Subjective Experience and the 2012 Election

David Weigel observes that in a new CNN poll, a large (58%) majority of non-white voters report that they are better off than they were four years ago. A substantial plurality of urban voters (48%) says the same, in contrast to 35% of suburban voters.

Are all of the voters who report that they are better off actually better off? Are those who report that they are worse off actually worse off? It’s impossible to say, not only because we don’t have sufficiently granular records on the income, consumption, and wealth levels of respondents and how they’ve changed over time, but also because an exclusive focus on income, consumption, and wealth might mask the value of increases in the amount or in the quality of leisure, the number of fulfilling relationships, and other factors that might shape subjective well-being. 

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

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