Wednesday, July 27, 2005

We must be doing something right. Maybe there’s something in the water. Perhaps Sunday school is paying off.

A new poll has found that Americans are the happiest people on the planet.

“With a few exceptions, Americans are generally happier with their lives and more optimistic about their future than most Europeans,” a Harris poll states.

The group plumbed the feelings of 1,000 persons from July 17 to July 21 to reveal that things are pretty good on these shores, despite bleak press reports about the direction of the country and persistent partisan criticism of the Bush administration.

The poll found that 58 percent are “very satisfied with their lives,” compared with a 15-country European average of 31 percent. In polls taken two years ago, those figures were 57 percent and 26 percent, respectively.

An additional 56 percent of Americans think their lives have improved since 2000, compared with a 45 percent average among the Europeans. Two years ago, 49 percent of Americans felt that their lives had improved, compared with 39 percent of Europeans.

But Yankee optimism reigns supreme. The survey found that 65 percent of Americans expect their personal situation to improve in the next five years, compared with 44 percent of Europeans.

The American number is up by two points from two years ago, when 63 percent said they were optimistic; the Europeans are up three points from 41 percent.

In order to make the comparisons, the Harris poll used the same questions posed to Europeans in the massive Eurobarometer survey released at the end of 2004, which surveyed 1,000 persons in member countries of the European Union.

A few individual countries outranked Americans on portions of the happy meter, Harris found. But not by much.

The only country that tops the United States in terms of overall satisfaction is Denmark, where 64 percent said they were “very satisfied” with their lives — six points higher than their American counterparts.

Next in line was Luxembourg at 51 percent, the Netherlands and Sweden (tied at 44 percent), Ireland (39 percent) and Britain (33 percent). At the bottom of the heap were Germany (21 percent), France (18 percent), Italy (16 percent), Greece (14 percent) and Portugal (3 percent).

Three other countries’ residents have stronger feelings than Americans that life has improved in the past five years.

While 56 percent of Americans say things are better than in 2000, the number stands at 57 percent in Britain, 60 percent in Sweden and 63 percent in Ireland.

Still, Americans lead in their optimism parade, with two-thirds — 65 percent — expecting life to get better by 2010.

The number was 58 percent in Ireland, 56 percent in Spain, 55 percent in Britain, 51 percent in Sweden and 47 percent in France. At rock bottom was Germany: Only 23 percent expected some improvement — while 26 percent think things actually are going to get worse.

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