New polling from YouGov finds that on the question of whether they would rather be smart and sad or dumb and happy, Americans are almost evenly divided.
According to a poll of 10,416 people last month, 37% of Americans say they would prefer to be dumb and happy — roughly the same share (35%) who say they would prefer to be smart and sad. The survey reprises a 2017 poll commissioned by Cards Against Humanity, with new breakdowns by gender, education, and age.
Men and women take slightly different views on this topic. Among men, 40% would rather be smart and sad, while one-third (33%) would prefer to be dumb but happy. Women are more likely to say they would prefer to be dumb and happy (40%) than to choose smart and sad (30%). Around three in 10 men (27%) and women (30%) are unsure.
The more education a person has, the more likely they are to say they would prefer to be smart and sad. Whether more education increases the likelihood of that preference, or that preference causes someone to be more likely to get more education, is unclear.
Among Americans whose highest level of education completed is high school, 27% would rather be smart and sad. Those who have completed some college (30%) or a two-year program (33%) are slightly more likely to choose smart and sad. Those with a four-year college degree are even more likely (40%) to say they would prefer to be smart and sad, and that increases to 48% among those with postgraduate degrees.
Political affiliation could also play a role. Democrats are more likely to say they would prefer to be smart and sad (39%) as opposed to dumb and happy (35%). Republicans see it a little differently: 43% would rather be dumb and happy while just 30% would pick smart and sad. Independents are evenly divided: 35% would prefer to be smart and sad; 36% would rather be dumb and happy.
There are also generational differences. The youngest U.S. adults, Generation Z, would rather be dumb and happy (41%) as opposed to smart and sad (34%). The gap is a little narrower among Millennials: 39% would prefer to be dumb and happy while 36% would sooner be smart and sad. Among Generation X, 38% would rather be dumb and happy while 34% would prefer to be smart and sad. Baby Boomers are evenly divided: 34% would prefer to be dumb and happy and another 34% would rather be smart and sad.
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See the crosstabs from this YouGov poll: If you had to choose, would you rather be smart and sad, or dumb and happy?
Methodology: This Daily Agenda survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 10,416 U.S. adults interviewed online on February 26 – 28, 2022. The samples were weighted to be representative of the U.S. population, based on gender, age, race, education, U.S. census region, and political party.