Analysis by Harry Enten, CNN-CNN.COM
Spectators watch the annual Independence Day fireworks display outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia on July 4, 2021.
(CNN)Poll of the week: A new Gallup poll finds that 59.2% of Americans say they’re thriving. Additionally, 73% of Americans said they experienced enjoyment for a lot of the previous day.
The former is the highest rating Gallup has ever recorded on the measure dating back to when it was first taken more than 13 years ago. The latter is the highest since the coronavirus pandemic began early last year.
What’s the point: The last year has been tough for a lot of Americans. Among other issues, the coronavirus dominated our lives, and there was a very contentious presidential election. But with the election in the rearview mirror and more people returning to their pre-pandemic routines, Americans are feeling a lot more optimistic.
A number of different measures show Americans are feeling better about themselves and the state of the country than they have in a while.
The Gallup measures I mentioned shouldn’t be too surprising given what we’ve been seeing from Axios/Ipsos polling. More Americans have been saying that their emotional well being has improved in the last week than gotten worse in every survey since May. From when the question was first asked in March 2020 through April of this year, more Americans had said it had gotten worse than better in every survey.
This positivity goes beyond the personal and into the political.
Last week, an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist College poll found that 47% of Americans said the country was going in the right direction. That was within the margin of error of the 49% who said we were going in the wrong direction.
This 47% was the highest percentage who said the country was heading in the right direction in Marist polling since 2009, during the first year of the Obama administration. It’s quite the turnaround from where former President Donald Trump was at this point in his presidency. Just 31% of Americans said the country was going in the right direction in a June 2017 Marist poll, while 61% said we were going in the wrong direction.
Of course, Marist is just one pollster.
When we look at the average of all polls, 43% of Americans agree that the country is going in the right direction compared to 51% who believe it is on the wrong track. Last year at this point, only 22% of Americans thought the country was going in the right direction. Four years ago, 34% said the country was heading in the right direction in an average of polls.
Although we would expect Democrats to be more optimistic now than then, it’s notable that they are more positive about the direction of the country now than Republicans were four years ago. In the Marist poll, for example, 87% of Democrats now think the country is going in the right direction compared to 66% of Republicans in mid-2017. Likewise, far more independents say the country is going in the right direction (44%) than did four years ago at this point (23%).
The last time before President Joe Biden’s administration that 43% of Americans said the country was going in the right direction in an average of polls was 2009.
Indeed, 43% believing the country was heading in the right direction is actually a really good percentage historically.
Last year, Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report examined how many Americans thought the country was going in the right direction before each presidential election since 1980.
On average, 42% of Americans said the country was going in the direction in the years in which the incumbent party was reelected to the White House. A slightly higher 49% said the country was on the wrong track.
The percentages right now are very similar to these averages.
They are far different than the average 25% of Americans who believe the country was going in the right direction during the years in which the opposition party won the White House. On Election Day last year, only about 30% of Americans said the country was heading in the right direction.
Interestingly, perhaps the best way to know people are feeling more charitable than normal about the state of our politics is to look toward Congress. Even the notoriously disliked Congress has seen a bump in its approval ratings this year. For the first time since 2009, Congress’ approval rating topped 30% this year.
Now, an approval rating in the low 30s isn’t exactly high. Still, politics is often all relative.
The question is whether Americans will continue to feel the good vibrations. If they do, Biden and Democrats are likely to benefit. If feelings take a downturn, Democrats are probably in for a rough midterm.