What We Love and Hate About America

Science and technology and the Constitution get highest marks; the political and economic systems get the lowest

Jun 08, 2010, 09:38 ET from Harris Interactive

NEW YORK, June 8 /PRNewswire/ --, 2010 – A new Harris Poll measures what Americans think about the United States or, more specifically, how they rate 16 elements of American life.

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20100517/NY06256LOGO )

Large majorities of the public give high marks to science and technology, the Constitution, the quality of life and colleges and universities.  Large majorities give poor marks to our political system, the economic system, public schools, the health care system and the legal system.

These are some of the findings of a Harris Poll® survey of 2,503 U.S. adults surveyed online between May 10 and 17, 2010 by Harris Interactive.  

Aspects of American life which get the most positive ratings, defined as those who rate them excellent or pretty good, are:


Science and technology

75%


The Constitution

70%


The quality of life

66%


Colleges and universities

65%


TV, movies and entertainment

62%



Other items that also receive positive ratings but from smaller majorities are:


Civil rights

58%


The standard of living

56%


Public safety

56%


Equal opportunity

52%



The elements that receive the lowest positive ratings (where large majorities give either only fair or poor ratings) are:


The health care system

33%


Public schools

32%


The economic system

28%


The political system

23%



Other elements that receive low ratings, but better than those above, are:


The environment

44%


The system of government

43%


The legal system

37%



Words matter

The contrast between the 70% of adults who give the Constitution positive marks, the 23% who give the political system a positive rating and the 43% who give the system of government good marks is very striking.  Presumably, the system of government and the political system are based on the Constitution.  However, for many people, politics and government have strong negative connotations.  

Differences by political party

For many of the 16 elements on the list, the differences between Republicans, Democrats and Independents are small.  For example, science and technology gets positive ratings of 78%, 76% and 76% respectively.  However, on a few items, the differences are quite large.  For example:

  • Civil rights get better marks from Republicans (70%) than from Democrats (53%);
  • Equality of opportunity also gets more positive marks from Republicans (65%) than from Democrats (47%);
  • The environment gets much better marks from Republicans (61%) than from Democrats (37%); and,
  • On the other hand, the political system is viewed less favorably by Republicans (19%) than by Democrats (33%).

Differences by education

On almost all of the 16 items, the level of satisfaction is correlated with the level of education.  For example, those giving the system of government positive ratings increases from 31% of those with no more than a high school education to 45% of those with some college, 56% of those with a college degree, and 61% of those with post-graduate education.  This same gradient, or correlation with education, is true of the Constitution, quality of life, colleges and universities and standard of living, the legal systems, the economic system and the political system.

So what?

These results highlight the importance of granularity and the need to avoid sweeping generalizations about what people think about the United States – and other countries.  People see many elements that they like about the United States – and other things they dislike.  At one end of the spectrum, 75% of adults think well of American science and technology.  At the other, 77% have negative opinions about the political system.  

TABLE 1

NATIONAL RATINGS

"On a different topic, how would you rate each of the following in the United States?"

Base:  All adults



Excellent/

Pretty good (NET)

Excellent

Pretty good

Only fair/

Poor (NET)

Only fair

Poor

%

%

%

%

%

%

Science and technology

75

21

55

25

21

4

Constitution

70

33

37

30

22

8

Quality of life

66

14

52

34

27

6

Colleges and universities

65

14

51

35

27

8

TV, movies and entertainment

62

18

43

38

28

11

Civil rights

58

11

47

42

31

11

Standard of living

56

11

46

44

32

11

Public safety

56

7

49

44

35

9

Equality of opportunity

52

10

41

48

33

15

Environment

44

5

39

56

42

13

System of government

43

10

33

57

33

24

Legal system

37

5

32

63

40

22

Health care system

33

6

27

67

39

29

Public schools

32

3

29

68

44

24

Economic system

28

5

23

72

44

29

Political system

23

3

20

77

36

40

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100 percent due to rounding.



TABLE 2

POSITIVE NATIONAL RATINGS – BY POLITICAL PARTY & EDUCATION

"On a different topic, how would you rate each of the following in the United States?"

Percent saying "Excellent/Pretty good"

Base:  All adults



Total

Political Party

Education

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

H.S. or less

Some college

College grad.

Post grad.

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Science and technology

75

78

76

76

73

78

75

77

Constitution

70

75

72

70

61

72

78

87

Quality of life

66

70

69

66

59

68

75

76

Colleges and universities

65

66

72

63

59

65

74

79

TV, movies and entertainment

62

58

69

58

61

60

64

62

Civil rights

58

70

53

59

50

62

66

65

Standard of living

56

62

58

56

45

60

69

73

Public safety

56

64

57

54

50

59

61

62

Equality of opportunity

52

65

47

52

48

53

60

51

Environment

44

61

37

43

44

43

46

50

System of government

43

43

50

40

31

45

56

61

Legal system

37

38

44

34

31

37

45

52

Health care system

33

43

30

31

30

34

37

35

Public schools

32

31

37

29

32

31

32

36

Economic system

28

26

35

25

19

29

39

39

Political system

23

19

33

18

15

25

33

39

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100 percent due to rounding.



TABLE 3

NEGATIVE NATIONAL RATINGS – BY POLITICAL PARTY & EDUCATION

"On a different topic, how would you rate each of the following in the United States?"

Percent saying "Only fair/Poor"

Base:  All adults


Total

Political Party

Education

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

H.S. or less

Some college

College grad.

Post grad.

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Political system

77

81

67

82

85

75

67

61

Economic system

72

74

65

75

81

71

61

61

Public schools

68

69

63

71

68

69

68

64

Health care system

67

57

70

69

70

66

63

65

Legal system

63

62

56

66

69

63

55

48

System of government

57

57

50

60

69

55

44

39

Environment

56

39

63

57

56

57

54

50

Equality of opportunity

48

35

53

48

52

47

40

49

Public safety

44

36

43

46

50

41

39

38

Standard of living

44

38

42

44

55

40

31

27

Civil rights

42

30

47

41

50

38

34

35

TV, movies and entertainment

38

42

31

42

39

40

36

38

Colleges and universities

35

34

28

37

41

35

26

21

Quality of life

34

30

31

34

41

32

25

24

Constitution

30

25

28

30

39

28

22

13

Science and technology

25

22

24

24

27

22

25

23

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100 percent due to rounding.



Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between May 10 and 17, 2010 among 2,503 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Where appropriate, these data were also weighted to reflect the composition of the adult online population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

The Harris Poll® #75, June 8, 2010

By Humphrey Taylor, Chairman, The Harris Poll, Harris Interactive

J38300

Q755

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world's leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what's next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.

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SOURCE Harris Interactive



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