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March 10, 2021

By: Oksana Kishchuk

This last week we took the opportunity to answer a question that’s been on our minds since we started the Abacus Data Happiness Monitor: are Canadians happier than Americans?

We went into field late last week with surveys in both countries to answer that question.

But before we get into the comparison, some good news about our national happiness in Canada. As of March 7th, the average happiness score is the highest it has been since we started this project, sitting at 64.

It seems as though the spring weather, combined with the news of growing vaccine rollouts are making us more optimistic. On March 5th Canada announced the approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine bringing the total to four approved COVID-19 vaccines in the country. Happiness is higher among those with a more positive outlook of the COVID-19 situation (the worst is behind us), and those who feel less worried overall about the virus.

But back to the main question; are Canadians happier than Americans? At the time of this survey, the answer is no.

 

Americans are more than one full point ahead of Canadians when it comes to their happiness. However, Americans are more polarized in their happiness meaning there is more division between those who report high and low happiness than Canadians, who are more likely to be closer to the midpoint.

Why the difference?

One reason seems to be the difference in how Canadians and Americans feel about the pandemic. Americans, for example, are more likely to say that the worst of the outbreak is behind them (38% compared to 27% in Canada). And given that this measure is correlated to a higher happiness score, one might assume that the Americans are happier because of their outlook on the virus is more positive than in Canada.

But in the United States, happiness and what’s happening on the ground aren’t tied together the same way as overall pandemic outlook.

In the top five states with the most vaccines administered per 100k residents (as of March 8th, source: CDC), the average happiness score is 57.5, which is notably lower than the overall American happiness score. And in the top five states with the most deaths per 100k in the past 7 days (as of March 8th, source: CDC) is 67.6 which is higher than average.

This is confounding, right?

This suggests that in the US, perceived happiness is likely caused by other factors – personal financial outlook and optimism about one’s future.  In the US, these factors seem to be playing a much larger roll in determining one’s reported happiness than in Canada.

In other words, there is more happiness inequality in the United States. For example, the gap in happiness between those with a household income of less than $50K and those with a household income of over $100K, is 18 points. In Canada, its only 8. The gap in happiness between men and women is twice as high in the United States, compared to Canada. And the gap in happiness between younger and older is far greater in the United States than Canada.

One thing that does hold true between the two countries is happiness and civic engagement. Like in Canada, one of the biggest drivers for happiness, or lack thereof, is civic engagement (we are using whether they voted in the last election or not as a proxy for this). In Canada the gap between those who voted and those who did not is 10 points. In the United States it is 17.

THE UPSHOT

According to Oksana Kishchuk: Good news first, happiness in Canada is on the rise. There are many reasons to be more optimistic, including lower daily case counts, increasing vaccinations, and warmer weather.

But if the United States is an example of what is to come here in Canada, a larger number of us vaccinated might not equate to a rise in happiness, or at least a rise long-term.

Canada isn’t the United States, but these results show that perceptions of the pandemic aren’t necessarily tied to vaccination rates. It’s likely more of a reflection of one’s own experience with the pandemic- how you feel about your life and work, if you’ve had a strong support network during this time, if you are experiencing pandemic fatigue, and how the pandemic has been impacting your mental health. And perhaps more important than the above, if the pandemic has exacerbated inequalities you already faced or brought new ones.

As we begin our slow exit out of the pandemic, we will continue to track national happiness in Canada to see whether this trend up continues. But for now, we will hold onto this good news about our happiness today.

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METHODOLOGY

Our survey was conducted online with 1,500 Canadians and 1,500 Americans aged 18 and over from March 4th to March 7th, 2021. A random sample of panellists was invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform. These partners are double opt-in survey panels, blended to manage out potential skews in the data from a single source.

The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 2.2%, 19 times out of 20.

In Canada the data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region.

In the United States the data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched the United States’s population age, gender, region and ethnicity.

Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

This poll was conducted and paid for by Abacus Data.

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