Oct 2, 2019

How Americans really see success

Data: Populace/Gallup Success Index; Chart: Axios Visuals

How Americans believe our society measures success — namely, fame — is totally different than how people define success in their own lives, according to a new Gallup/Populace survey of more than 5,000 Americans given first to Axios.

Why it matters: Our measures of personal success are highly individualized, but tend to follow some patterns for women and men, liberals and conservatives, and different levels of income, the survey found.

  • The findings are a roadmap for politicians, the entertainment industry and technology executives seeking to tap into less romanticized measures of success.

"When you aren't saying publicly what you privately believe, you end up with really bad policies and with things that stay in place that nobody really wants. But nobody changes it,” said Todd Rose, president and cofounder of Populace.

  • "Being famous" was the top answer for what respondents thought mattered according to society's view of success.
  • But that was the last answer for what individuals felt was important to achieve to be successful in their own lives.
  • Parenthood was the most common achievement for individuals' standards of success, but ranked at 33 out of 76 when people were asked about things society considers important for success.
  • "Very conservative” Americans tend to consider being a parent twice as important as those who self-identified as "very liberal."
  • Having an advanced degree was something respondents valued both in terms of how society judged them and how they judged themselves.
  • Having a purpose in life, a couple of close friends and regularly seeing family were all important components to how people judged their own success — but so was not having to worry about money.
  • Women were more likely than men to view fame and having a large social media following as important to society's view of success — something that may correlate to other trends like women being overrepresented on Instagram, Rose said.

Between the lines: Milestones and traits related to status, education and finances were at the top of the list for what most people believe others consider markers of success. But people said success in their own lives has more to do with educational achievement, relationships and personal character.

  • "We can do something with that if we can just realize that this silent majority exists, and that it crosses political and ideological and other demographic bounds," Rose said.

Go deeper

NBC News doubles down on Snap

Axios Visuals

Piggybacking off of the success of its daily Snapchat series "Stay Tuned," NBC News is launching another Snapchat show called "Stay Tuned Answers" with the same hosts, twice per week, sources tell Axios.

The big picture: NBC News execs have been vocal critics of Facebook — even though they're joining the Facebook News Tab — but have found lots of success in Snapchat.

Go deeperArrowOct 29, 2019

Mistrust in business grows

Data: JUST Capital; Note: ±2.5 percentage points margin of error; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Americans' trust in big business eroded sharply over the past year. That's one of the key messages in the latest survey from JUST Capital, a nonprofit that tries to get businesses to align their values with those of ordinary Americans.

Go deeperArrowOct 24, 2019

Emergency room visits create financial disruptions for patients

Photo: Terry Vine/Getty Images

Medical bills have created financial hardship for most Americans within the last 5 years, including most people with high credit scores, according to a new survey by Elevate's Center for the New Middle Class.

Why it matters: Health care costs are increasingly unaffordable not just to low-income or financially illiterate people, but also to those who are comfortably middle class with a proven track record of money management.

Go deeperArrowOct 9, 2019