The Success Index

Populace & Gallup launch inaugural Success Index

Our landmark study shows startling rejection
of traditional markers of American success.

How do you define success?

We believe this is one of the most important questions in our society today.  It’s answer reveals our values, character, and the content of our dreams. And, in a functional culture, what the people want most, success,  should be aligned and provided for by the institutions—government, education, work—of the culture. Our qualitative research showed us that most of us feel like our culture is seriously out of alignment. 

We wanted to stimulate conversations about success in America and reveal the crisis and opportunities that lie under the surface of the subject. Which is why we partnered with Gallup to conduct the first-of-its-kind, nationally representative study to understand what “success” truly means to Americans.


Key findings in the report:

There is a stark difference between how Americans define success and how they believe others in society define success.

  • Most Americans believe others in society define success in status-oriented and zero-sum terms, but less than 10% apply this standard to their personal definition of success.
  • Americans believe that others in society would say being famous is the most important factor for success. Fame, however, is the least important factor in people’s personal views of success.
  • Americans also believe others in society have a one-size-fits-all definition of success, concentrated on status (45.9%), followed by education (19.8%) and finances (8.8%).

Americans have very diverse definitions of personal success that are highly unique and cover a wide variety of life domains. 

  • The study found that there is no “average” definition of success. Instead, everyone tends to have a highly unique, personal view of success. 
  • The most important domains in Americans’ personal definitions of success are education (17.1%), relationships (15.6%), and character (15.4%).

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