 15 percentage point edge Democrats enjoyed and capitalized on last November.

What's more, Republicans tend to turn out in higher numbers than Democrats, meaning that -- with numbers like this -- it's really anyone's game.

So where is this trend headed and what does it mean? Gallup's Jeff Jones breaks it down in great detail in our lead story for Monday morning, discussing the implications of voter turnout, and reviewing the patterns and lessons of election years past.

In addition to the generic ballot, Gallup tracking of Barack Obama's job approval rating, Congress' approval rating, general satisfaction with the way things are going in the U.S., and party favorability all provide additional clues to what is likely to happen on Election Day.

We're watching all of it for you here at Gallup. To make sure you don't miss a thing, sign up for Election 2010 e-mail alerts or RSS feeds.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Happiness as an Ingredient of Prosperity

Making news this week are the 2009 Prosperity Index rankings published by the Legatum Institute. Finland fares best of 104 countries and Zimbabwe fares worst. The United States ranks 9th, trailing a string of Scandinavian countries, Australia and Canada.

The report "defines prosperity as both wealth and well-being, and finds that the most prosperous nations in the world are not necessarily those that have only a high GDP, but are those that also have happy, healthy, and free citizens."

Gallup agrees leaders need to take this more holistic view, which is why we poll on hundreds of behavioral economic measures in more than 150 countries around the world.

Legatum used some of our data in its analysis. In this graphic, Legatum discusses the relationship between prosperity, happiness, and income, and how they are not necessarily one and the same.

It's particularly interesting to note how many of the top performing nations do better in the happiness department, than they do in the income department. As Legatum observes, such measures can help to showcase positive momentum for the future, beyond what is happening in the here and now. Overall, it's clear that focusing on just GDP or income isn't enough.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Why Our News Is Different

It's a double-dose of reality for the news media today.

First -- the news that the circulation of major newspaper dailies is down 10% in the last six months compared to the same period a year ago. Only The Wall Street Journal is up -- and just barely.

Then -- the news that the trailblazer of cable news is now also the straggler. CNN will come in last in the ratings race for October, falling not only behind its more opinion-driven competitors Fox News and MSNBC, but even its own sister network HLN (formerly Headline News).

The challenge facing all of these news organizations is not so much the internet or the new and social media offshoots thereof -- though the need to evolve is very real. The truth is that in today's intensely saturated environment, there are still too many news organizations covering the same topics and fighting for the same audiences. It's pretty clear to me that the news organizations that will not only survive, but thrive, are those which can carve out a niche, where no one else can compete.

These new realities reaffirm why we do what we do here at Quite simply, we do what no one else can do -- which is to provide empirical, rather than anecdotal, insights on the news of the moment. Put more simply, we let our data drive our news. Data that no one else has. That's why at, every lead has a data point, and every story has a graph.

We don't want you to visit instead of visiting other news sources. We want you to visit in addition to your favorite news sources. It's perfectly fine with us if you turn somewhere else for context and background, and then come to us for the data or empirical evidence to complete the picture. is, in many ways, just the type of unique news source that the internet makes possible. In the past, Gallup conducted polls, provided the results to journalists, and hoped to make the news cycle. Now, we're thrilled to be able to provide our news directly to you -- the discerning news consumer looking for a different -- or additional -- take on the news, rather than more of the same.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Spending Surge -- Credit Payday, the Weekend, Jobs, or the DOW?

We saw a definite surge in consumer spending over the weekend -- with our three-day rolling average of Americans' self-reported daily spending hitting the triple-digits for only the second time this year. Keep in mind, we ask Americans how much money they spent "yesterday," so Sunday's $100 figure reflects money spent on Saturday. But we're already down to nearly half of that.

So the key question is -- when does spending surge, albeit briefly? We know spending is highest on the weekends and lower in the first few days of the week. In this week's Gallup Economic Weekly, our Chief Economist Dennis Jacobe discusses last week's numbers in relation to both improved jobs numbers and the recent uptick in the DOW. He also discusses the potential impact of holidays and paydays and will explore Americans' spending patterns further in our lead story tomorrow morning. (Update: Read the full story.)

One key gauge of whether Americans are really ready to spend are their Christmas spending projections. So far, Americans' estimates for how much they'll spend this holiday season are down from last October, but up from last November and December. We'll ask this question again in November and December -- to see how estimates move as the holiday gets closer. What Americans ultimately spend is, of course, of critical importance to the nation's retailers and, in turn, the economy.

The reality at the moment is that while economic confidence has improved compared to earlier this year and last year, a majority of Americans still see the economy"getting worse." We've long been reporting a "new normal" where Americans, despite feeling better about the economy overall, seem resistant to get back to spending at the pace they were in the past. Each of the economic trends Gallup monitors provides a behavioral economic gauge of the true economic realities of the here and now. That is -- not whether it makes sense to get back to spending, but whether real Americans are actually doing it.

To stay up-to-date on all of Gallup's economic data, bookmark our business page, or sign up for our business email alerts or RSS feeds.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Why We Measure and Report Well-Being

For our hardcore political readers, the word "well-being" at the top of the new might prompt a little head scratching. What does Gallup -- best known for the methodological rigor of its public opinion polls -- know about well-being?

The answer is a lot. Since January 2008, we have been calling 1,000 Americans a night to ask them dozens of questions about their lives, their jobs, their physical and emotional health, and their health behaviors. Our motivation is the same as it is for our politically-minded polling: before leaders can unearth the right solutions, they must first understand the true nature of the problem. By creating a precise, empirical measure of Americans' health and well-being, we can discover concrete ways to make individual lives better and longer, while also reducing the burden on our healthcare system, our cities, and our nation.

Imagine figuring out what makes people live longer and applying that knowledge to increase life spans. Bestselling author Dan Buettner did exactly that and tells us how.

Imagine figuring out exactly who is most susceptible to the flu this season and targeting vaccine shots accordingly. We've got that, too.

Imagine figuring out how many adults are without health insurance, and tracking how the numbers change in near-real time with the recession. We're on it.

Imagine figuring out which types of jobs improve well-being -- physically, emotionally, and overall? It's here.

There are more discoveries where these came from -- we're just getting started. Over the next month, we will publish new insights on diabetes, depression, and other chronic conditions.

The truth is that we have just begun to tap the potential of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. Gallup and Healthways are committed to collecting, researching, and reporting the data for 25 years. Our goal is to help leaders use the data to find solutions that actually work. So our question to you is this -- what do you need to know?

Friday, October 16, 2009

New Navigation, Sharper Focus

Two years ago today, we launched as a unique source for data-driven news. Two years later, our goal remains the same -- to provide empirical insight on the world's biggest challenges based on how the world's 6 billion citizens think and behave. It's something no one else can do.

Today, we launch a new chapter -- one where we focus even more sharply on four key topic areas -- politics, business, well-being, and world. Our new universal navigation bar links you to our four sub-home pages for these topic areas, where you will find unrivaled insight on the issues facing government and business leaders around the world.

While a majority of our users come to us for politics news, we invite you to explore and learn more about our economic and well-being tracking, which apply the same Gallup gold standard methodology used to measure President Obama's job approval rating to measuring the health of the U.S. economy and the well-being of the American people. We also invite you to learn more about our global polling work, with which we are creating the world's single most accurate source of global behavioral economic data.

Additionally, Gallup does more than just collect and report this intelligence. We also provide consulting services to leaders in governments and businesses worldwide, helping them to translate the behavioral economic insight our data offer to improve communities, corporations, and countries worldwide. To learn more about how to translate Gallup data into action and results, visit our Gallup consulting pages or check our new, universal footer.

Gallup, under the leadership of our CEO Jim Clifton, is absolutely committed to maintaining the public service legacy of George Gallup; we self-fund our public opinion surveys to pursue our belief that leaders should be aware of the perceptions, desires, and future direction of the electorates they represent.

We thank the millions of you who have visited our site over the past two years and shared with your readers, colleagues, and employees the wisdom you have learned. We hope the new helps you discover new knowledge in new areas, which will, in turn, help you build a better community, country, or world -- a goal we share with you.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Inside Obama's Nobel Bounce

Here at Gallup, we're always watching to see if and how big news events move President Obama's approval rating. A lot of times, when we expect to see movement one way or the other, we don't. But the movement in his numbers over the past few days definitely suggests a Nobel Bounce.

Throughout September, his approval rating remained steady in the low 50s -- even during the tensest days of the healthcare reform talks and his own media blitz aimed at shoring up support. Then came Friday's announcement of his surprise Nobel win. Saturday's number edged up to 54%, Sunday hit 56%, and today, another 56%.

Now keep in mind, we report three-day rolling averages, so each number that you see in our Daily tracking is the average of three days of interviewing and more than 1,500 interviews total. So, it takes relatively stronger individual days to move the overall average approval rating higher and relatively weaker individual days to move the overall average approval rating lower.

Thus, the fact that today's number is steady compared to yesterday, suggests the immediate benefits of the win may already be waning. Our Jeff Jones writes: ". . . after Obama's approval ratings increased in Friday and Saturday interviewing, Obama's support in Sunday's polling was slightly lower. In fact, odds are the bump will not last, since the improvement in his rating from his term-low 50% early last week has come exclusively among independents and Republicans, who are less likely to stay loyal to the president."

Indeed, the uptick among independents and Republicans is pretty intriguing amid all of the chatter since the Peace Prize win.

Independents and Republicans are also higher in our weekly averages by demographic group, just out today based on Monday through Sunday interviewing. These numbers take into account both pre- and post-Prize interviewing, so it will be interesting to see how they compare to next week's. And, of course, we know anything can happen between now and then.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Public Opinion Context on Obama's Surprise Prize in The Queue Today 10.09.09

We've been digging through our Gallup Poll data since the news this morning of President Barack Obama's Nobel Peace Prize win, looking for any data that might put some context behind the decision.

Of relevance for certain are our international polls, measuring approval of U.S. leadership pre- and post-Obama.

Our story this afternoon by Frank Newport includes this data, plus Obama's most recent job approval rating on foreign affairs, and Americans' views on whether world leaders respect Obama.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

New Uninsured Numbers In The Queue Today 10.07.09

In our story today, we report an uptick in the percentage of Americans without health insurance to 16.6.% in September of this year, compared to 13.9% in September of 2008.

Only Gallup can so precisely and consistently measure the percentage of American adults who say they do not have health insurance. We do so by asking 1,000 American adults if they have health insurance every single night as part of our Gallup Daily tracking. President Obama referenced our data last month as being even more up-to-date than the U.S. Census data, which it is.

In a debate as contentious and complicated as this one, it is important to step back from emotions and assumptions and consider the empirical facts. In our story, Elizabeth Mendes and Frank Newport report that, "While there has been some fluctuation in the estimated percentage of uninsured in 2009, the ranks of the uninsured have clearly remained higher compared to last year." Thus, while there continues to be a difference of opinions on how best to bring this number down, and at what cost, the data document a real and escalating problem that cannot be ignored.

When asked in our most recent non-daily survey if they would advise their member of Congress to vote for or against a healthcare bill this year, 25% said they did not have an opinion, and even when pressed, 8% continued to say so. This, to me, suggests a need for more information. Our data details evidence on the problem side of the equation, and we're committed to continuing to provide that. What may be needed is more evidence on the solution side, so that solutions are crafted based on real, rather than political, truths.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Need For Research-Based Solutions Clear From "First Draft of History" Forum

Over the past two days I had the opportunity to attend the "First Draft of History" Forum, sponsored by the Atlantic and The Aspen Institute, at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. -- making me a somewhat-absent landlord to this new blog, but for good reason.

In back-to-back-to-back interviews, some of the biggest names in politics and policy -- McCain, Napolitano, Petraeus, Geithner, Axelrod, Greenspan, Summers, and more -- took questions from some of the nation's most prominent journalists about how they are tackling challenges in governance, economics, healthcare, education, and more.

There were many learnings, and I'm sure each participant took away their own insights, but a recurring theme for me was the clear need for research-based solutions to tackle these impossibly difficult problems. In some cases, Gallup is already collecting data that can help inform solutions. In other cases, it is clear that more research is still required.

Let me give you some examples:

On economics: Discussing the recession -- and determining the end thereof -- David Rubenstein of the Carlyle Group said that the definition provided to us to by the National Bureau for Economic Research (NBER) is outdated, because regardless of whether there is GDP growth in the coming quarters, there will still be high unemployment. Which begs the question -- what is the best measure of a society's economic well-being? At Gallup, we track consumer confidence, job creation, and consumer spending daily, because we think each of these is a critical piece of knowing whether the American workforce is out of its recession, as well as the economy at the macro level. Lawrence Summers, Director of the National Economic Council, confirmed the importance of factoring in such metrics, saying that job creation and real employment growth follow output growth and that we are still several months away from that. Additionally, Rubenstein added that a key measure of U.S. economic strength -- particularly in relation to China -- is whether people abroad still want to buy U.S. dollars. Such sentiments are no doubt best-measured by gathering behavioral economic measures at the ground level, as Gallup does in its global surveys.

On education: Discussing the problems of public education, Colorado senator and former Denver public schools superintendent Michael Bennet and New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein articulated a need to first understand the depth of the problem and craft policies based on that understanding. In particular, they discussed a need for tools to distinguish the quality of teachers in the workforce; to identify those "not performing" and "performing" from the "star performers." This is exactly the kind of measurement that Gallup is currently doing with its Student Poll, determining which students are "actively disengaged," "not engaged," and "engaged." Taken together, measures of both student and teacher engagement could provide the tools to do what Newark Mayor Cory Booker said is required -- to illuminate what overachieving schools are doing well and to use that intelligence to create evidence-based models for others to follow.

On health and healthcare: Speaking about America's healthcare problem, Delos Cosgrove of the Cleveland Clinic and Pete Peterson of the Blackstone Group discussed the need to decrease three things in particular: smoking, obesity, and inactivity, saying these create the chronic diseases responsible for 70% of healthcare costs. Gallup is tracking Americans' progress -- or lack thereof -- daily with its Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. By measuring precisely Americans' exercise, eating, and activity habits, we provide policy-makers with the evidence they need to craft solutions to move the needle on these measures in a positive direction.

On governance: On the polarization of the parties, President Obama's Chief Strategist David Axelrod said that in the current climate, "loud voices get a lot of attention because it's good television," which we all know is true. That's why, at Gallup, we are constantly collecting empirical evidence about what Americans as a whole -- rather than those on the fringes -- think about legislation and proposed solutions on the table. Discussing the healthcare town hall meetings, Axelrod contrasted the footage of a few rowdy meetings to the many that were calm and the lack of any movement in Americans' views on healthcare during that time. Again, our data provide the reality check to ensure that solutions are tailored to real -- rather than perceived -- problems.

To underscore the extent to which the need for data was a recurring theme, even the Google CEO Eric Schmidt said that real-time information and measurement, encouraged by technology, should be a key part of how government works.

As a final note, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, while turning over the stage to Brian Williams and Gen. David Petraeus, told a story about how one day he ran into Gen. Petraeus on a sidewalk soon after he joined AOL, and the General asked him "What's your big idea?" Armstrong admitted he was still working on it, but the concept of making sure one had a big idea stuck with him and continues to guide him now. Our big idea at Gallup is to collect the research and evidence to solve the world's toughest problems. After two days of listening to some of the smartest people in the country discuss the innumerable problems that face us, it is ever more clear that measurement, data, and evidence are critical components of the problem-solving equation.

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