A WSJ/NORC poll has found that the happiest people in America value religious belief much more than unhappy people do.
The number of “very happy” Americans is in steep decline, dropping by a striking 19.6 percent over the past five years, the poll reveals, but those who are very happy share some common traits, such as religious belief and practice.
While less than half of U.S. adults say belief in God is important, the number jumps significantly among those who describe themselves as very happy, the poll finds, and two-thirds of this group describe themselves as “very or moderately religious.”
The percentage of Americans who consider themselves very happy remained remarkably constant over the 45-year period between 1970 and 2015, never surpassing 38 percent and never dropping below 28 percent.
All that has now changed with the share of Americans calling themselves “very happy” falling to just 12 percent in 2023, the smallest percentage of “very happy” people ever recorded in NORC’s General Social Survey, which began in 1972.
According to the poll of 1,019 adults, conducted from March 1-13, 2023, large majorities of Americans feel pessimistic about the economy and prospects for the next generation. Among those surveyed, about 30 percent placed themselves at the lowest level of happiness, saying they were “not too happy.”
The highest correlation for people saying they are “very happy” is belief in God, with 68 percent of this group declaring belief in God to be “very important” to them. By contrast, among those who are not happy, fewer than half (42 percent) say faith in God is very important to them.
Along with belief in God, the “very happy” overwhelmingly value strong relationships, and about 67 percent say marriage is very important to them, independent of their own marital status, compared with 43 percent of respondents overall.
When it comes to politics, just over a quarter (27 percent) of Democrats say that religion is “very important” to them, while almost double that number (53 percent) of self-identified Republicans say religion is very important to them.