Americans say their standard of living is best in decade

WASHINGTON, D.C.
September 12, 2017 9:01pm
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•  Republicans' rising expectations driving this year's index improvement

•  Gallup's index stands at +54 for the year


Americans' ratings of their standard of living are on pace to be the best in the ten years Gallup Inc. has been tracking it.

Gallup's index average for the year now stands at +54 -- four points above last year's record-high +50.

On a monthly basis, Americans' perceptions of their standard of living have been particularly strong in the past two months, with the index averaging +56 in July and +55 in August. In the first half of the year, monthly readings varied between +51 and +54.

The index was created in 2008 during the 2007-2009 Great Recession, helping explain why it has followed a generally upward path in the years since, as the U.S. economy gradually has recovered.

The index is a composite of answers to two questions: how satisfied Americans are with their current standard of living and whether they think their standard of living is getting better or getting worse -- with "staying the same" a volunteered option.

This year's rise in the overall index is driven by an increase in Americans' outlook for their standard of living, Gallup says. The percentage of Americans saying their standard of living is getting better has risen from 62 percent in 2016 to 64 percent so far this year, with a corresponding drop in the percentage saying it is getting worse, from 22 percent to 19 percent. The strongly positive expectations Americans now have for their standard of living is a far cry from the situation in 2008, when as many thought their situation was getting worse as thought it was improving.

Satisfaction With Current Standard of Living Holds Steady

Americans' level of satisfaction with their current standard of living has been more stable than the measure of whether it is getting better or getting worse, Gallup says. At present, 80 percent say they are satisfied, the same percentage as in 2016. U.S. adults have been overwhelmingly positive in assessing their satisfaction with their own standard of living throughout the history of the question. Even in the tough economic times of 2008 and 2009, almost three-fourths of Americans were satisfied.

Republicans, Those 50 and Older Most Likely to See Improvement

With the January changeover from Barack Obama's Democratic administration to Donald Trump's Republican presidency, 68 percent of Republicans (including independents who lean Republican) in 2017 say their standard of living is getting better, up from 56 percent last year. Among Democrats, 62 percent to date in 2017 say it is getting better, down slightly from 68 percent last year.

So far this year, most of the improvement in views of living standards can be attributed to a changing political landscape that has seen expectations improve among Republicans more than they have declined among Democrats, says Gallup.

“Now that those changes have been absorbed into the overall expectations, the months and years ahead will show how much politics will continue to affect expectations and how much the nation's economic performance will,” it says.

Survey methods

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 2, 2008, to Aug. 31, 2017, as part of the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with a random sample of adults aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The national sample size averaged 350,000 in 2008-2010, approximately 175,000 in 2011-2013, approximately 32,000 in 2014-2016 and 21,662 in the first eight months of 2017. In each year since 2013, Gallup has interviewed about 25,000 whites, 3,000 blacks and 3,000 Hispanics. The margin of sampling error for all subgroups is no more than ±3 percentage points. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults included a minimum quota of 70 percent cellphone respondents and 30 percent landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.


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