Poll: For most, work satisfying though many unhappy with stress, benefits
September 4, 2004
WASHINGTON – Like a majority of Americans, nurse Peggy Branan feels her job is satisfying and that she is paid fairly. Many workers express concern about job stress, retirement benefits and health care, according to an Associated Press poll, but Branan is not one of them.
“I feel blessed to be able to get paid for what I enjoy doing,” said Branan, a nurse for 21 years. “I’m very active in my church. My role as a nurse is a way to fulfill my role as a Catholic.”
The poll on the public’s attitudes about work found that most workers in the United States were at least fairly satisfied with their jobs. A sizable number say they were unhappy with the stress level, health care and retirement benefits of their jobs.
Seven in 10 surveyed said they are paid fairly. Men were more likely than women to feel this way.
For Branan, a 44-year-old nurse from the New Orleans area, work is an important part of who she is. That same kind of feeling was shared by six in 10 workers.
As people celebrate Labor Day this weekend, about half of the workers surveyed say they find their job very satisfying and four in 10 rated it somewhat satisfying, according to the poll conducted for the AP by Ipsos-Public Affairs.
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“The level of the public’s satisfaction with work is high and has been quite stable for the last 30 years,” said Tom Smith, director of the General Social Survey at the National Opinion Research Center in Chicago.
One of the more frequent complaints is the growing amount of stress at work. In the poll, 34 percent said they were dissatisfied with the amount of stress. Other leading complaints included opportunities advancement as well as health and retirement benefits.
Adults age 18 to 29 were most likely to say their job was something they mainly do to earn money.
For 24-year-old Annie Blaase of Chicago, her full-time job selling health care software is enjoyable. Still, her main love is freelance writing, which is part time.
“The sales I do to pay the rent and pay bills,” Blaase said. “But the writing, that’s my catharsis. It has more to do with who I am as a person.”
People over 30 were more likely to say they were very satisfied with their jobs.
“I’ve got a lot of responsibility – taking care of the highways,” said Larry Turner, a 55-year-old supervisor of highway work in West Virginia.
Those most likely to say they were very satisfied were white, married, college-educated, homeowners and Republicans.
The poll found that 42 percent said their jobs were interesting nearly all of the time. One-half of those surveyed said their job is interesting most of the time, but has dull stretches.
Women were more likely than men to say their jobs were interesting nearly all the time.
Some 61 percent felt strongly that they do a good job balancing work and family. About the same number of men and women made this claim, although those who work more than 40 hours a week were less certain they have struck the balance.
For 26-year-old Curtis Porterfield, having a 4-year-old son and a second child on the way is reason enough to achieve a balance.
“I have to work a full week to make ends meet,” said Porterfield, a water quality specialist from Lakeland, Fla. “When overtime is available, I don’t usually take it. I could use the pay, but I would rather spend the time with my family.”
The poll also found that:
— 36 percent of those surveyed strongly agreed that their job allows them to reach their full potential.
— People were evenly split on how they feel about going back to work after a long weekend or a few days off.
The AP-Ipsos poll of 589 workers was taken Aug. 16-18 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.