More Americans have a positive outlook on their own lives than on their fellow Americans'

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
January 16, 2024, 2:26 PM GMT+0

Ask Americans about life's challenges, and you'll find a common theme: They are, on average, a lot more positive about the state of their own lives than about the lives of everyone else in the country. In a recent experiment, YouGov asked Americans to rate 14 aspects of life on a scale from terrible to excellent. Respondents were divided into three randomly selected groups of equal size. Depending on the group, they were asked either about their own life, the lives of people in their local community, or the lives of people in the country at large.

At least half of Americans rate many aspects of their own life — including their healthcare, educational opportunities, social relationships, and employment situation — as either good or excellent. Positive ratings are somewhat less likely to be given by Americans evaluating people in their local area, and far less likely among those evaluating people in the U.S. as a whole.

The largest gap in ratings of one's self compared to ratings of Americans overall is on mental health: People are 42 percentage points more likely to say their own mental health is excellent or good than they are to say so about people in the country as a whole. Gaps of 20 points or more are also found for positive ratings of one's own versus the country's personal safety (+31), physical health (+28), access to healthcare (+27), housing affordability (+25), and social relationships (+24).

Differences are much smaller for evaluations of one's own and the country's recreational opportunities (+1), access to public transportation (+8), and romantic life (+9).

Gaps are smaller but in the same direction for evaluations of the lives of people who live nearby: Americans generally are more likely to positively evaluate their own lives than the lives of the people in their area.


— Carl Bialik contributed to this article

See the results for this YouGov poll

Methodology: The poll was conducted among 2,000 U.S. adult citizens on two separate surveys from December 6 - 13, 2023 and December 8 - 13, 2023, with each survey taken by 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to November 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 31% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 3%.

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