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Do Americans believe in karma? Here’s how many pay it forward

That’s according to a survey of 2,000 U.S. adults which revealed that 84% buy into the idea that what goes around comes around.
That's according to a survey of 2,000 U.S. adults which revealed that 84% buy into the idea that what goes around comes around.

Almost nine in 10 Americans believe that karma is real.

That’s according to a survey of 2,000 U.S. adults which revealed that 84% buy into the idea that what goes around comes around.

Perhaps inspired by that notion, another 84% say they will go out of their way to “pay it forward” whenever possible.

That’s according to a survey of 2,000 U.S. adults which revealed that 84% buy into the idea that what goes around comes around. Daisy Daisy – stock.adobe.com
That’s according to a survey of 2,000 U.S. adults which revealed that 84% buy into the idea that what goes around comes around. Daisy Daisy – stock.adobe.com

Results also revealed, however, that bad karma has made its rounds and Americans attribute bad relationships (34%), losing something (27%) and arguments with others (27%) to it.

Whatever the reason, whether it’s to get their cosmic energy on track or general human nature, Americans report they are paying it forward in all kinds of ways.

The survey showed that “paying it forward” most often includes treating their loved ones to something special (50%), giving generous tips (48%) and helping out a neighbor, such as carrying their groceries or helping them shovel snow (46%).

It also includes donating money to organizations or charities (40%), volunteering their time to help out friends and family (38%) and supporting small or locally owned businesses (35%).

83% of respondents believe that they’d be even more generous if they were more financially secure. SWNS / Chime
83% of respondents believe that they’d be even more generous if they were more financially secure. SWNS / Chime

Results showed that the average American engages in five generous acts per week, totaling 260 random acts of kindness each year.

Beyond the mysterious karma-related benefits, these acts of paying it forward have real effects on more than those in the receiving end — Americans feel better about themselves (49%), their life overall (37%) and feel more confident (22%) when they’re able to do so.

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of banking app Chime, the survey also found that the top three ways Americans define “generosity” include “going out of your way to help someone else” (68%), “giving your time” (54%) and “paying it forward” (40%).

Results showed that the average American engages in five generous acts per week. SWNS / Chime
Results showed that the average American engages in five generous acts per week. SWNS / Chime

When asked the biggest generous acts they’ve done for someone else, respondents outlined scenarios like, “[I] opened my home for friend to move in during a health crisis,” “I overheard a waitress discussing some unexpected bills she was worried about covering so left her a $200 tip,” or even “I went to Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina to work on restoring houses.”

With that, almost three-quarters (72%) of Americans consider themselves to be generous, despite less than half (43%) currently feeling financially secure.

Respondents feel the rest of the United States has some work to do and does not match their own personal approach to generosity, with 42% saying the country is not generous.

72% of Americans consider themselves to be generous, despite less than half feeling financially secure. SWNS / Chime
72% of Americans consider themselves to be generous, despite less than half feeling financially secure. SWNS / Chime

“These survey results highlight the generous spirit in our country, regardless of what they think about the world around them or their current financial situation. Despite only 43% feeling financially secure, results found that almost two-thirds (65%) are likely to ‘keep the chain going’ and pay for the food of the person behind them in a drive-thru, if someone else paid for theirs,” said Sara El-Amine, Vice President of Community at Chime. “We’re encouraged to see that the ‘pay it forward’ spirit is alive and well in this country, despite some of the current economic challenges everyday people are facing.”

Americans are most likely to pay it forward whenever the mood strikes (43%).

Others are influenced by a good mood (24%), after someone else does something nice for them (18%) or even when a loved one is celebrating a milestone (13%).

Americans mostly pay it forward by treating a loved one to something special. SWNS / Chime
Americans mostly pay it forward by treating a loved one to something special. SWNS / Chime

No matter what triggers it, results also found that Americans are more than five times more likely to find that their spirits are lifted more when they’re able to help someone else out than when someone else helps them out (72% vs 13%).

Looking toward the future, an astounding 83% of respondents believe that they’d be even more generous if they were more financially secure.

Financial security and progress looks different for everyone, but two in five (38%) say that financial progress means being able to treat their family and friends or being able to donate to charity (30%).

Results also found that Americans are more than five times more likely to find that their spirits are lifted more when they’re able to help someone else out than when someone else helps them out. SWNS / Chime
Results also found that Americans are more than five times more likely to find that their spirits are lifted more when they’re able to help someone else out than when someone else helps them out. SWNS / Chime

“Feeling good about your finances can mean more than just adding commas to your bank account. The results further emphasize that everyday people are considering others when managing their own financial progress,” said El-Amine. “Someone’s financial situation should not be the thing holding them back from living generously.”

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 general population Americans was commissioned by Chime between Feb. 14 and Feb. 19, 2024. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).