Happy at Work? Depends Who’s Asking.

Jan 5, 2010 2:55pm

A survey from The Conference Board’s creating some buzz today with a finding that Americans “continue to grow increasingly unhappy in the workplace.” Odd, because it appears to run counter to other recent data that show long-term stability in job satisfaction.

In a Gallup poll last August 87 percent of workers reported being satisfied with their jobs. That’s almost exactly the average in Gallup data since 1989, and much like results dating to 1972 in a similar question in the General Social Survey from the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago – 85 to 87 percent satisfied “with the work you do” in polls going back nearly four decades.

In Gallup’s latest, moreover, 50 percent were “completely” satisfied, matching the high in its data series.

These seem markedly different from The Conference Board's result, in which 45 percent reportedly say they’re satisfied with their job, down from 61 percent in 1987.

Sampling is one question. The Conference Board hasn’t provided details (we’ve asked) but it’s been reported that its survey is done among members of a panel of people recruited through non-random methods to do things like test household products and fill in surveys. Gallup and NORC data are based on nationally representative probability samples.

The Conference Board also hasn’t released the wording of the question it asked. The Gallup and NORC questions, with results over time, are below.

Gallup: How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with your job? Would you say you are – completely satisfied, somewhat satisfied, somewhat dissatisfied, or completely dissatisfied with your job?


      Gallup: Satisfied w/ your job        NET  Completely  Somewhat8/09    87%     50         378/08    90      48         428/07    94      46         488/06    90      43         478/05    86      42         448/04    89      50         398/03    85      44         418/02    89      43         468/01    85      41         448/99    86      39         478/97    86      35         516/94    86      39         477/89    89      28         61    

NORC: On the whole, how satisfied are you with the work you do – would you say you are very satisfied, moderately satisfied, a little dissatisfied, or very dissatisfied?


       NORC General Social Survey   Satisfied with the work you do (Partial trend)        NET   Very   Moderately 8/08    87%    51       368/06    87     49       386/02    86     50       366/00    87     45       426/98    86     48       385/96    85     45       402/91    86     44       422/85    86     48       382/75    87     54       332/72    85     48       37

 
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