March 12, 2015

How do Americans stand out from the rest of the world?

Alexis de Tocqueville
Alexis de Tocqueville (Theodore Chasseriau/Wikimedia Commons)

The differences between America and other nations have long been a subject of fascination and study for social scientists, dating back to Alexis de Tocqueville, the early 19th century French political thinker who described the United States as “exceptional.”

Nearly 200 years later, Americans’ emphasis on individualism and work ethic stands out in surveys of people around the world. When Pew Research Center surveyed people in 44 countries last spring, 57% of Americans disagreed with the statement “Success in life is pretty much determined by forces outside our control,” a higher percentage than most other nations and far above the global median of 38%.

Americans Stand Out on Individualism
True to the stereotype, surveys showed that Americans are more likely to believe that hard work pays off. When asked, on a scale of 0 to 10, about how important working hard is to getting ahead in life, 73% of Americans said it is was a “10” or “very important,” compared with a global median of 50% among the 44 nations.

Americans also stand out for their religiosity and optimism, especially when compared with other relatively wealthy countries.

US stands out as rich nation highly religious

In general, people in richer nations are less likely than those in poorer nations to say religion plays a very important role in their lives. But Americans are more likely than their counterparts in economically advanced nations to deem religion very important. More than half (54%) of Americans said religion was very important in their lives, much higher than the share of people in Canada (24%), Australia (21%) and Germany (21%), the next three wealthiest economies we surveyed from 2011 through 2013.

People in richer nations tend to place less emphasis on the need to believe in God in order to be moral and have good values than people in poorer countries do. While the share of Americans holding that view is far lower than in poorer nations like Indonesia and Ghana (each 99%), the U.S. stands out when compared with people in other economically advanced nations. In the U.S., 53% say belief in God is a prerequisite for being moral and having good values, much higher than the 23% in Australia and 15% in France, according to our study of 39 nations between 2011 and 2013.

americans are having a good day

Americans are also more upbeat than people in other wealthy nations when asked how their day is going. While we ask this question to help respondents get more comfortable with the interviewer, it provides a glimpse into people’s moods and reveals a slightly negative correlation between those saying the day is a good one and per capita gross domestic product. About four-in-ten Americans (41%) described their day as a “particularly good day,” a much higher share than those in Germany (21%), the UK (27%) and Japan (8%).

Note: For more details on the role of religion in people’s lives, by country, see our full topline 2011-2013 findings

Topics: Religion and Society, Social Values

  1. is an associate digital producer at Pew Research Center.


  1. Anonymous1 year ago

    First of all Egypt is in Africa not in the Middle East.but anyway great insight.

    1. Michael Aaron1 year ago

      50/50. Strictly speaking Egypt exists mainly in North Africa with the Sinai Penninsula stretching into West Asia, while the rest of the countries exist solely in West Asia. It makes Egypt a transcontinental country and part of the same geographical region known as the middle east.

    2. Anonymous1 year ago

      Egypt is by some definitions part of the Middle East, geographically it is a transcontinental country, the bigger part of the country stretches along the Nile in North Africa while the Sinai Peninsula is in Western Asia.

  2. Anonymous1 year ago

    Thank you for this article!

  3. Anonymous1 year ago

    I am extremely puzzled how Israelis whom average gdp is the range of 30 40$ say that their day is bad while Nigerians whose gdp is lower than 10$ say they are happy. This does not make sense

    1. Anonymous1 year ago

      Because money isn’t everything.

  4. Michael Rasmussen1 year ago

    Do you have a graph comparing the ratio of GDP to median income, personal or household?

  5. Anonymous1 year ago

    Do people from different countries answer with the same level of sincerity when are asked the same question?

  6. Andrew2 years ago

    Great Job! Not good, but great! 🙂

  7. Harriet Hammhocker2 years ago

    This is a highly disreputable article. For instance, the survey period, if you wish to travel to wikipedia and find out you will find that Australia , for instance, ranked FAR in advance of US in wealth. The opposite fact is portrayed here. Information is inclined to portray US as better when if OTHER questions where asked, um for instance..which country was the first to give women the vote = Australia. It is in THE questions that provides the answer. The outcome of THIS particular diatribe is a foregone conclusion with the questions – but even they are not answered honestly!

    1. Uber “Genius” Genie2 years ago

      You appear to be a skeptic of a think-tank like Pew and yet take a public domain research site (Wikepedia), that no college and most highschools won’t let a student site as a reference, to be more accurate.

      No need for skepticism however,as the article references the data source. IMF
      2014 PPP per capita GDP Australia – 46,630.725 U.S. – 54,678.167 (chart reflects April estimate as opposed to actual based on dat from 11 months later)

      Data are derived by dividing GDP in PPP dollars by total population. These data form the basis for the country weights used to generate the World Economic Outlook

      There is a weighted average assigned to PPP that drops straight GDP for certain regions.

      You could have done this research on Pew’s data as I did, in less than 5 minutes, but instead misrepresented the data as skewed and the study as flawed.…

      Try harder next time.

    2. Anonymous1 year ago

      Also, New Zealand was the first country to give women the vote, 9 years prior to Australia.

  8. Muhittin DEMİRKASIMOĞLU2 years ago

    Americns said very honest about religion, but other nations did say honest about religion.
    for exmple Turkish.

  9. norbert2 years ago

    I think for the Americans having a good day relates to their high religious believe compared to other wealthy nations

  10. Minh2 years ago

    People in all nations on over the world are the same but thing that make american to be different from other one is freedom , they live in the democratic nation, they are free to show them up so that they have many chance to get their target as they want. all that make them exception than other one

  11. Dinarte Lopes2 years ago

    I think it means that american people in particular (as many others in general) believe in God when things go wrong; but believe in themselves when things go right.

  12. MEARSSAMNANG KUY2 years ago

    It is a surprised study. This study seems contradict to the American values which based on individualism because this principle illustrates that most of Americans depend on themselves rather than external support whether human or god.

  13. gabriel mitchell2 years ago

    It would be interesting to see some EU v US stats.

  14. Jong S Koh2 years ago

    Religion and income:religious populations are match with the percentage of low income population in their own countries. In America GDP is high, but the percentage of low income population in Us territory is very high, which makes America exceptional.

    Happiness and income: the higher the income they make the more work they did, and the more the stress they have to take. Therefore these data are very logical consequence.
    In America pessimists are always losers. They want to be a winner. That makes America exceptional.

  15. jOE 20152 years ago

    The values that motivated the formation of The Unites States of America, They are so strong that through centuries.

    They proved the conviction in the heart of Americans.
    Politics rejoins the needs and complex problems the society, it gives a sense of belonging , is not geography is not religion nor feelings that make us citizens.

    But the convictions that we carry in our hearts.

    During the first centuries of existence, the hard work, and the wild conditions have made of individualism, a real vision of the circunstances to survive, they are In citizens minds still…

    In graphics I observed an equilibrated country after centuries.

    We dont need extremism that can generate ambiances inestables in religion, of nation feelings or in politics.

    But the union , the cooperation and the team work to have a Great Nation.

  16. chris2 years ago

    How can Americans give an accurate and fair study about America? Isn’t that like asking a politician what he thinks of himself? You’re going to get a speech about his wonderful qualities, with just a pinch of self-critique to illustrate his “sincerity”. This is just another of thousands of examples of “studies” trying to link our wealth (which is increasingly concentrated among fewer and fewer people while more and more Americans fall into poverty) with our “religion”. Its all propaganda.

  17. chris2 years ago

    The amount of people who claim to be religious or Christian in America is meaningless. Anyone can claim anything-that don’t make it so. To claim you are an engineer, a teacher, a citizen of the U.S. requires that you are actually documented/credentialed/participating in what you are claiming to be. However, religion apparently gets a pass on this requirement, but it shouldn’t because it obscures every poll, statistic, study, etc. that comes out about religion in this country. The scientific method is absolutely excluded when it comes to doing any studies or polling on religion because no standard/definition is ever used for claims to being of a religion except self-reporting, and just how reliable is that? Especially with a topic so charged, individualistic and politically/emotionally loaded?
    The fact is that many who claim to be Christian are either laying claim to a general default fall-back for lack of anything else to claim, or if they actually have say, consciously “chosen” to be Christian, they don’t even know what they are choosing. Even regular church attenders more often than not do not know what Christianity is.
    When someone is doing a more focused study on what specifically Christians are or do, it is found that the MAJORITY of those claiming to be Christian are vastly ignorant of what Christianity means and what it teaches. Over a thousand years of persecution, infighting, ignorance, violent domination by certain sects have created an overflowing well of misinformation and hearsay. And this has continues to be supported in modern times by a lack of desire to actually go to the source. Every major religion has its enduring source-writings and books that define what the religion is. In Christianity its the Bible, and time and again when Christians are asked questions about what is in the Bible, they either have no answer, or an answer based on hearsay-what they’ve heard from parents, friends, neighbors, pastors, priests or the media. And these in turn have also heard it from parents, friends, etc. If they do get around reading any of it themselves, it is human nature to tend to see what you’ve already heard and have decided to believe.
    If we’re going to do polls on who is what religion and tally that up with whatever is the topic du jour-lifestyles, abortion, pay scales, and so on, then that religion has to be DEFINED. Otherwise, the results, again, are meaningless. What is a Christian? The word itself means FOLLOWER of this man called Christ. What is a Buddhist? It means someone who FOLLOWS the teachings of Buddha. If you don’t know the teachings, or if you just think you know them and don’t, then can’t be following the person you say you’re following! And the decisions you make and the way you live can’t be compared as in “followers of so-and-so have a higher rate of such-and-such” when “follower” is NOT DEFINED. This is how we’ve come up with so many ridiculous results to polls and so-called studies, often on purpose to promote a hidden agenda. To ignore the difference between what someone claims they are and what they actually are is just laughable in this day and age where “science” and “statistics” and “studies” are so highly touted for their “accuracy” and routinely used to prove points and sway people. And if you want to claim that no one can define something as personal as religion except that person themselves, then fine-but the fact is that every “study” is then skewed, and not accurate at all, and not reliable…and this needs to be noted on every study. It is particularly disturbing when the wealth of the U.S. is so often coupled with our “religious majority” (and that religion being claimed as “Christian”) to make the point that it is our “religious beliefs” that have made us so materially successful. That’s pure BS. Most people claiming to be Christian don’t even know what the Bible teaches. Most claiming to be Christian do not have accurate information about Christ, and therefore do not/can not be following him. They have HEARD all their lives that the Bible supports “hard work”, a “can do attitude”, and that we will be “rewarded” with material wealth by being “good people”. So, they think by believing these things, they are Christian, when in reality for hundreds of years certain scriptures have been handpicked to support certain agendas that promoted those in charge. This method of misrepresenting religion needs to be called what it is-utter manipulation and propoganda. If I need diplomas and experience to claim that I’m an engineer, if I need a certificate and students I’m actually teaching to claim I’m a teacher, then I’d better have something to show I’m a follower of any religion I claim to be. And if “researchers” are looking for accurate information to share with the public, then they’d better find a way to control for the variable that is called “religion” or admit that it can’t be done and stop throwing out their worthless “studies”. Or hopefully people will start to wake up and know when they’re being led around by the nose.

    1. Beattitude2 years ago

      Well put Chris. It is wonderful to read such thoughtful comments.

      1. Beattitude2 years ago

        I think the people in the surveys must be very much taken from middle class samples and above. Last time I looked there were 200,000 Vietnam Vets living on the streets. Many millions have no health insurance. Many more millions have only partial health coverage. What happens to these people when they need health care? Do they just suffer and die? Also I have read that one in seven Americans actually live below the poverty line.

        So many poor people in America living in the “Projects”, living in slums, living in the streets.

        So this is where individualism and the so called work ethic of making it on your own go so awry. Because when those young fit men who went to Vietnam and other wars they were broken and battered and a mess. Some of the V.A. hospitals were an absolute disgrace and men were left lying in their own urine and faeces for hours on end. They just did not have the staff to look after these people properly. Once they got out of hospital if they got out they couldn’t get work. So couldn’t pay the bills…… where do people land in America when they can’t pay rent and bills. They land on the street. This is a terrible indictment on your system that war veterans were treated so dispicably. Once they became useless in your machine they were kicked to the kerb. One veteran and I’m sure many more wrote about this. Read THe book “The Fourth of July”. I’ve forgotten who it is by. Your individualism works very well when it comes to star power. And the movie and television industry portrays an America which really only exists for the privileged few. They may be a few hundred thousand or a few million but so many people live from paycheck to paycheck. You have the highest murder rate in the world. Your violent crime is not repeated anywhere else in the world on such a level. Mass killings of shcool children and so on. What do you think causes this. I’ll tell you one thing that might help to cause it. When you are one of the ones who doesn’t make it. Who through your own efforts cannot “make it” frustrations and jealousy arises. While the tv goes on plugging all the things you could have if only you could afford them making you feel you going without and seeing others portrayed on tv especially as very well to do you may look and your pitiful life and say why not me. It is much more complex of course but I believe the not having while you see so many haves on the telly and so on can’t help. As well in all this rugged individualism what is the place of the family. True rugged individualism is a rare beast and no one really gets to the top alone. Because anyone who does get to the top has had the benefit of the infrastructure provided and serviced by others. Humans are really interdependent. And funny how religion figures so highly in your country because the Christian religion is not about rugged individualism at all but in fact just the opposite. Christians are asked always to serve. Not serve themselves either but others. What about the cripple, the blind, the lame the mentally ill, the disabled how shall they be ruggedly independent. How shall they afford the health care they need. How? It works for those who are healthy, privileged, rich or well off, talented, lucky, blessed and so on. Hard work does not always bring the rewards it deserves. Depends for a kick off what type of work you are in . If you are in a low paying job and that’s all you can do it won’t matter how hard you work in that low paying job it will still be low paying. IF you are lucky you might be able climb a ladder if you are a well respected employee. But there are many factors. Some of the people who have “made it” have stepped over many on their way up. They may not always be the nicest people to know. What in the end is important? Do we overvalue individual achievement? I think people like to be associated with it and admire it because they would prefer to identify themselves with the shining ones rather than have mercy for the poor ones living on the street. They will be blamed. They didn’t make it. They are the bums. It’s their fault. By blaming the poor for being poor you let yourselves as country off the hook for caring for the less fortunate. What about the Vietnam Vets living on the streets. Is anybody making sure they have a decent place to live after being wounded and crippled in service of their country. Or is it their fault they are on the streets. Where are their Christian families. Why aren’t they at home with their families. WHY? And that is why European countries who are a bit more enlightened and realistic about life don’t agree with the American veiw. Because people like the Italians are very family oriented and suscribe to family values and live them and when someone doesn’t do well we don’t necessarily blame them and say oh too bad it’s their fault let them live in the gutter and eat out of garbage cans. We would rather they had some dignity of an income and a home even if it’s very modest so they can live decently as a citizen. Denmark has been found to have the happiest people in the world WHY. Because they pay very high taxes and don’t mind paying them so that everyone gets a fair deal. Health care is “free” schools are free, all services are free. And no one minds because when it is their turn to call on those services they will be there for them too. THey are people who are sane. Competitiveness hasn’t got so out of hand that the top one per cent of them have 99% of the income like they do in America. And the 99% have 1% of the income. NOw that is insane. And what it indicates is the rich are getting rich on the backs of the poor, the working poor , all working people and even the middle classes. People like Donald Trump and even Bill Gates have got rich by ripping people off. Consider this why do we pay so much for Microsoft products. Hasn’t Gates got enough money yet. Does he need more billions to make him feel good. He could charge a lot less and still never need to work again. So he rips us all off and we applaud him for doing it and then he makes himself look good by giving away some of his money as a philanthropist. Imagine if he wasn’t making such huge profits we’d all be better off and he could still make himself look good giving money away. The amount of money he’s made is obscene. The amount of money Oprah has is obscene. How much more do they want these people. While half the world starves and so many in AMerica live on the poverty line or beneath it.

        1. Right2 years ago

          Oh y did I all of that, could have been summed up with three words. Stupid I am. But no your kind has to spew out a list of things about what is wrong with America .cuz you know that if you go one by one your arguments get DESTROYED.everything you blabbered about can be blamed on the government which is ironic cause government is your solution to everything. Being compassionate and charitable WITH OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY

          1. Anonymous1 year ago

            lol not with other people’s money, just the ones who don’t need any more than they already have. Steal from the rich and give to the poor As Robin Hood would do. These people have so much money that they just do stupid crap with it which would otherwise go to the greater good. There are trillions of dollars stored away in offshore accounts from american industries. All this money isn’t being taxed in america at all.

  18. Dianemo2 years ago

    Why is Canada missing from the “Good Day” question?

  19. Eticfoo2 years ago

    Two issues with your data that reduces the accuracy of your conclusions:
    1. On the question of the percent who says,”it’s a good day.”, you left out Canada in your data when canada was clearly one of the countries sampled. In another research, canada was ranked top 5 as the happiest country in the world.
    2. On religiosity vs income, you got your cause and effect backwards. It is precisely because Americans subscribe to the notion that belief in God is a pre-requite for good morals that more Americans falsely claim to be religious.

    1. chris2 years ago

      I’m a believer in God, and I think you make good points. The second point is very important, because people claiming to be religious, or “Christian”, when it is not defined in a poll/survey parameter, is meaningless. Many say they are Christian for the reason you mentioned-to look good-and also for another reason: they are following whatever values they’ve been TOLD are “Christian”, and if the things they’ve been told are convenient, the say “I’m Christian”. Many calling themselves “Christian” don’t even know a thing about the Bible, what this man called Christ taught, etc. And most don’t want to know because they’d get an uncomfortable surprise. Anyone can call themselves anything to a stranger taking a poll-it doesn’t mean anything, and all these polls are skewed and worthless.

    2. Matt T2 years ago

      But Canada’s so-called “statistics” are proven time and time again to piggy back off the Americans. Canadians use very weak metrics to value themselves against Americans. For example, ask a Canadian what it means to be Canadian, and he/she will tell you why he/she is not an American. StatsCan is a farce and the entire globe knows this… Except for Canadians. It only takes a few days in either the U.S. And Canada to truly understand that the U.S. is by far the superior nation in every imaginable statistic. Stop believing Canadian lies. Canada is a weak nation with little to offer, and their people are insanely jealous of the Americans.

  20. Nope2 years ago

    In the first two graphs there are dots on the right side of the US. Who are those?

  21. matt2 years ago

    The difference is that while the US is “wealthy” overall, economic inequality and uncertainty is like that of third world countries. Coupled with a lack of social safety nets, access to healthcare, and higher crime rates, it’s no wonder the US is extremely religious.

  22. Steph2 years ago

    I would have figured Canada would have a similar score to the US. Was it not included in the study?

    1. Sera2 years ago

      They are mentioned. They are not similar in some respects. Read.

  23. Erhan Sakallioglu2 years ago

    My comment is on the Bravi-Pearson graph above, on the relationship between religiousness and wealth… The most civilized people live in China, Czech Republic, Japan, and France… They are the ones who are the least affected by religion! As for the relationship between religion and income: it is totally deceptive, because there is not a direct correlation between GDP per capita and the real living standards of a nation…

  24. Thomas R2 years ago

    Hmm other sources put Greece about the same as the US on religiosity. Cyprus and Malta are, more or less, modern nations that often come out more religious than the US. But not studied here.

    Also what is that nation higher on “Success in life is pretty much determined by forces outside our control”? I can’t seem to find what it is, but there is a dot there beyond the US.

  25. TB2 years ago

    I read an article recently about how happy liberals are compared to conservatives. Conservatives self-reported that they were happy at a higher rate than did liberals, but the answers to the survey questions revealed that to be incorrect. The researchers speculated that the reason conservatives self-reported at a higher rate was their tendency for self-aggrandizement, among other things, whereas liberals were more realistic. So, if this is true, given that other wealthy, developed nations are more liberal than the US, it stands to reason that they have a lower happiness rate than the US, not because they are unhappy, but because they are more realistic and aware of the world around them.

    1. Sera2 years ago

      I read that, too. Liberals were more satisfied and Conservative more happy.

      Maybe because liberals practice more meditation and yoga to help them accept their more impoverished state? And conservatives feign happiness as a superficial facade to go with their “all about the image” and wealthy lifestyle?

      See how I slammed both? I’m non-partisan. (We need a 3rd party in the US.)

      1. chris2 years ago

        Good job.

    2. SCAQTony2 years ago

      No political party, religion, gender or race has a monopoly on happiness.

  26. Denny2 years ago

    These results don’t really surprise me at all!! Having lived in Europe twice for 4 years in two decades, it was very interesting to watch how people inter acted with me among them !! I lived in England on my first trip from ’90 to ’94, and the British told me that Americans were easy to spot because: our hair cuts were different, us Yanks took bigger strides when walking and carried our selves with a good share of confidence !! As visitors go, they found us much easier to get along with compared with the French or Germans! Northern Italy was my next European home from 2000 to 2004, the Italians thought we Americans had to have the best on offer, they felt we lived like the characters on Dallas! They felt the same way as the British about our looks and the way we carried our selves!! They felt we were much better guest than the Germans & French also!! The Italians love jobs that involves putting them in uniform!!

  27. Dude2 years ago

    Regardless of the findings, I always find it interesting that charts like the ones above usually place the USA (which is around 10th place) as the richest country while ignoring the ones that are richer. If it makes Americans feel better to think they’re on top…

    1. Sera2 years ago

      Yes, I’m sure an American Superiority group funded this Pew research. /s

  28. Sean McVay2 years ago

    George, why were Canada and Australia not included in the ‘Good Day’ chart? I’d see them as the two most relevant and significant comparisons to the U.S.

    1. George Gao2 years ago

      Hi Sean, thanks for the comment, and good observation. The decision was more of a practical one than an editorial one. We were only able to include the ‘Good Day’ data for countries where we surveyed and asked that question in 2014, the most recent year available. The religion scatter plot includes countries where we most recently asked that specific religion question (from 2011 to 2013). I hope that helps.

  29. Brandon2 years ago

    Dee, I disagree.

    look at our counter parts that have the same freedoms we have. Germany has to be in their basement before they can smile. The UK can’t go 5 minutes with out complaining about something. Your argument really doesn’t hold water. t believe this leftist view you have is destroying what is great about our country. Democracy and freedom are two great things. God cannot be denied when you follow his fundamental truths. To the countries that struggle continuously.. don’t blame the USA for that. Blame corruption with their governments. I am sure if they were allies’ to this country, they would reap the benefits.. “SEE JAPAN” for example.

    1. chris2 years ago

      Japan was geographically placed to be a useful ally, therefore the atrocities they committed-which were as bad as what was done by Nazi Germany-were overlooked, the records/history of what happened was re-written in Japan’s history books, and trials for war criminals were ceased. Japan then was given huge sums of money to rebuild and has had US support ever since. And this had nothing to do with anything good they did, and everything to do with what worked for America as a nation. Small governments of small, corrupt countries are routinely supported or dismantled according to their usefulness to American corporate-government. They can’t stabilize themselves because government/corporate America has used handouts to manipulate and destabilize their economies and cause ceaseless infighting. If you don’t do what America says, you’re cut off (and now that includes if you don’t support gay rights, you’re cut off). And not just funding is cut off-you are embargoed, your trade with other countries is interfered with, etc. If you’re going to bring God into your argument, you must know that God will not be mocked. But He is patient, giving people lots of time to repent. As a nation we’ve turned our back on God and we’re already beginning to pay the price, but naturally most Americans are still blinded and don’t see it. A missionary to an African country interviewing one of their leaders heard that American handouts cause a lot of harm, because factions spring up to fight over the money and it doesn’t get to the poor. The corporate American government KNOWS this-they can look good giving donations while actually keeping a country on its knees and under American control. We are not this innocent, God-fearing nation of do-gooders who have been rewarded with wealth because we are so worthy and we never have been. We are a nation that from the beginning put wealth above everything, worked it into religion so that we’d believe “wealth/material goods=Godliness”, then told ourselves, “See, we’re a wealthy nation-we must be doing what’s right!” To have our needs met is a good thing, but what God teaches is “Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, Cease from your consideration of it. ” This is the exact opposite of what Americans believe, and there will be a price to pay for our naivete’.

  30. Rocky2 years ago

    Who did you vote for? Let me guess! So sorry you have to live in such an oppressive country that steals all the worlds oil and produces nothing.

  31. Nicholas2 years ago

    It appears that the “upbeat” data set is incomplete, with the omission of Canada and Australia. Perhaps this omission is also a type exceptionalism?

  32. Geo1232 years ago

    Work will be done by very few in 15years time. Robots will be a on call 24 seven. There will be a major lower social class a small middle class and a elite corporate class. Government will be the puppets of the elite due to the non existing tax base A weakened justice and law systems will not represent the people. Work will mean very little and most nation will need to rethink what kind of society they will live in and belong too. Think and pause ! Why go to school or uni if you cannot envisage any career or employment. No money, little else left. Great minds, you and me must start confronting what future we create. For better or worse.

  33. Shawn2 years ago

    This is an interesting analysis but I can’t help but to notice that many countries are missing from the study.

    I agree with the general findings in this study about American perception of the world. The optimism and the work ethic are definitely consistent with what I observed in the 10 years I lived there.

    It also highlights the bubble that Americans live in. I think the whole economic system is no longer a meritocracy. Income inequality is rising, and as recent socio-political events such as Ferguson, the New York police events, etc. show – events outside our control (being born into a certain racial background or sexual orientations or etc) have a large impact on our social mobility and perceptions of us as people.

    Furthermore, just as an evidence of how hard work does NOT always mean success – scientific researchers are working >60h/week to produce technologies and solutions that help improve society, and yet are generally compensated terribly and even face budget cuts, while sports stars make millions to play their sport on national TV.

    These are just some examples. I started my life in Asia, and attracted by articles such as these touting America’s awesomeness, I have to admit I’ve been disgusted by my experience in the US. I don’t really see why America is awesome. I’ve moved back out and I am really happy I did.

  34. Donna2 years ago

    I would like to see the same question posed but substituting spiritual for religious.
    If this change were made, then you would have a more global universe, ie., including India as a country for example.
    I suppose “spiritual” is a more nebulous concept, nonetheless I think it is a more relevant measure than “religious” per se.

  35. KENNETH E PENMAN2 years ago

    After living in Europe and Latin countries for more than 20 years since 1974 I have come to one main conclusion and it is that the rest of the world works to live, while the US lives to work. Granted, the US is the engine that runs 24/7/365 but do really need grocery stores, pharmacies and many other types of business to be open non-stop? Is it so wrong to ask people to make arrangements/plans to have sufficient supplies that will last from Friday to Monday…or at least not necessary that business be open on Sunday?

    Non-US friends (I refrain from saying Americans because Canadians and Mexicans are Americans, as well. North Americans.) have told me that “you Americans are just big kids that live in Disneyland all the time”. And I suppose we are. But that innocence is slowly being eroded away…whether from the outside or self-imposed by world events.

    As I said, I have lived in other countries and it is not an ordeal or major sacrifice to NOT shop on Sundays.

    Oh, yeah. I think buildings need a day off, too.

  36. Will Eng2 years ago

    Maybe this shows Americans have difficulty understanding survey questions. Or they do not live in the “real” world and believe the fantasy of the American media.

  37. Donald Frazell2 years ago

    Polls i have seen have consistently put the US behind most ot
    her Western nations in the happiness index, so this does not compute or people need to ask better questions.

  38. Jonathan2 years ago

    Pew, I certainly enjoy your surveys, and this is interesting. However I would have more been more interested to see an income inequity/religion relationship and good day/income inequity relationship.

  39. Wow2 years ago

    They are the chosen ones!

  40. Carlito2342 years ago

    Why doesn’t CNN put THIS guy on every night?

  41. Muthyavan.2 years ago

    Beside hard work, interligion plays an important place in each individuals success in life. Many hard working individuals end up in repeated failures in life, because they couldn’t accept and find the right way toward success in life.

  42. Bill dunlap2 years ago

    Good job!

    1. Andrew2 years ago

      Thank for the feedback

  43. Dee Pierson2 years ago

    Given the long hours of grueling work too many peoples endure just to get food to mouth, it is not surprising that they do not see hard work as a path to any success beyond painful survival. That many other developing countries recognize this reality in their own responses only serves to highlight how clueless we Americans are about global conditions. This is especially egregious given that our way of life relies as much on the oppression of other people as it does on our self-acclaimed work ethic. Think oil, minerals and the world market for our weapons. Despite the good we do – and we do try, with near schizophrenic sincerity – these realities remain.

    1. pat2 years ago

      I am thankful everyday that I live in the USA. It’s the best place in the world to live. Despite what you say, this country has given much time, talent and treasure to the rest of the world in it’s short existence. Yes, this country is truly exceptional.

    2. Sera2 years ago

      Um, the study does show that Americans believe hard work pays off…contrary to your first few sentences. Read the article.

    3. chris2 years ago

      I think your comments make a lot of sense. Most countries/cultures will naturally have a degree of ethnocentrism, but the degree we have in America, (with its long history of supremist beliefs going back to Europe and England in particular-our “forefathers”) is staggering. Most people I know will say “its a great day” no matter what-because we’ve been conditioned from birth to say everything is FINE no matter what is happening. Its actually considered a moral failing and a character flaw if you don’t “think positive”. We are now no different than countries who have suffered communist take-overs by dictators who “re-educate the people” starting in the schools. We parrot “positive” slogans and think ourselves superior for it! Well, there is one difference I’ve noticed: while our lives are ever more controlled, as the number of those falling into poverty ever increases, and as the government/corporate America strip away our freedoms and dumbs down the people, we just keep saying “everything is fine” and believe every new bauble and entertainment coming down the pipeline to distract us from realaity is just “wonderful”. The citizens in other countries have known when disaster was looming, but Americans have been brainwashed so long and so skillfully that we’ll be inviting the storm troopers in our homes for kool-aid and helping them when they ransack our homes-“because we don’t want to be negative”. Our children for the last several decades have been basically offered up as sacrifices to schools (government indoctrination camps) where we never know if they might get shot or molested by a teacher, while we trot off happily to “work hard” at the low wage job “we should be grateful for” provided by the corporate giants “who must be good people who worked hard to get so wealthy-and give us jobs!” And most Americans faced with any of this will get very angry at the messenger, because the messenger is “thinking negative” and is just a “Debbie Downer” who is “ruining everything”. Yuck.

  44. Jacqueline Taylor2 years ago

    Our unique outlook and work ethic draw people from all over the world. My grandparents at the beginning of the 20th century all came here to become part of our culture and did achieve that. Now people want to come here and change our way of operating to become more like the countries they left so they can operate like they did in their homelands. If that is what they want, why did they leave? I truly believe that our cultural uniqueness is being undermined by other cultures attempt to change us. I have no objection to any culture coming to our country, but why do we need to change to accommodate others when they choose to live here?

    1. Adolfo2 years ago

      Brava! So tired of self-loathing Americans.

    2. Dianemo2 years ago

      I completely agree!

  45. Jaylani Adam2 years ago

    I am amazed that graphs that talks about less religious nations are wealthy nations, doesn’t say about that some wealthy nations are religious like Saudi Arabia or Qatar.

    1. Jim Beard2 years ago

      A quick glance failed to find either Saudi Arabia or Iran among the countries surveyed.

      I speculate conducting surveys is easier in some countries than others.

      As a side note, idiomatic wording/meaning of the questions is very important in surveys especially of the “personal opinion” type. Controlling for that can be very difficult, and may bias the result for some countries on some measures quite dramatically.

      1. TB2 years ago

        “Wealthy nations” generally means developed or “first world” nations. It does not include countries like Saudi Arabia or the other gulf states. You are correct, though, it’s probably not very feasible to conduct surveys in some countries.

  46. RJ2 years ago

    Sometimes stereotypes are being supported by research findings!

  47. Don McDougall2 years ago

    What happened to Canada, Australia, and the UK in the “Good Day” chart?

    1. George Gao2 years ago

      Hi Don. We were only able to include the ‘Good Day’ data for countries where we surveyed and asked that question in 2014, the most recent year available. The religion scatter plot includes countries where we most recently asked that specific religion question (from 2011 to 2013). Thanks for reading, and I hope that addresses your question.

  48. Jesper Angelo2 years ago

    I wonder what the graph would look like, if you calculated the it based on the wealth of the lower 90% of the population.

    1. David Brian Durrett2 years ago

      Assuming that the sampling method used by Pew is properly randomized, one would likely get similar results with a stratified sample excluding the wealthiest 10%. Random sampling is intended to accurately reflect opinions within a population. Removing 10% wouldn’t likely change the outcome drastically. This is especially true considering the questions appear be ordinal so we’re not averaging responses that might get unfairly weighted by outlying respondents.

  49. Tom2 years ago

    Looks like we are “exceptional”.

    1. GY2 years ago

      I’m not American but i feel that this article is very useful and reasonable for my life improvement.
      Your attitude is a little bit awry.
      You can get a good thing and throw a bad thing from this article.

  50. cs2 years ago

    Pew, like most Americans, focuses on Europe for highlighted comparisons and mostly ignores the two nations it shares physical borders with.

    1. Chris Pine2 years ago

      Ms., Dennison, perhaps it is because Mr. Knausgaard refers to identical things, not people. Toilet paper is toilet paper. Apparently well-regarded in the rather homogeneous world of Scandinavia, Your use of him as an observer on American norms is somewhat ironic in that he has made his regional fame on self-absorbed autobiographies discussing his poor relations with others, and an apparently skewed sense of what individualism is…

  51. Susan Dennison2 years ago

    A quote from Karl Ove Knausgaard that appeared in a recent article in the The New York Times Magazine: “I had never really understood how a nation that so celebrated the individual could obliterate all differences the way this country did. In a system of mass production, the individual workers are replaceable and the products are identical. The identical cars are followed by identical gas stations, identical restaurants, identical motels and, as an extension of these, by identical TV screens, which hang everywhere in this country, broadcasting identical entertainment and identical dreams.” It gives one pause to think why we value individualism.

    1. Roger2 years ago

      Well said. And it is also true that when asked to rank their prformamce on standardised tests, Americans tend to mark themselves highest in subjects like Math/Science when, in fact, they are almost always in the botom quartile. Proving once again just believing it doesn’t make it true.

    2. Craig Meono2 years ago

      We value individualism despite our identical things exactly because we’re exceptional to the rest of the world (especially Europe). We understand one thing above all – it’s not the things that make us individuals, it’s the individuals that make the things.

      “Identical” gas stations and restaurants that make more or less profit not just on location or quality of food, but on the people actually doing the work. 2 identical diners, one with great service, one with bleh… Which one makes more money? Europe gets the idea, but doesn’t cherish it the way we do. Our fate is in our own hands.

      1. Unsure2 years ago

        I always feel that the belief that your nation is better than those of others because you are somehow inherently different/superior is a dangerous route to take. I’m fairly certain that no nation is “exceptional”, the whole idea of national exceptionalism is not one I find comfortable.

        I can’t wait to see all the posts about how China stands out, when it’s their take their turn at the wheel, after the sun has set on American dominance. No supremacy lasts forever, look at the Romans, Spanish, British.