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The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10902-016-9831-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
The study evaluates a very common question designed to measure happiness: “Taken all together, how would you say things are these days–would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?” Through five representative survey experiments, we show that (1) this survey item underestimates the level of happiness with one’s life; (2) this is because the measure is more likely to reflect satisfaction with the state of the world rather than personal life; (3) this measures is more susceptible to priming; (4) the addition of three words “in your life” to the item greatly reduces priming and question order effects; and (5) the addition of these three words produces results that are very similar to life satisfaction measures that include “in your life” and are more positively associated with income. These results provide evidence that a simple correction better measures personal happiness. Furthermore, our findings reassess the foundation of a considerable volume of scholarship about how politics and income is associated happiness.
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