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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®

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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®

A Dog’s Life is for the Birds: “Low Price” Isn’t Key When Buying Food for these Family Members

June 4, 2012 1 comment

Dogs have been described as loyal, loving, protective, happy, companions, smart, even a little spoiled. But is Fido really man’s best friend?

What ONE WORD best describes your Dog?

What ONE WORD best describes your Dog? Owners were most likely to say “Loyal” or “Loving.”

In our latest American Pulse survey, we posed this very question to the portion of our nearly 4,000 respondents who reported they were dog owners (46.0%). Not too surprisingly, the majority of dog owners somewhat or strongly agreed (63.4%) that their dog(s) was indeed a “best friend.” But the really interesting part? More dog owners (66.8%) were willing to acknowledge that their four-legged friend(s) seemed “more intelligent than some humans I know.” [I wonder if a similar proportion of dog owners feels the same way in more educated countries.]

While many dog owners weren’t ready to cop to best friend status with their canine companions, they were willing to toss Fido a bone. The vast majority of dog owners (87.7%) agreed that they were proud to call their pooch(es) “family.”  Now as for [insert “choice” family member here], that’s another story…

Please rate your level of agreement with the following statements regarding the Dog(s) in your household.

In addition to family member status – or perhaps because of this – health is a top priority for our cherished canines (according to 87.6%). And, in an economy where many shoppers have been opting for generic brands, couponing like crazy, and zeroing in on lowest prices to keep food on their own tables within budget, it’s interesting to note that a “low price” isn’t the top reason to buy a particular brand of dog food. In fact, this penny pinching motivator barely cracks the Top 10 (#9 with 12.4%). Instead, the majority of dog owners (49.4%) most often choose the “brand I trust,” followed by “taste/dog seems to like it” (40.5%). Money does enters the purchase decision with 33.9%, but because the dog food brand is a “good value.” Quality ingredients (27.0%) and nutritional value (25.8%) round out the Top 5. Side note: fewer than one in ten (9.2%) are motivated to buy a particular brand of dog food because it’s natural or organic.

For which of the following reasons do you buy a particular brand of Dog Food most often?

A few other facts related to Fido:

Purina is Top Dog. Purina (i.e. Dog Chow, Beneful, ONE, etc.) is the dog food brand purchased most often by the largest proportion of shoppers (25.3%), while Pedigree (12.9%) and Iams (8.3%) follow. Fewer than one in ten (7.3%) opt for a Natural/Organic brand like Blue Buffalo, Nutro, Orijen, etc., while just 5.0% buy Walmart’s Ol’ Roy most often.
Gen Y Might Have an Attitude Problem. While nearly three-quarters of owners say their dogs are well-behaved, this number lowers to 68.8% among Gen Y. These youngsters are also less likely than their older counterparts to regularly exercise their furry friends. Hmmm…
Keep Calm and Carry On. Most (81.4%) agree that their dog is a comfort to them or helps relieve stress. This is especially true among Boomers (84.6%) and Silents (88.2%).
Empty Nest, but Cozy Canine Companionship. Among members of the Silent generation, nearly all (94.1%) admit that their dog is a member of the family, higher than any other generation. Seven out of ten (70.0%) in this group are also best buds with…well…Buddy, higher than the overall average.
Spare the Rod, Spoil the Dog? About three out of five dog owners (58.2%) confess that they overindulge their dogs with treats and toys. Perhaps too busy spoiling their children, Gen X-ers (54.5%) are the least likely to admit to this.

Girl's Best Friend - All Bark and No Meow

Girl’s Best Friend – All Bark and No Meow

And what’s the best part about dogs? They aren’t cats.

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

* Generations were defined for this analysis in the following manner:

Silent (born 1945 or earlier)
Boomers (born 1946 – 1964)
Gen X (born 1965 – 1982)
Gen Y (born 1983 – 1993)

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

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ and American Pulse™ are trademarks of Prosper Business Development Corp.

Gen Y’s Financial Lessons from Forrest Gump

By now we all should be aware that Gen Y* is a group of savers. According to our May Monthly Consumer Survey, more than two in five (41.9%) of these youngsters maintain plans to pad their piggy banks over the next three months. This compares to fewer than a third of Gen-Xers (29.6%) and just one in five Boomers (22.9%). (Silents clock in at 14.8%, but you’ve got to account for the large proportion of retirees in this group.)

Planning to Increase Savings Over the Next 3 Months

Maybe Gen Y hasn’t taken on enough life “experience” in the form of children, mortgages, loans, credit, etc. to put paying down debt at the forefront of their financial priorities. Maybe Gen Y is still relying on $upport from their Boomer and Gen X parents while working their way up the pay scale. Or perhaps – having just experienced the Great Recession – Gen Y has learned a few lessons from its elder generations. Let’s examine some of these would-be lessons à la one of my faves, Forrest Gump.

[While I do realize that the oldest members of Gen Y were 11 when this classic hit the theaters, please…just humor me on this.]

Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get. Financial crisis, anyone? How about the housing meltdown, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, dot-com bubble, war in the Middle East, or rocketing oil prices? [OK, we should have been prepared for a few of those.] Utopian society we are not; on both macro- and micro-environmental levels, we are always going to have something to be worried about. The difference between Gen Y and its older counterparts, though, is that the youngsters seemed to be preparing themselves for life’s uncertainties by improving their financial foundation. When asked to compare their personal financial situation to the previous year, more Gen Y-ers called their monetary “better off” (27.4%) than “worse off” (25.8%). In each of the older generations, those “worse off” outweighed those “better off.” Nearly two in five Boomers (38.0%) say they are “worse off” financially compared to this time last year, while just 14.5% think they are “better off.”

Stupid is as stupid does. Consumers buying on credit drove much of the spending growth we saw in the pre-recession 2000. Keeping up with the Joneses and living beyond their means left a lot of families in a lurch – and unable to keep up with their bills once the value of their McMansions plummeted, credit card fees and interest rates ratcheted up, and pink slips put many on the unemployment line. “Save not squander” might be the Gen Y financial mantra, as more than two in five (42.8%) say they are saving enough for future needs. This figure eclipses the rate of the second-highest financially prepared generation (Silents, at 31.0%) by a full 38%. Just over one in four Gen X-ers feel they are contributing enough to their piggy banks, while Boomers are the least likely to feel secure in their savings.

I am Saving Enough for Future Needs

It happens. Is anyone 100% secure in their place of employment? Unfortunately, a high unemployment rate is currently a fact of life, and – let’s face it – the current 8.1% doesn’t account for those underemployed or discouraged workers. Gen Y may be having trouble securing their first jobs, working up the pay scale, and avoiding LOFO [last on first off] layoffs. But in the event that “it” does hit the fan, this generation is making the most of the income that they have – by saving at rates higher than any other group. Nearly half (45.4%) plan to save more than 10% of their annual income, much higher than Gen X-ers (31.3%) and Boomers (22.9%). Of course, this may in part be the result of fewer financial obligations [*coughs* mortgages…children], but at least Gen Y is consciously saving and not burning through their paychecks, right?

And that’s all I have to say about that.

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

Inspiration for this post wasn’t completely random…I recently visited the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. in Miami.

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

* Generations were defined for this analysis in the following manner:

Silent (born 1945 or earlier)
Boomers (born 1946 – 1964)
Gen X (born 1965 – 1982)
Gen Y (born 1983 – 1993)

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.

Generation Gap: Webaholics Anonymous

Hi. My name is Randi and I am a Webaholic (along with nearly half of the American population!). According to the American Pulse™ Survey from March, 47.5% of Adults 18+ admit that they are addicted to the Internet. The World Wide Web is also the top tech addiction among all generations:

While TV is the #2 digital drug of choice among all Americans, members of Gen Y and Gen X seem more hooked on Facebook. Perhaps keeping up with friends and bartering farm animals is more addicting than tuning in to the boob tube for younger Americans.

Like many of my Gen Yers (although I hate to admit it) I am also addicted to Facebook and my smartphone. However, I can’t whole-heartedly agree with the 33.0% addicted to TV (unless you count reruns of Law & Order SVU on Netflix!). I actually cancelled my cable service a year ago and now rely on Wii streaming and DVDs via snail mail.

Similarly, if they had to choose, the vast majority of Americans (83.0%) would cut the cable and fasten to Wi-Fi. This intention spans across all generations; however, a few more members of the Silent Generation would opt to keep their cable:

Regardless of age, Internet appears to be a necessity. It’s also the more practical option—you can always watch TV episodes online!

Source: American Pulse™ Survey, MAR-12 #1, N = 3892

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development.

The Award for Best Portrayal of an Ideal Model Family Goes to…

March 28, 2012 1 comment

I remember watching it on TV like it was just last night. Theo sauntered down the steps with his hat and sunglasses on, lip-syncing “Night and Day” by Ray Charles all while the Huxtable family danced in concert in front of him. And when Little Rudy stole the spotlight (“Baby, Baby!”), the live audience roared.

The Cosby Show was a staple in my household growing up in the ‘80s. My sister and I were allowed to watch it because it featured what my mom considered to be a good, wholesome family. Fast forward 25+ years and it seems that the Huxtables are still viewed as the consummate household… According to a March American Pulse™ Survey, the award for best portrayal of an ideal model family goes to—The Cosby Show. Honorable mentions notably go to Modern Family and Home Improvement.

It’s interesting to look across the generations to see which TV family is perceived to be ideal. Gen Xers, Boomers and the Silent Generation alike all list The Cosby Show as portraying the essence of the American family. (Gen Y votes for Modern Family.) But shows like Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver pop up among the Silent folks (admittedly, I’ve never watched a single episode of either). And Home Improvement is a popular choice among Gen X and Boomers, while Gen Y is more likely to list Full House.  I would have to disagree with the latter as I tend to prefer Uncle Jesse John Stamos post-Full House (and post-Beach Boys for that matter).

In the the same American Pulse survey, respondents were asked to vote for which TV show best portrays their group of friends. Not surprisingly, Friends tops the list among Adults 18+ followed closely by one of my friends and Gen X cohort’s favorites, The Golden Girls. (As an aside, I wasn’t allowed to watch The Golden Girls growing up, due to content my mom deemed questionable. And my friend got to know the mature clan via the Lifetime Network in college.)

Friends is also top of the list for members of Gen Y and Gen X as the TV show that most closely resembles their inner circle. Big Bang Theory comes in at #2 for both. Adults that fall into the Boomers and Silent Generations are more likely to say Golden Girls and Cheers. As a card-carrying member of Gen X, I noticed a glaring difference of opinion between “us” and Gen Y… Jersey Shore made their top ten for show that most resembles their friends. Scary Interesting to imagine Snooki as my BFF.

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

And for additional info from our latest survey:  Blacks, Asians & Hispanics Say Healthcare Reform Will Benefit Majority; Whites Disagree, According to Latest American Pulse™ Survey

Source: American Pulse™ Survey, Mar-2012, N=3892

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

Generation Gap: Confidence Defined

The components that contribute to confidence can differ from person to person. Is the stability of the national economy most important? Where do personal concerns with employment, finances, and the future come into play? Does the stock market influence anyone’s sentiment regarding the economy?

In this new analysis of the more than 9,000 respondents who completed our March Consumer Survey, we’re taking a look at how consumers define confidence. And, to make it even more interesting, we’re dissecting this data by generation:

Silent (born 1945 or earlier)
Boomers (born 1946 – 1964)
Gen X (born 1965 – 1982)
Gen Y (born 1983 – 1993)

Among adults in general, “Trust in the stability of the national economy” was deemed to have the most influence when determining one’s level of confidence (49.5%). “Trust that your future financial situation will improve” (44.3%), “Trust in employment conditions and your ability to get or keep a job” (42.5%), and “Trust in a positive future for your family” (39.9%) followed.

Trust in the Stability of the National Economy

While stability of the national economy was important across all generations, it is most valued among Silents (60.5%) and Boomers (55.3%) – and was each of these segments’ top confidence influencer. The younger sects, though, were more likely to define confidence from a more personal perspective. Nearly half of Gen Y-ers (46.4%) said that employment conditions/ability to keep a job was most influential; this was also the #1 confidence component for Gen X (45.8%).

Trust in Employment Conditions and Your Ability to Get or Keep a Job

Gens X (42.6%) and Y (43.3%) were also more likely to add “Trust in a positive future for your family” to their confidence equation compared to Boomers (38.3%) and particularly Silents (33.3%). “Trust in the future place of employment” was important to nearly a third of each generation, save for the Silent generation (13.4%) – presumably with retirement in sight, or at hand, for these consumers.

Additionally, the older the generation, the more likely that macro-environmental issues play a role in defining confidence. “Trust in government’s international policy,” “Trust in stock market,” “Trust in government’s domestic policy,” and “Trust in regional economy” peaked among Silents and tapered off with declining age.

No matter how you define confidence, though, the slow improvement we’re seeing for consumer sentiment (currently at 34.8%) is a step in the right direction for an economy – and a population – that have been struggling for several years. Stay tuned to see if this optimism can be sustained throughout the springtime or if rising gas prices with quash this good feeling.

Very Confident/Confident in Chances for a Strong Economy

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

Source: BIGinsight™ Monthly Consumer Survey – MAR-12 (N = 9242, 3/6 – 3/13)

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

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