NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 31, 2008

In May 2008, the Gallup Organization asked 1,200 American adults how many days in the past week they had felt "outraged."  The average number of angry days was 1.17, and 54 percent of those surveyed said none.  Only one in 20 reported being outraged every day.  Despite the litany of horrors presented to us daily by campaigning politicians, most of us appear to be doing really quite well managing our anger, says Arthur C. Brooks, a professor at Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Public Affairs.

Indeed, we are less angry today than a decade ago. Let's look back to the glory days of the 1990s, when -- according to the media narrative -- we enjoyed uninterrupted peace and prosperity.  In 1996, the General Social Survey asked exactly the same "outrage" question of 1,500 adults:

  • Then, only 38 percent had not been outraged at all in the past week.
  • The average number of angry days was 1.5 per week, 29 percent higher than at present.

Virtually every group in the population is less angry in 2008 than in 1996 -- those making more and those making less than the average income; college-educated and noncollege-educated folks; men and women.

Only one major group in the population has gotten angrier: people who call themselves "very liberal," says Brooks:

  • While conservatives, moderates and nonextreme liberals all have seen their average levels of outrage fall over the past 12 years, the number of angry days among our leftiest neighbors has risen 56 percent (to 2.28 from 1.46), and the percentage with no angry days in the past week has fallen to 31 percent from 37 percent.
  • Today, very liberal people spend more than twice as much time feeling angry as do political moderates; one in seven is outraged seven days a week.

Source: Arthur C. Brooks, "Where's the Outrage? Really." Wall Street Journal, July 31, 2008.

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