Oct 2, 2019

How Americans really see success

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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

The wreckage of summer

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

We usually think of Memorial Day as the start of the summer, with all of the fun and relaxation that goes with it — but this one is just going to remind us of all of the plans that have been ruined by the coronavirus.

Why it matters: If you thought it was stressful to be locked down during the spring, just wait until everyone realizes that all the traditional summer activities we've been looking forward to are largely off-limits this year.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 5,410,228 — Total deaths: 345,105 — Total recoveries — 2,169,005Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 1,643,499 — Total deaths: 97,722 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,915Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil, coronavirus hotspot in Southern Hemisphere Over 100 coronavirus cases in Germany tied to single day of church services — Boris Johnson backs top aide amid reports that he broke U.K. lockdown while exhibiting symptoms.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks headed into Memorial Day weekend Report finds "little evidence" coronavirus under control in most statesHurricanes, wildfires, the flu could strain COVID-19 response
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Public employees brace for layoffs.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

The CDC is warning of potentially "aggressive rodent behavior" amid a rise in reports of rat activity in several areas, as the animals search further for food while Americans stay home more during the coronavirus pandemic.

By the numbers: More than 97,700 people have died from COVID-19 and over 1.6 million have tested positive in the U.S. Over 366,700 Americans have recovered and more than 14.1 million tests have been conducted.