to do with their lives,’ according to a Gallup poll. The trend could
be linked to a perceived rise in corruption.
This Independence Day, Americans will celebrate the nation’s core
values, especially freedom. But according to a new international poll,
Americans have become significantly “less satisfied with the freedom
to choose what they want to do with their lives.”
Seventy-nine percent of U.S. residents are satisfied with their level
of freedom, down from 91 percent in 2006, according to the Gallup
survey, released Tuesday.
That 12 point drop pushes the U.S. from among the highest in the world
in terms of perceived freedom to 36th place, outside the top quartile
of the 120 countries sampled, trailing Paraguay, Rwanda, and the
autonomous region of Nagarno-Karabakh.
Only 10 nations experienced as sharp a drop as the United States in
terms of the satisfaction of citizens with their level of freedom:
Egypt, Greece, Italy, Venezuela, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Romania,
Yemen, Pakistan, and Spain.
Among the people most satisfied with their own level of freedom are
New Zealanders, who top the list at 94 percent, and Australians, who
come in second at 93 percent, according to the report.
“I think this decline is interesting in terms of perception,” says Jon
Clifton, managing director of the Gallup World Poll. “Certainly the
previous numbers make sense in terms of our classic self-perception.
The recent numbers do not.”
One possible explanation for the sharp decline in the US is that
Americans have been feeling constrained by the economy since 2006 —
and their options have declined in a concrete, material way, Gallup
“The decline in perceived freedom among Americans could be attributed
to the U.S. economy,” the report says. “Many Americans continue to
lack confidence in the country and continue to see it as one of the
biggest problems facing the country.”
Still, the report notes, there are some problems with this hypothesis:
Self-reported job creation has rebounded, Americans are “feeling
better about the economy,” and spending habits in the U.S. are near
their pre-recession levels.
“Although unclear, the decline in perceived freedom could be more than
just economics,” such as how Americans view their government, writes
Since June 2013, confidence of Americans in their government has
dropped significantly. In a poll released Monday, Gallup reports a 7
point drop in confidence in the presidency (to 29 percent), a 4 point
drop for the Supreme Court (to 30 percent), and a 3 point drop for
Congress (to 7 percent, a record low).
According to another poll also released by Gallup on Tuesday, the
portion of Americans who believe there to be “widespread corruption”
in the U.S. has jumped from 59 percent in 2006 to 79 percent in 2013.
“It’s hard to say why this is,” says Clifton. “It could be due to
recent scandals like the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups and
the NSA leaks.”
In any case, he adds, Americans are coming to view their government as
an obstacle, rather than an enabler.
“Americans not only feel that the U.S. government is performing
poorly, as demonstrated by record-low congressional approval ratings,
but they also report that the U.S. government itself as one of the
biggest problem facing the country today,” the report concludes.
The survey also notes a statistically significant correlation between
perceptions of corruption and perceptions of freedom worldwide, with
many of the countries with the most perceived freedom also boasting
low levels of corruption.
The Gallup poll took place between 2006 and 2013 and included
approximately 1,000 face-to-face interviews from each nation. The
margin of error ranged from 1.7 to 5.8 percent.