Last month, we surveyed 3,000 people across the U.S. about their personal sense of optimism and the behaviors, relationships, and experiences that factor into our tendency to look on the bright side.
Now, for some nitty-gritty research. We polled an even number of men and women between 18 and 79-years-old. Other demographics, like location and education, were designed to match U.S. census data. Because we’re serious about this surveying business. And if anyone asks, we’re pretty optimistic about these results.
54% of people feel negative about the current state of our world, while 86% still feel optimistic about the future. We hypothesize that there’s either something in the water, or we find greater happiness—and have greater hope—in our immediate community. But the numbers show that what’s happening on the national or global scale doesn’t stop us from imagining a brighter future.
People with one or two children are more optimistic than people who don’t have children. Kids are more likely to make positive judgments about themselves, others, and even animals and objects. If all this sounds too much like a psychology textbook, think of children simply as having an outlook that rubs off. Just like that fingerpaint on the kitchen counter.
We could’ve guessed that people who spend more time watching TV or using social media are more likely to be pessimistic. Or that people who have strong support systems and are satisfied with their close relationships are more likely to be optimistic. But together, they revealed a bit of information we weren’t exactly trying to find. Put the iPhone down and opt for some IRL face time because, according to our results, it’s going to be a while before technology replaces any relationship’s ability to make us feel happy.
Cats are independent, cunning, and rarely seek out love and affection. Dogs are playful, friendly, and yep, a little simple at times. One’s our best friend, the other’s our moody, reclusive, good-looking roommate. Add it all up, and it makes total sense that dog owners are slightly more optimistic than cat owners. The word’s still out on ferrets.
Any avid sports fan knows the heartbreak of a poorly thrown curveball or a fumble near the end zone. Still, people who watch sports, whether in person or on TV, are more likely to be optimistic than those who don’t. Which might be because some folks find joy in cheering on the underdog. Others love the suspense. And no matter who they’re rooting for, everyone is hopeful for a spot in the championship game.
Ah, Generation Y, with their memes and avocado toast. We had a sneaking suspicion about this bunch, and our survey turned up the facts. Which is that 18- to 29-year-olds are less likely to be optimistic than 30-39, 50-59, and 60-69-year-olds. There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic in older adulthood, like children and grandchildren, a meaningful career, and a greater sense of confidence. We also have more experience with pain and loss and having learned a few lessons the hard way. The older we get, the more we find joy in what we’ve already got, which are the things we’ve worked so hard to achieve. It’s a different way of understanding what optimism is.
Feeling connected to your community is pretty essential to the human condition. So much so that people who know their neighbors well are more likely to be optimistic than those who don’t. From apartment to acre-spanning compound, getting to know the folks living closest to our homes helps us feel a sense of belonging and find comfort in a shared identity. And it makes the annual block party so much more fun.