We regret missed opportunities, not what we've done

January 14, 2016, 3:58 PM GMT+0

Older Americans are more likely than younger people to regret what they did not do rather than what they did do

As Obama gave his final State of the Union address and looked back on his time in office, he admitted that his failure to decrease the vitriol that characterizes American politics is the biggest regret of his time in the Oval Office. Rather than any single specific decision, it was rather his failure to do something which he considers his greatest misgiving as he enters his final year in office. Obama, aged 54, may not be alone in regretting more what he did not do rather than what he has done.

YouGov's latest research shows that the oldest Americans regret the things that they did not do earlier in their life (56%) rather than things that they did do (34%). For the youngest Americans the difference is almost non-existent, as 43% of under-30s (and 41% of 30-44 year olds) say that they regret what they did do, and only 44% and 40% respectively regret what they have not done.

Part of the reason for this difference may be because older Americans are noticeably better at dealing with the legacy of the past. 42% of under-30s say that they tend to dwell on the past, something only 28% of over-65s and 31% of people aged 45 to 64 also say. People with the highest incomes (over $100,000) are also the least likely to say that they tend to dwell on the past, as only 25% of the richest Americans say that they don't put the past behind them easily.

Full poll results can be found here and topline results and margin of error here.