Americans 'Very Satisfied' with Personal Lives Unless They're Young or Not White

New Gallup polling finds that six in seven Americans are satisfied with their personal lives, but there are sharp divisions in life satisfaction between the young and old and white and nonwhite.

The new data find that fully 86 percent of Americans answered "somewhat satisfied" or "very satisfied" when asked, "In general, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going in your personal life at this time?"

The poll, which Gallup has conducted since 1979, shows that life satisfaction has dropped as low as 73 percent and as high as 88 percent, often tracking with economic downturns. Life satisfaction has ranged between 85 and 87 percent since 2015—a recovery from a downward dip into the 70s in the years after the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent bailout of investment banks. The latter had invested in the collapsing subprime mortgage market, which cost more than a million families their homes.

86% of Americans say they are satisfied with the way things are going in their personal lives.

— GallupNews (@GallupNews) February 5, 2019

But while Americans report high life satisfaction in aggregate, a more granular look at the Gallup poll reveals yawning divides between Americans based on age, race and even political affiliation.

The largest drop was found in young adults describing themselves as "very satisfied." (The poll also offered "somewhat satisfied," "somewhat dissatisfied" and "very dissatisfied.") While majorities in every other age category described themselves as "very satisfied," only 40 percent of respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 agreed, a 10 percent drop since 2017. Yes, millennials are killing satisfaction. Or, their satisfaction is being killed.

Seniors had the highest life satisfaction by category, with 68 percent of respondents over 65 saying they were "very satisfied" with their personal lives.

Gallup found a similar gap in "very satisfied" responses when comparing white and nonwhite respondents. Only 47 percent of nonwhite respondents were "very satisfied," compared with 61 percent of white respondents—the largest divide in over a decade.

Since millennials and people of color also overwhelmingly identify with the Democratic Party over the Republicans, the generational and racial life-satisfaction numbers relate to another Gallup finding: 70 percent of Republicans described themselves as "very satisfied" while only 50 percent of Democrats agreed—a gap of 20 percentage points and the largest partisan split since 2008.

Some of the divides between generations and between racial minorities and whites "may be a function of political party identification," Gallup says, though there could be many other factors at play.

The latest findings regarding American life satisfaction come from a random sampling of 1,017 adults, who answered questions by telephone between January 2 and January 10.