The Hilarious Reason Why American Well-Being Is Higher Than It Was Three Years Ago


Things look pretty good according to Gallup’s well-being poll. Although our lives haven’t improved in the past two years, Americans are still doing better than they were before the financial crisis.

Until you look closely at the metho


dology and realise that the poll is broken.

How else to explain the surge in well-being on April 6, 2009? Princeton’s Angus S. Deaton writes:

[T]he main events of the day—the earthquake in L’Aquila in Italy, Robert Gates unveiling of the US defence budget, or even the winning of a country music award by American Idol winner Carrie Underwood—are surely insufficient to explain an increase in well-being that is the single largest change over this otherwise very eventful period.

It turns out this surge in well-being, as well as other big swings, is explained by the order in which questions were asked.

When questions about politics were put before well-being — beginning of 2008 — the average rating declined significantly.

When political questions were dropped from some surveys — beginning of 2009 — the average jumped.

When a transition was added between political and personal questions — 4/6/09 — the average soared. And when one of the political questions was removed — late-2009 — the average moved even higher.

If the poll were consistent, we assume people would be less happier than they were.

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