American dissatisfaction with nation’s outlook near record highs

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Americans in 2011 were more dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country than they’ve been in the past 30 years — with one exception.

That was 2008, during the recession, when just 15% of people polled by Gallup said they were happy with national conditions. This year, 17% of respondents on average were pleased with what they saw on the national landscape.

Most blamed high unemployment, the federal budget deficit, rising poverty or some other economic issue as the root of their malaise. Others pointed to evidence of moral decline, health-care woes and a government that they claim is not up to snuff.

Throughout the year, satisfaction ranged from a high of 26% in May after the U.S. military killed Osama bin Laden to lows of 11% in August and September after Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S. debt rating.


The single lowest percentage ever of happy Americans came in October 2008, when the pressures of the financial downturn kept all but 7% of people polled from feeling satisfied. Since Gallup first started asking about the issue in 1979, satisfaction levels have been as high as 60%.

Though a key measure of consumer confidence from Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan saw an uptick in December for the fourth straight month, data also continued to show historically low numbers of people expecting good economic times ahead.


Key consumer confidence index up for fourth straight month

Economic growth revised down but jobless claims hit 44-month low

— Tiffany Hsu