Archive for June, 2012

Generation Gap: Presidential Pop Quiz

June 29, 2012 2 comments

It seems as though Americans were right in saying the quality of education in the U.S. is slipping, and recent American Pulse results support that argument. 66.0% said our children’s knowledge of historical events has gotten somewhat or much worse in the past 10 years. However, it’s not just the children who are forgetting key facts about U.S. history—older generations’ minds are slipping as well, and they don’t have a “failing school system” to blame. The gold stars are few and far between for the Presidential Pop Quiz.

4 in 5 Americans (79.6%) don’t know who wrote the law of the land and is known as the Father of the Constitution. (Seems like an important tidbit that should be remembered instead of pop lyrics, sports stats or a date’s phone number.) Only 20.4% knew that James Madison is the man behind the manuscript that governs our country; most (59.8%) believe Thomas Jefferson wrote the Constitution. Members of Generation Y, those most recently submerged in the school system, were slightly more likely to pick Madison:

Having lived through a historical event seems to make it more memorable. Older Americans in the Silent Generation were most likely to remember that Franklin D. Roosevelt was responsible for the economic programs known collectively as the New Deal. 87.5% of these wise citizens picked the correct answer vs. 58.9% of the youngsters in Gen Y (still a majority though). Members of the Silent Generation know their assassination history better than other ages as well:

Now for the trick question:

Which president was in office when we landed on the moon?

  • John F. Kennedy
  • Lyndon B. Johnson
  • Richard Nixon
  • Gerald Ford

Did you pick out Nixon? The majority of Americans did not—JFK (36.8%) was the popular choice, likely because he declared in 1961 there would be a moon landing by the end of the decade. A significant number of citizens (27.4%) thought Lyndon B. Johnson was in office when we landed on the moon, since he was in office the same year, 1969 (perhaps a thank you should go out to the Disney show Even Stevens for a catchy tune about that). Overall, roughly one-third (32.3%) picked the right president. Boomers, followed by members of Gen Y, were most likely to name Nixon as the Commander in Chief when the lunar landing took place:

Although it seems factual knowledge of the U.S. presidents is lacking, American citizens have a good idea of which presidents would do the best job handling the current economic situation. Nearly 1 in 4 (23.5%) would bring back Ronald Reagan if they could pick any past or current president to run the country. Older Americans show more support for the former-actor-turned-politician; 30.5% of Boomers and 32.4% of the Silent Generation miss Reagan’s tax cuts, deregulation efforts and ability to sustain general prosperity across the nation. Bill Clinton was the #2 pick for most (#1 for Gen Y). I think it’s safe to say Americans don’t want another scandal, but they would prefer a drop in national debt! The #2 for Gen Y is current president, Barack Obama, third among the general population in presidential popularity.  To see how Obama stacks up in 2012, check out the American Pulse™ InsightCenter™, updated twice a month.

Fun Fact: 13.4% of Gen Yers would like to bring back Abraham Lincoln…because he was a truthful politician or because he hunts vampires? I am scared to know the honest answer to that one…

Source: American Pulse™ Survey, June 2012 #1, N = 3,603

© 2012, Prosper®


Confidence Cools Off As Summer Heats Up + How Does the Stockholm Syndrome Relate to Savings?

June 27, 2012 1 comment

This month, my co-host for the BIG Call was John Mariotti, President/CEO & Founder of the Enterprise Group. John also currently serves as a Director on several corporate boards and is an award winning author.

For this month’s BIG Call, John supplemented our favorite data on confidence, employment, personal finances, and spending plans with his unique analysis and understanding of these topics.

Here’s what we talked about:
– Confidence in the economy cools off as summer heats up, marking the second consecutive month of decline
– Just 16% of consumers are calling for “fewer” layoffs – a figure that has decreased [i.e. grown more pessimistic] over the past two years
– Last month’s “dip” in practicality appears to have been a “blip” on consumers’ spending radar
– Why are consumers seemingly holding back when it comes to paying down debt or increasing their savings?
– Scary fact: One out of three consumers isn’t saving any income
– Improvements in 90 Day Outlook may not be as positive as they appear
How is JC Penney’s “Fair & Square” faring?

To listen to the recorded webinar, click here.

For the full, complimentary June 2012 BIG Call slide deck, please click here.

For more information on this data, please contact BIGinsight™.

Source: BIGinsight™ Monthly Consumer Survey – JUN-12 (N = 8760, 6/5 – 6/12/12)

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

Pain at the Pump: Who (or What) is Controlling Pump Prices?

June 25, 2012 1 comment

In an election year, gas prices are more than just a concern for consumers. They become a hot topic in debates and fodder for those political ads we all love so much. Consumers’ pain at the pump can quickly turn into a reason for voting (or not voting) for a particular candidate.

In our May American Pulse survey, we asked respondents who or what they believe controls gas prices, and the American people were most likely to indicate that most control is held overseas. Nearly half of Adults 18+ believe that leaders in the Middle East are in control, followed by 44.3% who say that good ol’ supply and demand holds the power, while “International Conflicts” come in third. Under one in four say that Congress (24.4%) or the President (23.1%) are responsible for pump prices.

When breaking this down by generation, the youthful are more likely to spread the power out. While supply and demand tops their list, they are the least likely to say this basic economic principle controls gas prices. They are also the least likely to believe leaders in the Middle East are in control, but more likely than older generations to say the President and Congress are holding the reigns.

When we asked these questions in May, consumers had expected gas prices to be $3.95 per gallon by Memorial Day weekend, only to be pleasantly surprised when they were only at $3.67 per gallon ( With gas prices below expectations and continuing to decline (not to mention those $5/gallon summer forecasts we were hearing about heading into the Spring seemingly by the wayside), we decided to ask consumers in our June American Pulse survey who they believed was responsible for the drop in the average price per gallon, using the same list of available answers. In other words, we know who they think controls them, but who do they give credit to when things are going well?

For Adults 18+, supply and demand tops the list of responsible parties when it comes to prices declining, followed by consumers themselves (the “demand” side of that S+D equation).

As they did with the control, Gen Y was most likely to spread out the credit. Older generations were more likely to focus on supply and demand and consumers. 20.9% of Gen Y indicated that the President was responsible, compared to just 12.6% of Gen X, 6.2% of Boomers, and 4.5% of the Silent Generation. Congress followed the same trend with Gen Y being the most likely to indicate they were responsible for the drop in prices.

So, let’s bring this all back to the election. Will gas prices have a direct impact on who consumers vote for in the November?

If consumers are feeling the pinch (or even anticipating it) because of the dollars draining from their wallets when they fill up their tank, it seems the faces of the incumbents in the Oval Office and at the State House will be flashing in their minds along with the dollar signs. Steep gas prices could be an advantage for those looking to steal a seat in Congress or make Pennsylvania Avenue their new address. On the flip side, with consumers not giving a whole lot of credit to politicians currently holding office, a slight drop in gasoline prices alone probably won’t be the tipping point for incumbents to hold onto their seats.  Either way, Gen Y is most likely to equate pump prices with political offices.

Source: American Pulse™ Survey, May & June 2012, Jun-12 N = 3603

© 2012, Prosper®

Will 2012 Mark the Return of the Great American Vacation?

Planning a Summer Vacation (Three Year Trend)With nearly 30 million Americans hitting the road for the Independence Day holiday, we thought it’d be interesting to take a look at what other vacation plans consumers had in store for the summer – if any. For the past three years, we’ve been asking the nearly 9,000 respondents in our Monthly Consumer Survey whether they are taking some time off over the next few months [which I would deem necessary for my sanity] and, if so, how much they plan to spend in comparison to the previous year’s outing. So let’s pile into the Family Truckster and see where this data takes us.

This year, nearly a third of consumers (31.7%) plans to take a summer vacation. While this number may seem a little low, it’s important to remember that:

a. Confidence in the economy as well as the job market remain shaky [at best]

b. This still represents an improvement over the vacation plans for the past two summers

Summer vacation plans are the strongest among those under 44, presumably because those are the households most likely to be catering to children. [Hello, Walleyworld Disney World!] Nearly two in five (38.5%) of those 25 to 34 are booking summer outings, while a third of those 18 to 24 and 35 to 44 are making plans. Adults 45 to 54 are the least likely to be enjoying a little fun in the sun over the next few months; these consumers, though, might be feeling a little strapped with college tuitions, squirreling away funds for retirement, etc. As age increases beyond 54, it appears that consumers are more likely to be enjoying travel time, perhaps in retirement.

Planning a Summer Vacation in 2012 (by Age Group)

Now will this year’s travelers be going on the cheap or booking five star hotels? They’ll probably fall somewhere in between, though leaning toward the more practical, budget friendly side. Among consumers planning to take a vacation, more than one in five (22.6%) plans to spend “more” than they did last year, while nearly as many (19.2%) will be spending “less.” This small difference might be significant, though: for the first time in recent memory (i.e. since 2010) those planning to spend “more” have outweighed those determined to spend “less.” [Last year was pretty much a tie.] The balance of vacationers (53.3%) is budgeting the “same” as previous years, so don’t expect a shortage of penthouse views.

Do you intend to spend more, the same amount, or less than you did for your summer vacation last year?

Just remember, wherever your travels take you this summer – or at any point in the future – always avoid Cousin Eddie’s and never let the dog near the picnic basket.

And for on where vacationers might be headed this summer, check out our previous post on this topic: State Superlatives: Dreamiest Destination, Finest Fare, Best Bet for a “Rerun” + more

Source: BIGinsight™ Monthly Consumer Survey – JUN 10-12

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

Generation Gap: Are schooling standards sinking?

June 20, 2012 2 comments

In an election year, important issues are top of mind and above the fold, and I’ve seen all things from the economy, health care, Social Security, gas prices…..but not education. Sadly, the majority of Americans (65.2%) feel the quality of education in the U.S. has gotten somewhat or much worse in the past 10 years. This number increases with age: a whopping 74.8% of the Silent Generation thinks schooling standards have sunk. 74.5% of Boomers, 61.7% of Generation X and 46.5% of Generation Y agree.

Not surprisingly, given our society with such luxuries as T9, auto correct and basic spell check, writing and spelling top the list of suffering subjects along with knowledge of historical events. The majority of Americans also said children’s abilities in the areas of life skills, reading and basic mathematics have gotten worse in the past decade:

Although fewer than the majority think science, vocational skills and creative skills are worse these days than in the past, they certainly aren’t any better. Only 18.2% believe trade/vocational skills are somewhat/much better and just 1 in 5 has seen improvement in children’s understand of scientific principles (20.8%) and creativity (21.9%).

Whether or not technology plays a part in the plunging principles of education is still up in the air. 51.3% of Americans say technology has had both a positive and negative effect on the quality of education—however, general consensus leads towards the positive:

Younger generations are more likely to recognize the positive effects of technology on education (learning basic computer skills, research and data analysis, virtual simulations from bacterial growth to flight imitation). More than one-third of Gen Y (35.5%) say overall technology has had a positive effect on learning. However, Boomers are more skeptical of technology’s educational benefits and may be thinking about how devices like smartphones can take the place of brainwork at times. Slightly more members of this generation (23.1%) believe technology has had a somewhat or very negative affect on education vs. those who say the outcome has been positive (21.7%). Perhaps these older Americans are thinking of things like spell checkers, instant access to the Internet to look up facts and even the ease of plagiarism with the web.

Although the majority has noticed a drop in educational quality, technology does not appear to be the culprit (or at least not the only reason why young Americans can’t spell basic words without the help of auto correct!)

Source: American Pulse™ Survey, June 2012 #1, N = 3603

© 2012, Prosper®

June Insights – Hot Off the Press!

June 18, 2012 1 comment

Early each month, we release our Executive Briefing – complimentary topline insights from our latest Monthly Consumer Survey of more than 8,000 consumers.

BIGinsight June Executive Briefing

Click to view this month’s Executive Briefing

And, we’ve just released our latest edition for June. Here’s what you may have missed:

– As the summer weather heats up, confidence in the economy cools off. This month, just 31.3% feels very confident/confident in chances for a strong economy, down from last month and marking the second consecutive month of decline for this indicator.
Good luck, Class of 2012: With the official U.S. unemployment remaining a discouraging 8.2%, an increasing number of consumers foresee a rise in layoffs over the next six months compared to May.
– May’s dip in practicality appears to have been just a “blip” on consumers’ spending radar. Additionally, practicality remains elevated from the June readings we recorded during the recession, suggesting that fault lines in the macro-economy are still rattling spending plans on a micro level.
Pain at the Pump: No gas price “fireworks” expected to set off for upcoming the holiday. Drivers are anticipating an average pump price of $3.75/gal by the end of June, 20 cents lower than their prediction for the close of May.
– Walmart wins in Women’s Clothing, while JC Penney is slipping.
– Consumer Migration: While Walmart’s travails are well-documented in Women’s Clothing, does the big discounter’s outlook look any brighter over in Men’s section?
– 90 Day Outlook is looking UPward compared to the past two years.  However, with spending for the majority of merchandise categories weakening compared to May, look for practical consumers to continue to exercise caution when spending.
– What’s Hot? Saving is in style, with Coupons taking the top spot in our list of What’s Hot for June. [#attentionJCP]

To sign up to receive the monthly BIGinsight™ Executive Briefing, please click here.

And, to view the latest BIG Executive Briefing in its entirely: June 2012.

Source: BIGinsight™ Monthly Consumer Survey – JUN-12 (N = 8760, 6/5 – 6/12/12)

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

“Fair & Square” Revisited

June 14, 2012 9 comments

When we first took a look at the new JC Penney “Fair & Square” strategy back in March, the initial read was so-so from the consumer standpoint. In our monthly “Hot or Not?” feature, more deemed it “not” (58.3%) than “hot” (41.7%), though JC Penney Women’s Clothing Shoppers* seemed the most willing to give the strategy a chance, particularly compared to Kohl’s, Target, and Walmart shoppers.

Flash forward to June…

In the wake of JC Penney’s disastrous Q1 earnings report, we decided to again poll our nearly 9,000 consumers for an update on their “Fair & Square” feelings. As you can imagine, it’s not faring so well; over the past three months, those who think JCP’s new direction is “hot” dropped nearly 14%:

Hot or Not? JC Penney's "Fair & Square" Ad Campaign

But the real issue here is how “Fair & Square” has affected JC Penney’s consumer share. A look at 10 years of BIG historical data on the current Top 5 Women’s Clothing retailers tells three tales:

1. The Decline of Walmart
2. The Rise of Kohl’s
3. The Macy’s / JC Penney Clash

Women's Clothing - Shop at Most Often

Let’s leave Walmart and Kohl’s out of the story for once and make JC Penney and Macy’s the main characters. As you can see, since Macy’s nationwide conversion in the mid-2000s, these two department stores have been tangling pretty consistently for third place in this category – with JC Penney generally the victor. However, a magnified look at each retailer’s performance over the past 13 months shows just how damaging “Fair & Square” was for JCP’s customer base:

Women's Clothing - JC Penney / Macy's Snapshot

Instead of driving shoppers to its stores, “Fair & Square” sent its customers right into the arms of competitors. #whatanightmare

* A selection of Women’s Clothing retailers was analyzed for this report. “Women’s Clothing Shoppers” are defined as those who shop most at a given retailer for Women’s Clothing (an unaided, write-in response).

Source: BIGinsight™ Monthly Consumer Survey – JUN-12 (N = 8760, 6/5 – 6/12/12)

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

The Father’s Day / Mother’s Day Spending Gap Explained [?]

June 11, 2012 2 comments

In our ten years of gathering spending intentions for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day for the National Retail Federation, one glaring item has always been consistent: shoppers spend more money on Moms.

While Dad finally appears to be getting his due this year, with the average consumer budgeting $117.14 this Father’s Day, spending for June 17 will still be eclipsed by the $152.52 they planned to spend on Mom last month. That’s right, consumers are allotting 23% less for dear ol’ Dad – and that’s an improvement from the 32% gap that existed in 2008.

Mother's Day v. Father's Day Combined Average Spending

So why do consumers spend less for Father’s Day? Perhaps we’re just so tapped out from Mother’s Day that by the time Dad’s Day rolls around, we’re tightening the purse strings. [wink] Jokes aside, let’s take a look at more realistic possibilities for the spending gap between those big days for Mom and Pop:

THEORY #1: Mom is…well…Mom. Under the most traditional of circumstances, Moms tend to be the nurturers in the family. Who else would kiss the bandaged knee and “make it all better”? [OK, maybe Grandma – also a Mom BTW]. Consider this, too: within two-income households, the multitasking mother may earn a paycheck and run the household. Now I’m not saying that Dad doesn’t chip in or do his fair share of chores and child-rearing [though I don’t recall my Dad ever doing a load of laundry], but doesn’t this double-duty earn Moms the right to a little something extra each May?

Perhaps different* parental dynamics just make us predisposed to doting on Mom a little more.

THEORY #2: Blame it on the weather. For those of us lucky to live in states where we see the seasons change [though I could do without Ohio winters], by early May the weather’s getting warmer, greenhouses are full of new flowers, and restaurants begin offering outdoor dining again – in a nutshell, we’ve got all of these super excuses to celebrate Mom (and put a little spring in our spending).

By the time Father’s Day rolls around, though, it’s also pool season, t-ball [etc.] season, graduation season – and that’s a lot of seasons to pack into a busy mid-June weekend. Perhaps it’s all we can do to fit a little special time in for Dad on Father’s Day.

And let’s not forget that it’s also grilling season. Hot dogs are cheaper than a sit-down restaurant, so the special family meal may be more cost-conscious than last month’s Mother’s Day brunch.

THEORY #3: What does Dad really want? When was the last time you saw your Dad drooling over the newest Pandora® beads or shiny trinkets in the display case at a jewelry store? For Mom, it’s probably another story, and that’s guilt in the form of savvy** Mother’s Day marketing, my friends. Retailers try to up the ante for Father’s Day, too, but it never seems to have the same impact, does it?

While some Dads may drop heavy Father’s Day hints, I’m willing to guess that [based on personal experience] most do not. So what to buy? Those golf clubs should last a good 30 years [right?!], and I don’t know about you, but I shudder just thinking about the prospect of heading to my local big box and hunting down a “good” tool that he already doesn’t have.





Did you know that besides greeting cards, the most popular tangible gift for Dad this year is apparel? Forget the spending gap; perhaps Dad’s bigger issue is that he’s suffering from gift discrimination. More than two in five shoppers (42.3%) plan to gift apparel for Father’s Day, compared to just 32.8% who anticipated buying apparel for Mother’s Day. [BTW, flowers were the most popular Mother’s Day gift this year.]

Percentage Planning to Buy Clothing: Mother's Day v. Father's Day

Whatever the reason that consumers spend less on Father’s Day, I guess it’s good that Dads just seem to go with the flow. And we love them all the more for it.

For the official National Retail Federation press release: Dads Finally Getting Their Due This Father’s Day, According to NRF Survey.

And, check out the Blog for additional insights: Online Father’s Day shoppers expect seamless cross-channel shopping.

*Note: Not “good,” not “bad,” just “different.”
**Note: Not “good,” not “bad,” just “savvy.”

Source: BIGinsight™ Monthly Consumer Survey – MAY-12 (N = 8789, 5/2 – 5/8/12)

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

Talking to Text – Harmless or Hindering for Drivers?

June 8, 2012 1 comment

Last month we explored the idea of voice activation on mobile devices and found many smartphone and tablet owners use this feature for directions (55.2% regularly or occasionally ask for navigation help). I know I’ve done this while driving, speaking the name of the place I am looking for so I can get turn by turn instructions. I’ve also been guilty of talking to text while driving. With many states like Ohio looking to pass laws regulating the use of electronic devices while driving* (not just texting, which is already a no-no in 39 states), we wanted to know if Americans thought speaking to a device was any safer than using hands-on methods, or if voice commands were just as distracting.

The majority of Americans say it is slightly or much less dangerous to talk to a device instead of engaging in traditional hands-on activities while driving. However, 1 in 4 believes voice capabilities like talking to text bring with them the same amount of danger as talking with your fingertips:

While the different generations (Gen Y, Gen X, Boomers and Silent Generations) agree on the perceived level of danger, these age groups disagree on what specific mobile activities should be banned by law. The majority say hands on activities (texting, hands on phone calls, browsing the web, playing games, etc.) should be illegal, but older generations are most likely to also want to ban hands-free activities like talking to text. Those in Generations X and Y on the other hand, are less likely to be willing to give up talking to text, asking for directions or using other voice commands.

Perhaps members of Gen X and Gen Y are more accustomed to multitasking and technological gadgets in general while older generations are more likely to see these devices as potential distractions.

The late Ray Bradbury wrote in his novel Dandelion Wine:

Every time man and machine look like they will get on all right –boom! Someone adds a cog, airplanes drop bombs on us, cars run us off cliffs.

He may not have been able to predict how dangerous texting while driving can be (or playing Words with Friends—sadly, I’ve seen this), but he warned his readers 50+ years ago of the dangers and diversions technology can create.

*In Ohio, a law will soon take effect banning those under 18 from using ANY sort of handheld electronic device for ANYTHING. Drivers have to be pulled over first, so luckily adults like myself who look like highschoolers won’t be pulled over when making phone calls or checking a GPS 🙂

Source: American Pulse™ Survey, MAY-12 #2

© 2012, Prosper®

American Pulse™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development.

Mommy Blog: Summertime Fun

Its summertime…sweet summertime!  (Some Kenney Chesney lyrics are playing in my head)  After such a long winter/not really winter…given we saw snow I think one time…summer is welcome with open arms at my house!  My kids are definitely dirt diggin’, sprinkler runnin’, sunscreen wearin’, bug catchin’, creek jumpin’, outside playin’ kind of kids!  My son wants to play outside from sun up till sun down.  As for my almost one year old little girl…she sure knows how to get her cute little outfits dirty!

This time of year is especially hard for me.  I would much rather be at home spending the days outside with my kids.  I’m not alone with 50% of parents answering somewhat/strongly agree with the statement:  I wish I worked less so I would have more time to spend with my children.  74.6% somewhat/strongly agree with the statement:  I wish I had the financial means to give my children more.  My children are young so I feel having more “time” to spend with them is a top priority in my life.  I’m sure one day when my son realizes “monies” do more than fill his piggy bank (that would be his new coca-cola bottle since his baby piggy bank was full) I will have to readdress my thoughts on “time” vs. “money”.

Below is the full list of statements asked in the recent American Pulse™ Survey:

As for the time I do have, I plan to spend it making this summer filled with budget friendly activities for my kids.  I thought I would share some ideas (in addition to our normal family activities above):  water balloon toss, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, kite flying, body painting (then run through the sprinkler!), neighborhood scavenger hunt, obstacle course, oobleck, wet sponge toss, squirt bottle fight and popsicle breaks.  These fun activities should get this Mommy a few brownie points this summer!

For more information on this data, please contact BIGinsight™.

Source:  American Pulse™ Survey – May 2012 #2 (N=3751, 5/21 – 5/29/12)

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

%d bloggers like this: