60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll: Gratitude

What are you most thankful for? Americans share their opinions on gratitude in the October edition of the 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll

Welcome to the 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair Poll for October 2014. This month's Poll focuses on Gratitude. Cicero (106 - 43 B.C.) said, "Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others." In many religions being grateful to God is a central teaching. In Christianity, gratitude has been called "the heart of the gospels" and the Dalai Lama said, "When you practice gratefulness, there is a sense of respect towards others." Gratitude has found prominence in today's popular psychology and self-improvement movements. It is said to improve one's well-being and relationships. Americans are known and respected for their acts of giving and charity; it may be our best trait. The power of saying thank you is immense and ennobling and in keeping with that spirit, thank you for your continuing interest in the 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair Poll. And now, the results...

Seven Virtues

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From a shortened list of options, three out of 10 Americans chose chastity as not being one of the seven virtues. Next in order were temperance 22 percent, patience 12 percent and 14 percent said they did not know. Despite Cicero's strong endorsement, 22 percent correctly identified gratitude as not being one of the seven heavenly virtues. They were designed as a counter balance to the seven deadly sins and include: chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, forgiveness, kindness and humility.

Generational shift

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Forty-one percent of Americans said that to kids these days, it is not apparent how hard their parents work. Twenty-nine percent said it's not breaking news that newspapers get no respect, 22 percent went public that libraries are unappreciated and only six percent broadcast the opinion that the radio is under appreciated by today's youth. It seems that every generation has to endure lectures about how good they have it and how their parents and grandparents had to walk up hill both ways to school and back in the snow. Their turn to lecture their kids will be coming soon enough.

Expressing appreciation

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A vast majority of Americans (82 percent) believe that handwritten notes are an important habit for a young person to cultivate. Only 14 percent didn't get the written memo and think they are an outdated and unnecessary gesture. Handwritten notes are not only an homage to more gracious times, but whatever sentiment they convey ranging from thanks to condolences, they represent time taken to personalize a feeling. There are still some things that cannot be improved by technology, this simple human action is a good example of one.

Dating expectations

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Sixty-three percent of Americans say the best way to say thank you when someone buys you dinner on a date is simply to say thank you before you say goodnight. Twenty-eight percent said that buying them dinner on the next date would be the best way, followed by sending an email or text with five percent and inviting them up to your place with four percent. As in most situations where one receives something from someone, there is no better way to show gratitude than by simply saying "thank you."

What's mine is yours

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Half the people think it is never okay to regift, a third say it is always okay to regift and 16 percent say it's okay (as long as nobody finds out). Most gifts are given with no strings attached meaning the recipient should be able to do whatever they want with it. That said, while it is okay to re-gift the fruit cake you got as a housewarming present (it was probably already a regift) it may not be a good idea to regift the sweater your grandmother just took a year to knit for you.

Serving the community

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Half of all Americans said they had volunteered their time to a charity, church or a non-profit organization within the past month and 31 percent had done it in the past week. Twenty-three percent said they had done it in the past year, 19 percent said years ago and 8 percent said they had never done it. Americans are known for giving their time and resources to good and urgent causes all over the world. It's what we do and it's a tradition that remains alive and well throughout the country.

Pardoning behavior

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Three out of four Americans find it easier to forgive an ungrateful child, but only 21 percent find it easier to forgive an ungrateful parent. Be grateful if you never have to deal with either.

Giving Thanks

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More than eight out of 10 Americans feel that Thanksgiving is an important time to spend with family (76 percent) or even go so far as to say it is their favorite day of the year (six percent). Ten percent say they celebrate it, but don't think too much about it and eight percent would rather order pizza. Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday. It is a time to spend with loved ones and give thanks for the good things in our lives. The medieval scholar and philosopher Meister Eckhart said it most succinctly, "If the only prayer you say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough." Enough said.

Grateful for the inspiration

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Forty-three percent of Americans thought that Jerry Garcia got the name for his band "The Grateful Dead" in a dream. Twenty-one percent said in a cemetery, 10 percent guessed in the desert and only five percent correctly chose in a dictionary. When trying to think of a new name for the band, he purportedly opened up a Dictionary of Folklore to a page on the "Grateful Dead" that referred to a spirit that shows gratitude to someone who has helped them to receive a proper burial after they die. Considering their very long and successful run, the band must have been grateful for that happy accident that is now part of rock 'n' roll's folklore.

Well-being

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More than half of Americans (56 percent) say they have God to thank most for their good health. Twenty-four percent said it was their lifestyle choices, 14 percent said it was their genes and 4 percent chose their doctor. A majority of Americans identify themselves as religious, so it is not surprising they would thank God for their good health. A large percentage of Americans also know how beneficial healthy lifestyle choices, like a good diet and exercise, can be for maintaining good health.

Pharmaceutical advancements

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When it comes to medications, 53 percent of Americans say they are most grateful for Aspirin and Ibuprofen. Nine percent are grateful for medical marijuana followed by birth control pills seven percent, Tums five percent, Allegra four percent, Vicodin three percent, Ambien two percent and Viagra one percent. The miracle of Aspirin has been around longer than you think. The father of medicine Hippocrates was said to have remarked on the efficacy of willow bark, Aspirin's root ingredient in treating ailments. Many medications throughout the world have been helping people for centuries and today's biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies continue to use them in developing amazing new treatments.


This poll was conducted by telephone from July 9-13, 2014 among 1,011 adults nationwide. Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News by SSRS of Media, PA. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus 3 percentage points. The error for other subgroups may be higher. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

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