People Are About As Happy Today As They’ve Ever Been

Here are a couple of additional charts from the recently released GSS 2018 data. They relate to a longtime hobbyhorse of mine:

This is another and more up-to-date take on how angry people are, which is often cited as the reason Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016. But are people really angrier than they used to be? Overall financial satisfaction has been rising steadily since 2010, just as you’d expect during an economic expansion. By the end of 2016, financial satisfaction was basically at the same level as it had been since 1990.

As for job satisfaction, it’s been dead flat for well over a decade. There’s just no movement there at all.

Now, people might not always tell pollsters the bare truth. And political campaigns can sometimes unmask emotions that are held in check most of the time. Still, as best we can tell from a broad read of the data, people aren’t any angrier than they have been in the past, nor are they less satisfied with their economic situation. There are plenty of people who will gripe to reporters who parachute in to do a “sense of the nation” piece, but there are always people who will gripe to reporters if they get the chance. The question is whether they’re griping more than usual, and the GSS data suggests they aren’t now and weren’t in 2016.

And now, a chart I’m posting just because it amuses me:

With the exception of a couple of years around 2000, everyone is actually pretty close on this question. Until now, that is. With Donald Trump in office, Republicans are giddy about their standard of living going up, while Democrats are certain they’re headed to the poorhouse. By this metric, there’s not much question that Trump is the most polarizing president of the past three decades.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend