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New survey reveals how Americans link success to fortune and fame

new survey polling more than 5,000 U.S. respondents finds a big discrepancy between how individuals define their personal victories, and how society does the same.

Populace, a national think tank, conducted a survey in conjunction with Gallup. The inaugural Success Index is a study of American views of success.

And Todd Rose, Populace’s co-founder & president, told Yahoo Finance there is a clear gap between individuals’ values and society's.

“When we look at what people really care the most about, we look at education, not surprisingly, but character and relationships and community are really important,” Rose told Yahoo Finance’s YFi PM.

“And when we ask about what everyone else wants, status and fame just rocket to the top,” he added.

The study found 92% of respondents believed fame and fortune come closer to society’s definition of success. But only 10% of the same group applied those standards to their personal value, the data found. Parenthood was the most common success measure for individual standards.

Success index

“I thought that age would play a bigger role,” Rose explained.

“There were certainly age-related differences, such as young people value an advanced degree more than older folks. Millennials tend to care a lot more about a purpose in life, which I thought was quite inspiring, frankly,” he said. “What was so fascinating is it didn’t seem to matter whether you were younger or older.”

Education ranked pertinent across all ages. Yet respondents ages 18 to 35 placed twice as much importance on an advanced degree than Americans who were 65 and older.

Unsurprisingly, income also seemed to play an important role in the perception of success.

When respondents were asked to rank 76 attributes of success, with “0” being no achievement and “100” being perfect achievement, individuals placed moving up in income far higher than other key attributes.

Success index

“We get hung up on economic mobility,” Rose said.

“It’s very important for people to pay their bills, but this study would suggest that what it means to have a good life— the satisfaction of who you are and how life is going— is far more diverse than that. People are starving to be closer to each other right now in this digital age.”

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