Now four days out from President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address, the president can correctly and positively state that Americans satisfaction with the way things are going in the United States (based on new January data) is higher now than it was last January. Everything is relative, of course, and even with the improvement, Americans’ satisfaction is still pretty lousy.
Good news on the personal front. Regardless of the problems swirling around us, 85 percent of Americans say they are satisfied with the way things are going in their personal lives. That’s not only up from recent years, but close to the all-time high.
Getting more specific, Gallup’s annual January analysis of satisfaction levels across dimensions of life in the U.S. shows two clear trends compared to last January:
Americans’ satisfaction with the economy and the quality of life in the U.S. are both up significantly.
On the other hand, there have been clear and large drops compared to last January in satisfaction with race relations and the nation’s security from terrorism.
On an absolute basis, we are least satisfied with:
The nation’s efforts to deal with poverty.
The way income and wealth are distributed.
Government surveillance of our lives.
The nation’s moral and ethical climate.
Obama will be making his speech at the Capitol in the House of Representatives, but the members of Congress spread out before him will not be enjoying the same uptick in approval that Obama has seen. Congress approval is flat this month at a dismal 16 percent. By contrast, Obama has been averaging 46 percent approval.
In fact, the average favorable rating given to both major political parties has been going down, and now in the last year or two has dropped to as low as we have seen it in history. In other words, Americans are not positive about either party.
On a different front, new Gallup well-being research documents the level of association between heart attacks and depression. It is not clear how much being depressed leads to heart attacks, or how much having a heart attack leads to depression. The key is to avoid both, of course.
One way to avoid depression is to take vacations. New research shows that taking vacations regularly is clearly associated with higher well-being.