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Survey: New Yorkers Say They Live Unsatisfied Lives

A new Siena poll finds New Yorkers are not at all satisfied with their lives.

The special poll gauges "life satisfaction," a topic Siena has visited in the past, according to Siena Research Institute Director Don Levy.  "we asked a random sample of New Yorkers - this is a statewide sample - how satisfied are they with eleven different aspects of life, everything from their financial condition, to where they live, to their relationships within their family, their religious and spiritual life and their perception of how the world in general is going. Interestingly, we had done this exact same survey 10 years ago. When you compare New Yorkers today to New Yorkers10 years ago, we are slightly less satisfied today across that entire spectrum of eleven aspects of life than we were in 2008.  That's really interesting when you look back and recall that in 2008 we were thrown into the depths of a recession. So it's a little bit surprising that we are no more satisfied economically today than we were then."

Levy says people are most troubled by two things: their finances and current political and economic events.  "The steady drumbeat of negative news is taking a large toll on the satisfaction of New Yorkers. You add that to the fact that less than one of five of us, 18 percent, are completely satisfied with our finances, and only about a third of us are completely satisfied with our health, our vitality, and just a quarter of us are completely satisfied with what we do for recreation."

With 70 percent of New Yorkers unsatisfied, the survey shows younger New Yorkers are less optimistic across the board.    "Interestingly, younger people today are less satisfied than older people. New Yorkers age 65 and older have a much higher rate of satisfaction. They're far more satisfied, for example, with their financial condition. They're far more satisfied with their relationships. Where are they unsatisfied relative to younger people? Not surprisingly, they're getting concerned about their health, their vitality and the degree to which they're able to enjoy life, to enjoy recreation, that's where younger people have a higher level of satisfaction. But it's alarming to some extent the low rate of satisfaction that New Yorkers 18-34 have with their financial condition."

Levy notes all New Yorkers derive the most satisfaction and joy from family relationships.   "The number one area of satisfaction is those family relationships, followed by our religious and spiritual life, our relationships with our life partner and friends and acquaintances."

The happiness index takes a turn when broken down by race.    "Amongst African-American New Yorkers, the rate of satisfaction is the lowest of any group. Very low satisfaction with their financial condition and extremely low satisfaction with the direction that the world is going. In fact, when we try to take all eleven aspects of life and lump them together and put them in a score, whereby, a hundred percent, the perfect score, would indicate that you are completely satisfied with every aspect of your life, amongst African-American New Yorkers, the score only comes out at about 59 percent. White New Yorkers at 70 percent. Hispanic New Yorkers at about 65 percent. So real differences in terms of life satisfaction by race and ethnicity here in the Empire State."

The poll indicates it does seem that money makes you more satisfied. View cross-tabs here.

The takeaway:

  • 44% of New Yorkers More Satisfied with Life Today than a Year Ago; 17% Less

  • NY’ers Most Satisfied with Family, Significant Other, Friends & Spiritual Life; Least Satisfied with Financial Condition & Direction World is Going

  • No More than 1/3 Completely Satisfied with Work, Health or Recreation

This Siena College Poll was conducted June 12-27, 2018 by telephone calls conducted in English to 807 New York State residents.  Respondent sampling was initiated by asking for the youngest male in the household.  It has an overall margin of error of +/- 4.3 percentage points including the design effects resulting from weighting. Sampling was conducted via a stratified dual frame probability sample provided by Survey Sampling International of landline and cell phone telephone numbers from within New York State weighted to reflect known population patterns. Data was statistically adjusted by age, region, gender and race/ethnicity to ensure representativeness.   The Siena College Research Institute, directed by Donald Levy, Ph.D., conducts political, economic, social and cultural research primarily in NYS. SCRI, an independent, non-partisan research institute, subscribes to the American Association of Public Opinion Research Code of Professional Ethics and Practices.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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