Some Things May Not Be Going Well in the United States, But on the Whole, It’s Better Here Than in the Rest of the Developed World

May 12, 2014

Science, technology and the Constitution get highest marks; the Constitution, along with TV and entertainment, are better in U.S. than elsewhere

NEW YORK, May 12, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — A new Harris Poll measures what Americans think about the United States or, more specifically, how they rate 16 elements of American life and then how these elements compare with other developed nations.


For here in the United States, strong majorities of the public give high marks to science and technology; the Constitution; TV, movies and entertainment; the quality of life; public safety; colleges and universities; and civil rights. Large majorities give poor marks to our political system, public schools, the health care system, the economic system and the legal system.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,300 adults surveyed online between April 16 and 21, 2014. (Full results, including data tables and breakdowns by political party, gender and generation, can be found here)

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

    Science and technology


    The Constitution                 64%

    TV, movies and entertainment     64%

    The quality of life              62%

    Public safety                    58%

    Colleges and universities        58%

    Civil rights                     57%

Items that receive positive ratings from roughly half of Americans are:

    The standard of living      51%

    Equality of opportunity     50%

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

    The legal system       39%

    The economic system    34%

    The health care
     system                32%

    Public schools         31%

    The political
     system                22%

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

    The environment              42%

    The system of government     41%

U.S. versus other developed nations.
Overall, majorities of Americans see the United States as being better than other developed nations. At the top, almost two-thirds (64%) say the Constitution is better while two in five each say TV, movies and entertainment (62%); the standard of living (60%); and quality of life (60%) are all better. Other elements where at least half of U.S. adults say they are better than other developed nations are:

    Equality of opportunity     56%

    Civil Rights                55%

    Public Safety               54%

    Science and Technology      53%

    Colleges and
     universities               50%

There are five other elements where the U.S. is seen by more Americans to be better than worse, but not seen by majorities as better. Those are:

    The legal system            48% better/37% the
                                same/16% worse

    System of government        47% better/36% the
                                same/17% worse

    Economic system             47% better/36% the
                                same/17% worse

    The environment             43% better/39% the
                                same/17% worse

    The political system        41% better/36% the
                                same/23% worse

There are two areas seen as being worse in the United States than in other developed nations. More than two in five Americans (42%) say the health care system is worse in the U.S. while 27% say it’s about the same and 32% believe it is better. Two in five (40%) say public schools are worse, 31% believe they are better and 29% say they are the same in the United States as in the rest of the developed world.

To see these results broken down by political party, gender and generation as well as other recent Harris Polls, please visit the Harris Poll News Room.

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This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between April 16 and 21, 2014 among 2,300 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. 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, The Harris Poll 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 Poll 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 our 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 The Harris Poll.

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

The Harris Poll(®) #46, May 12, 2014
By Regina A. Corso, VP, The Harris Poll and Public Relations Research

About Nielsen & The Harris Poll
On February 3, 2014, Nielsen acquired Harris Interactive and The Harris Poll. Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence and mobile measurement. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA and Diemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit www.nielsen.com.

Press Contact:
Corporate Communications
The Harris Poll

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SOURCE The Harris Poll

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