Is America Happy

April 2, 2021
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Is America Happy?

A snapshot on how Americans feel in 2020.

What To Know:

  • The New Research: Survey facilitated by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago & focused on how Americans feel during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The analysis pulls from previous research, asking similar questions, collected over the past five decades.
  • Nearly 2,300 American adults, representing every state & D.C., answered questions, mostly online.

Historical Context

The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t necessarily made us more sad (historically speaking) but perhaps more hot under the collar.

“…fewer Americans report crying or feeling dazed than after either the Kennedy assassination in 1963 or the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, but more report having lost their temper or feeling bored during the pandemic.”


  • The survey asks: are you very happy? pretty happy? or not too happy? 
  • Over the past 50 years, the majority of Americans have never described themselves as “very happy” but the response has consistently hovered around 30%.
  • The number of Americans *now* reporting as “very happy” dropped to a historic low of 14% – the lowest since the survey began in 1972.

Money Doesn’t Buy You Happiness (Or Optimism)

“More Americans than in previous decades are unhappy and pessimistic about the future, and at the same time, more are relatively satisfied financially.”


In 2018, nearly 6 out of 10 Americans believed their children would exceed their current standard of living.

Today, about 4 in 10 Americans feel their children will exceed their current standard of living.

That’s the lowest percentage since the question was first added to the survey in 1994.

This survey concluded days before the death of George Floyd in police custody. Consequently, the answers do not include any reflection of the last several weeks of civil unrest in America. How do you think that impacts the results?


Poll: Americans are the unhappiest they’ve been in 50 years CLICK HERE

by Jenna Lee,