Gallup Poll September 9 1947: 95% of Americans are happy

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Happy Inauguration Day! Here in Korea it's already the 20th of January. You still have a few more hours to wait until then.

A few years ago when I was in Japan for a few days I noticed a book with a collection of Asahi Shinbun's Tensei Jingo, an opinion column that has quite a long history. This book I bought has the colums from 1945 to 1949, so from the period right after the war ended. They're all very interesting, talking about the new constitution, lessons learned from the war; a lot of them are sad as they're about how to overcome starvation and the effects of the atomic bombs. One was even about how much the columnist hates government-issued cigarettes because they never completely fill up the pack and sometimes they blow up in your face. The column from September 9, 1947 is also quite interesting and pertains to the United States, so I decided to translate it. The title is "Are you happy"? It turns out that around that time 95% of people were able to say outright that they were either extremely happy or fairly happy, not a bad result. There seems to be little information online on the columns besides this blog here.

Here's my translation:

In a recent Gallup poll on the character of the American people there was the question "are you happy?" to which 38 percent said they were extremely happy, 57 percent said they were fairly happy, 4 percent said they were unhappy, and one percent said they didn't know (Newsweek). If we are to take these numbers for what they are, it's a surprising thing. It's a modern miracle that 95 people out of 100 are able to say that they're happy.

One cannot just take American happiness as-is to sum up Japanese happiness. Once before in an annual meeting of the YM/YWCA in an American university in Ash Morrow* California, the agenda was "just what is happiness"? Most people answered that it was having money, a good wife, a good job and a high-level education. At that time a Japanese person was asked about the Oriental view of happiness to which he answered that it was "sacrificing yourself in full for the person you love", but it wasn't given consideration as being too deep and unrealistic. But then, that's also a big difference from how Japanese view happiness today.

According to Dewey, happiness is not the delicious fruit at the top of a tree branch. It's the action of taking that fruit and eating it. Happiness is only found within success. However, that means succeeding (as in succession), continually advancing forward. Regardless of the definition, even if we assume that the answers American citizens gave were given offhand, the fact that over 90% of its people were able to say that they were happy really is a big deal. Even without taking a poll myself I have a feeling I know what kind of answers Japanese people would give now if they were asked.

*That place name is just a guess. The column writes it as アシマロー (ashimaro-), and who knows if the name has changed by now or not. Is there such a place name in California?

For anyone that knows Japanese and wants to use it to try to find some more info, here's the first paragraph:


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