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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Why Wealth Just Isn't Enough

On the heels of our report on global wellbeing, David Brooks of The New York Times this week showcases exactly why we and so many others are paying less attention to wealth and more attention to overall wellbeing.

He shrewdly lures you in by starting with Sandra Bullock -- contrasting her good fortune in her career with the misfortune in her marriage -- but ends with an assessment that applies to citizens, cities, and countries:

"Most people vastly overestimate the extent to which more money would improve our lives. Most schools and colleges spend too much time preparing students for careers and not enough preparing them to make social decisions. Most governments release a ton of data on economic trends but not enough on trust and other social conditions. In short, modern societies have developed vast institutions oriented around the things that are easy to count, not around the things that matter most. They have an affinity for material concerns and a primordial fear of moral and social ones."
Analyzing our data in The Atlantic, Richard Florida adds this analysis:
"There is something in the nature of post-industrial economies and in their values that appears to affect the happiness of their people over and above the effects of income. Perhaps it is that people with higher levels of education have more flexibility or choice in pursuing their dreams, building families and social relationships that are more fulfilling, or simply in their ability to adjust to misfortune or bad times. Perhaps it is that knowledge-based jobs are more challenging and fulfilling."
Both writers underscore exactly why Gallup is collecting behavioral economic data around the globe -- to analyze and track everything people and societies need to thrive. Our upcoming book "Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements" reveals our best findings in this arena, documenting the extent to which career, social, financial, physical, and community elements affect our overall wellbeing. Consistent with this framework, our global surveys have documented what societies must provide to foster these five elements, which, in turn, promote community attachment, brain gain, and quality GDP growth. In every case it's clear -- whether it is a person or a population -- that wealth just isn't enough.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Value of Tracking Wellbeing Worldwide

Gallup global wellbeing findings released this week demonstrate the incredible gulf between world nations in terms of how their citizens rate their lives. Worldwide, a median of 21% of citizens are thriving, 64% are struggling, and 10% are suffering. The bulk of those who are thriving are in the Americans. Few are in Africa or Asia.

These findings may or may not surprise you. We are all well aware of the gulf that exists between developed and developing nations. However, these data, and other behavioral economic data Gallup collects worldwide, measure the health of nations not in terms of output or infrastructure, but in terms of the state of mind of their people.

The positive momentum that we are able to measure among those who are thriving is exactly the type of momentum that translates into progress. A nation whose people are not hopeful for the future are no doubt less likely to help advance that society forward. Alternately, those who are hopeful and thriving are more likely to be engaged and invested in their community, spurring growth and innovation.

The results were presented as part of event at Gallup during which former Presidents Vicente Fox of Mexico, Alejandro Toledo of Peru, and Jose MarĂ­a Aznar of Spain discussed how leaders are using these metrics such as these to better measure and promote economic development.

At the event, Fox said such measures reveal "the human side of development." Referring the larger database of behavioral economic measures Gallup tracks, Fox also told Gallup "These new wellbeing metrics and concepts change the whole picture. It's a great tool for government and a great tool for decision makers because now we know the real aspirations of people; what they consider being well. And by knowing that, governments can shape budgets to provide people with what they really need."

To learn more about Gallup's global wellbeing surveys, please contact or call 202.715.3030. To receive Gallup news on global wellbeing, sign up for our wellbeing and world e-mail alerts and RSS feeds.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tracking Healthcare's "Winners" & "Losers"

Gallup finds that 49% of Americans say it's a good thing that healthcare reform is now law. Independents are evenly split and 11% of all Americans still give no opinion.

In a political world where getting over that 50% line is everything, proponents and opponents are already engaged in the tug of war to pull those numbers in their direction.

Since the House passed the bill Sunday, many have written about the political winners and losers of the ultimate outcome of this seemingly-endless political battle. For the most part, these assessments seem about right, based on the political machinations of Washington and the realities of what's in the bill. But knowing the tug of war for the majority will continue, here's where to track some of supposed winners and losers to see the strength and stability of their gains and losses.

President Obama: We track President Obama's approval rating daily and also report weekly aggregates by demographic group. Obama saw more disapprove than approve of his job performance for the first time last week, before the healthcare bill passed. His daily ratings have since buoyed and the daily average we report Thursday will be the first set collected entirely after the House vote. By next week, we'll have a good sense for whether he got any significant short-term bounce from the healthcare bill's passage and, of course, we're watching his approval rating for the long-term.

Democrats and Republicans in Congress: The impact of their healthcare vote on the November elections looms large for every member of the House and Senate running for re-election this year. We're tracking Americans 2010 election preferences daily and reporting weekly results on our politics page. It's been a very tight race up until now, with Democrats holding a vulnerable edge. These numbers over the next few weeks will provide a good indication of how a vote in Washington translates to votes at home.

Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner: We'll soon be updating our favorable ratings for the major players in the healthcare debate. Pelosi in particular, credited for steely resolve to get the job done, is perceived to be a big winner. Last summer, at the start of the healthcare battle, Pelosi faced a high unfavorable rating and House Minority Leader John Boehner was largely unknown. We'll see how Pelosi's success and Boehner's fiesty opposition moves these numbers.

Labor unions: They fought for healthcare reform and got it, at a time when a record-low 48% of Americans told us they approve of labor unions. Always major political players in their own right, we'll see how Americans see labor unions after their involvement in this high-stakes effort.

The healthcare and pharmaceutical industries: Fewer than 4 in 10 Americans in 2009 told us they had a positive image of either the healthcare industry or the pharmaceutical industry. We'll update these numbers this summer for any sign of an image boost.

Healthcare practitioners: Nurses, pharmacists, and doctors did best in our 2009 survey examining the perceived honesty and ethics of professions. Members of Congress did the worst on this same measure, so we'll see if the gulf between them widens or narrows.

The uninsured: We'll keep tracking the percentage of American adults who tell us they don't have health insurance, as we have since our wellbeing tracking began in 2008. What's more, since we track the wellbeing of all Americans daily, we'll be able to measure if the general population sees a boost in things like physical health, emotional health, and basic access as the key healthcare reform provisions begin to take effect.

You: Finally, are you a winner or a loser in this new healthcare world? Whether you are young or old, employed or underemployed, high-income or low-income, insured or uninsured, healthy or sick, our Gallup measures track the politics, economics, and wellbeing of Americans in the same boat as you. We're constantly looking at our data to uncover which groups are gaining and losing across the many dimensions we track. If you have something you'd like us to investigate and report on, please e-mail us at or post a comment here.

For all Gallup news on healthcare, sign up for our healthcare e-mail alerts and RSS feeds.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Bookmark Me! New Features on

We've recently launched a few new features on and want to make sure you know where to find them.

1) Our new Presidential Job Approval Center includes all of our most up-to-date data on President Barack Obama's job approval rating -- daily, weekly, and since he took office. You can sort his approval rating by demographic group and download complete weekly trends. You can also compare Obama to past presidents dating back to Truman.

2) We've also recently launched weekly 2010 Election tracking on our politics page. We're now asking Americans every day about their preferences for Congress in the 2010 midterm elections and reporting new weekly results every Monday afternoon. You can click on any measure to view and export the complete trend.

3) Daily employment tracking is also a new feature on We're asking Americans every day about their work status and reporting a daily underemployment rate based on what Americans tell us. Rather than wait for the government's monthly report on employment and underemployment, we track this every day of the month. We report weekly averages on these measure each Monday afternoon on our business page, along with the other economic measures we also track daily.

4) Finally, we're very excited to announce the launch of our new Gallup iPhone application. It's a great way to get Gallup Daily data updates and stories on the go.

We're always adding new features to If you have any feedback or there is anything you would like to see from us, please e-mail us at or post a comment here. We, of course, thank you for your readership.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Will the Underemployed Hold Out Hope?

It will be interesting to see how our measure of "hope for finding a new job" moves after Tuesday's statement from the Obama economic team.

Testifying before the House Appropriations Committee, Obama's top economic advisers lowered expectations for any significant decline in the nation's unemployment rate this year.

While they expect to see job gains "sometime this Spring," they say it won't be enough to push the unemployment rate much lower than where it currently stands until 2011.

So, what does such a forecast mean for the 19.8% of the workforce who are looking for work? Six in 10 of these underemployed Americans already tell us they are not hopeful about finding a job within the next four weeks. It is possible such a gloomy near-term forecast might reduce hope even further.

Our data show that a lack of hope has economic implications, just as lack of a job does. Despite having the exact same employment status, underemployed Americans who are hopeful about finding a new job soon are more likely to be satisfied with their standard of living and to say they are feeling better about their financial situation. They are less likely to report worrying about money yesterday and more likely to say they would be able to make a major purchase "right now" if necessary. These attitudes no doubt affect spending decisions every day, not to mention individual wellbeing.

But Team Obama also makes a case for holding out hope. In his testimony, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner urged lawmakers to support the administration's latest efforts to spur job creation, which the statement says "would improve the outlook for output and employment if implemented."

For now, workers aren't reporting significantly more hiring than at this time last year, though these same Gallup data do suggest the pace of job loss is slowing. Later this week, we'll report how underemployment is looking in the first half of March and once all of our March data are in, we'll see what impact, if any, Tuesday's forecast has on the level of hope among the underemployed.

To make sure you are always up-to-date on Gallup news on underemployment, sign up for our underemployment e-mail alerts or RSS feed.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Abortion Views in America: A Lot Has Changed Since 1975

Guest blog from Associate Editor Elizabeth Mendes.

Gallup first asked Americans about their views on abortion in 1975, two years after Roe vs. Wade. The question: Do you think abortions should be legal under any circumstances, legal only under certain circumstance, or illegal in all circumstances? The results: fascinating.

Gallup’s Lydia Saad is out this week with the first two articles in a riveting, in-depth, multi-part series that looks at the long-term changes in Americans’ abortion views.

In part one, Saad reveals that Republicans’ and Democrats’ views on abortion have become increasingly polarized over the years. In 1975, 19% of Democrats and 18% of Republicans said they thought abortion should be “legal under any circumstance.” In 2009, 31% of Democrats and 12% of Republicans say the same.

Part two uncovers an increasing convergence in generational support for broadly legalizing abortion. In 1975, younger adults (aged 18 to 49) and middle-aged adults (aged 50 to 64) differed on their views regarding making abortion legal in all cases. About one in four 18- to 29-year-olds and 30- to 49-year-olds favored abortion being “legal under any circumstances,” while 19% of 50- to 64-year-olds said the same. In 2009, about one in four in each of the three age groups held this view.

Saad breaks down the data further in her articles, reviewing changes in the percent who say abortion should be “illegal under any circumstances,” tracking the trend within each age group by performing a “cohort” analysis, and looking at where Americans overall stand on the issue as of 2009.

The series will cover abortion views by gender, education, region, and race in the weeks ahead. To get the latest in this series and other future updates on the issue of abortion, sign up for abortion e-mail alerts or RSS feeds.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Feed Your 2010 Election Habit

Guest blog from Associate Editor Elizabeth Mendes.

Like MSNBC’s Chuck Todd, we here at Gallup also “wish every day was Election Day.” While we can’t fulfill that exact wish, we can keep a close read on how Americans plan to vote in the upcoming 2010 elections.

Starting today and continuing until the fall midterm elections, Gallup will track registered voters’ party preferences for Congress and their enthusiasm about voting on a weekly basis. Results will be published on our politics page every Tuesday.

Gallup Editor in Chief Frank Newport’s just-released analysis reveals the results of Gallup’s inaugural weekly tracking update on the 2010 elections. As it stands today, Democrats have a slight edge over Republicans among registered voters. Republicans, however, have a clear enthusiasm advantage.

For more of Frank’s insights on Election 2010, you can read his full article here.

To stay up to date and ahead of the curve, sign up for Election 2010 e-mail alerts or RSS feeds.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Getting a Fix on a Surprising Flu Season

Flu season generally peaks in February. Not this year. Not the flu season that the H1N1 pandemic siren sounded. The only talk of the flu that rattles ears now is about its amazing disappearing act.

Reporting on "The Flu Season That Fizzled," The Wall Street Journal cites Centers for Disease Control data showing a sharp decline in flu-related doctors' visits since October, when flu season typically begins. Since then, not only is this CDC measure of U.S. flu activity down -- its pattern is downright distinct from that of previous years.

We at Gallup track the flu daily using a different measure. It's a behavioral measure, based not on what percentage of people actually are both sick and proactive enough to go to a doctor -- which is, arguably, a very high bar -- but on the percentage of adults who simply tell us they were sick with the flu "yesterday."

It was in November that we began to see something unexpected. Rather than ticking upward as one would expect for that time of year -- the percentage of Americans telling us they had the flu went down. So much so that we reported fewer self-reported flu cases than in the November prior. That's been the case for every month since then -- with this year's flu season remaining milder than last year's, and to its largest degree yet in February.

So, now flu experts are itching to figure out why these trends look the way they do. The World Health Organization says it isn't ready to conclude the worst of H1N1 is behind us, and doctors aren't ruling out a second go-round of seasonal flu.

What's clear is that this year's flu season is anything but typical. We'll keep tracking what Americans tell us and reporting what we find -- because the only unanimous verdict out there is that there's no telling what might happen next.

To stay up to date on Gallup's wellbeing news, including flu, sign up for our wellbeing e-mail alerts or RSS feeds.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Targeting Efforts to Reduce Obesity

With obesity in the news so much these days -- in part because of first lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign and in part because of the relationship between obesity and health problems that cost all of us money -- we're thrilled to have data that might help policy-makers pinpoint their efforts to tackle the problem.

Our Elizabeth Mendes reveals in part one of a two-part series that in each of the top 10 most obese cities in the U.S., at least one-third of residents are obese based on Body Mass Index (BMI) rates calculated from their self-reported height and weight.

Looking at these data alongside other measures we track reveals some traits these cities have in common.

For the most part, their residents are less likely than Americans on average to report eating healthy, eating fruits and vegetables frequently, and exercising frequently. They also tend to be more likely than Americans on average to report smoking.

The nation's most obese metro areas also tend to report less easy access to fruits and vegetables and a safe place to exercise than the nation overall. They are also more likely to say there were times in the past year when they did not have enough money to buy food for themselves or their families.

The challenge is certainly big and complex. Oversimplified, the first list details some behaviors individuals can begin to change. The second covers realities that policy-makers and community leaders might have a hand in fixing.

In part two of this series, Mendes will reveal the 10 least obese metro areas in the nation to help uncover what they are doing right, as well as the complete city list.

At the national level, it's clear that obese Americans, wherever they live, are less likely to exercise, to eat fruits and vegetables regularly, and to report eating healthy. They are also more likely to have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart attacks, and depression.

Over the next few weeks and months, we will also look at obesity by state. Only by understanding which areas are doing best and worst, and what differentiates them in terms of behaviors and access, can policy-makers effectively target their efforts at change. Doing so is critical to helping solve a problem currently taking both a significant physical and financial toll.

To stay up to date on Gallup's wellbeing news, including obesity, sign up for our wellbeing e-mail alerts or RSS feeds.

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