Fewer Americans are satisfied with the freedom to choose what they do with their lives compared with seven years ago -- dropping 12 percentage points from 91% in 2006 to 79% in 2013. In that same period, the percentage of Americans dissatisfied with the freedom to choose what they do with their lives more than doubled, from 9% to 21%.
Gallup asks people in more than 120 countries each year whether they are satisfied or dissatisfied with the freedom to choose what they do with their lives. In 2006, the U.S. ranked among the highest in the world for people reporting satisfaction with their level of freedom. After seven years and a 12-point decline, the U.S. no longer makes the top quartile worldwide.
Although unclear, the decline in perceived freedom could be more than just economics.
Another possible explanation for the decline in freedom is how Americans feel about their government. Gallup asks an additional question worldwide about whether people believe corruption is widespread throughout their government. This item is related to perceptions of freedom at the national level.
Among Americans, perceptions of widespread corruption in their government have been generally increasing over the past seven years.
Perceived widespread corruption in the U.S. government could be on the rise for several reasons, including the significant media attention on issues such as the IRS targeting of conservative groups and the National Security Agency leaks. Americans not only feel that the U.S. government is performing poorly, as demonstrated by record-low congressional approval ratings, but they also report that the U.S. government itself is one of the biggest problem facing the country today.