How Thankful Are Americans for Their Blessings?
And what does religion have to do with that?
First and foremost, happy Thanksgiving to all. It’s probably my favorite holiday. It’s low key, the weather usually isn’t too terrible, and it doesn’t require all the preparation and work that goes into Christmas. Sitting around, eating too much, and watching some football is not a bad way to spend a day.
I also think it’s a pretty spiritual holiday, honestly. I am not a theologian, but I have found that my life seems to be better when I focus on trying to be thankful for all that I have. It’s not easy sometimes, but Thanksgiving is a time when I try my best to focus on the good things that have happened to me and my family in the prior twelve months.
I publish a paid post on Thursday and Thanksgiving is Thursday, so this is what you get - some graphs to be thankful for.
I found an interesting dataset posted on the the Association of Religion Data Archives that asked specifically about the concept of thankfulness and wanted to just give a couple of graphs about that. It’s called the National Religion and Spirituality Survey and was fielded in 2020 by the National Opinion Research Center on behalf of the Fetzer Institute and Hattaway Communications.
Let’s look at the broad question, which is simply, “How often do you feel thankful for your blessings?”
In total, about sixty percent of folks say that they experience thankfulness at least once a day, with 28% reporting a feeling of gratitude multiple times a day. Three quarters of all respondents say that they feel thankful at least most days. In the sample, ten percent of people report never feeling thankful for their blessings and six percent saying that they only feel thankful once in a while.
So, thankfulness is something that most people experience on a regular basis and very few Americans indicate that feeling thankful for blessings is something that they never experience. But, that’s just the top level statistic - how about we dig below the surface to see what factors lead some folks experiencing thankfulness more or less.
Let’s take a look at that same question, but look at it through the lens of age. I created a dichotomous variable for those who said that they experienced a feeling of thankfulness at least once per day and then calculated that percentage by age.
That’s a pretty unmistakable trend line - older folks are much more likely to experience feelings of thankfulness compared to younger Americans. Among those who are at least 70 years old, the share reporting thankfulness is north of 75%. Among forty-year olds, daily thankfulness only occurs for about 57% of them. Among thirty-year olds, it’s a 50/50 thing and for the youngest folks in the sample, it drops to about 40%.
Here’s what is probably driving a lot of that sloped line, though. It’s not age. It’s religion. The question specifically says, “thankful for your blessings.” I am pretty sure that the word “blessings” has religious connotations and that is driving the younger folks (who tend to be less religious) from saying that they feel thankful on a regular basis.