Tuesday, November 23, 2010

They do things differently there

From a 1959 French survey:

"When you were, let's say between 8 and 12 years of age what did you usually drink at meals?"
Only water            22%
wine with water added 44%
a little wine, pure    4%
cider                 15%
beer                  10%
other                  4%

There was a series of questions about the first time you had "the impression that you had drank a little too much."  One of them asked "Was it at a particular occasion and which one?"

15% Ceremonies of a family character very often religious followed by celebrations 
 8% Gatherings [at a] family meal 
11% Gathering [of] friends
 7% Popular celebrations
 8% Usual drinking excess marking the beginning of adult life
 3% During work
 2% At the army
 4% Curiosity or childhood feat unknown to the adults
 4% Accidentally, exceptionally, taken surprise by circumstances
 2% Other answers
36% Don't know or don't remember

"How did your parents react when they observed that you had effectively drunk a little too much for the first time?  Were they..."

amused                        11%
kind                          16%
did they think it was normal   4%
judged you severely            4%
they didn't know about it     20%
No answer                     40%

The question about the occasion on which you first drank a little too much was open-ended:  people gave whatever answer they wanted and later someone classified it into the categories.  The report gave some examples of people's answers:

"It's sad to say but it was my first communion"
"pig fair"
"when I buried my life as a boy"
"I was an apprentice for an old gardener who made me drink"
"after school, to celebrate his little brother's birth, a friend took me to a cafe"
"I had gone to be paid by a wine-grower and they made me taste their wine"
"to be a braggart"
"I was coming back from a long stay in England where I had drunk only water"
"it was at boarding school, we were well taken care of"

Monday, November 15, 2010

Will this reading be on the test?

My friend and colleague Brad Wright has included several plugs for this blog on his own blog.  Brad is interested in religion, so here's a finding for him, from a 1965 Gallup Poll.  The survey asked people whether they'd done various things--there was no particular logic to the list, which included flying in a plane, eating caviar, and betting money at a race track (more common than I would have guessed).  One of the items was "read the Bible through--every word."  20% of the respondents said they had.  The straightforward interpretation is that 20% of Americans had read the Bible all the way through, but I find that hard to believe.  The Bible is a long book, and as a college professor I have a good sense of the chance that people will read long books all the way through.

Another possibility is "social desirability bias"--people are giving the answer that they think they "ought" to give, rather than telling the truth.  If the question involved general frequency of reading the Bible or attending religious services, social desirability might be an important factor.  But I don't think many people imagine that the world will think worse of them if they skipped a few of the minor prophets.  Also, the way that the question was asked cut down on the risk--it gave them a list and asked them to read off the letters designating the things they had done.  So you didn't have to explicitly say "no"--you just had to leave the letter "p" off of your list. 

A third  possibility, which I find the most plausible, is that most of these people thought they had read the Bible all the way through, even though they probably hadn't actually done so.  How would this be possible?  My guess is that many people who attended church frequently, or had done so at some point in their lives, figured that given the Bible reading involved they must have covered it all over the course of time, even if not in consecutive order. 

Another question in the list asked if you'd read a book all the way through since leaving school.  Of the people who said they hadn't, 12% said they'd read every word of the Bible.  People who'd gone to college were most likely to say that they'd read the entire Bible (26%), but people who'd just reached grades 8-11 were almost as likely (22%).  Among high school graduates who hadn't attended college, it was only 15%.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Are we downhearted?

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll question:  "As you may know, the United States went through a depression in the 1930s in which roughly one out of four workers were unemployed, banks failed across the country, and millions of ordinary Americans were temporarily homeless or unable to feed their families. Do you think it is very likely, somewhat likely, not very likely, or not likely at all that another depression like that will occur in the US within the next 12 months?"

                       Oct 2008  Oct 2008   Dec 2008   Mar 2009  July 2009  Dec 2009
Very            21%      12%     10%     12%      12%     17%
Somewhat        38%      29%     28%     33%      29%     26%
Not very        29%      35%     41%     36%      36%     39%
Not likely      13%      24%     20%     18%      22%     19%

There was a substantial change between the first two surveys, which were only two weeks apart (Oct 3-5 and 17-19), but very little change since then.  I'm not even sure if the differences among the last five surveys are statistically significant.  (If you want to calculate it yourself, the sample sizes are about 1,000 for each survey).  After a year when the worst didn't happen, it would be reasonable to think that it wasn't going to happen in the next year.  But that wasn't how people reacted.  

The improvement over a two-week period in October 2008 is also interesting.  The TARP bill was signed into law on Oct 3.  Maybe the process leading up to that contributed to a sense of panic, and people just bounced back after a few weeks.  Or maybe something positive happened between early and mid-October that affected people's outlook, although I don't remember the history well enough to think of what that might be.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Elitism, part 2

As I said in my last post, very few surveys have asked about elites or elitism.  But back in 1996, a Gallup/CNN/USA Today poll asked whether the description "The Party of the Elite class in this country" applied more to the Democrats or the Republicans.  The results:  65% Republican, 19% Democrats, 4% both, 4% neither, 8% don't know.  Opinions differed by political views, but even among extreme conservatives, more people said Republicans than Democrats (32% to 30%). 

But political commentators seem to have a very different impression--many of them are convinced that the Democrats are really the party of the elites.  For example, in the New York Times Book Review a few weeks ago, Christopher Caldwell (a conservative) says that 19 out of the 20 richest Zip codes "gave the bulk of their money to the Democrats in the last election", while Jonathan Alter (a liberal) says it's only 8 out of 10.

Of course, 1996 was a while ago, and maybe popular opinion changed since then.  But the gap between public opinion and what might be called elite opinion on the subject is still impressive.