Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Forgotten Beauty

In March 1951, the Gallup Poll had a question in which they gave people a picture (at that time, the polls were done in person rather than over the phone) and said:  "Here are pictures of six different girls all dressed alike.  I'd like you to look at each one and tell me which ONE you think is most beautiful." #4 was the most popular choice with about 57%, followed by #3 and #5 with about 15% each.   The others were at 5% or less.

Preference varied by education:  #4 was uniformly popular in all groups, but  #3 was the choice of less than 10% of the people with a grade school education and 28% of the college graduates, while #5 was the choice of more than 20% of those with a grade school education and only 5% of the college graduates.  There were similar, although less dramatic, differences by occupation and economic level:  #3 got more support in the "higher" groups and #5 got more support in the lower.  There were also big differences by race:  among blacks, #5 led #3 by about 30%-8%; among whites #3 led by about 16%-13%,

There were no gender differences in preferences for #3, but compared to men, women were more likely to prefer #4 and less likely to prefer #5.  Older people were less likely to prefer #3, but only a little more likely to prefer #5--they were more likely to prefer #1 and #2 (age was the only factor that had a clear connection to preferences for #1 and #2).

At this point, I should show the picture, but I don't have a copy and have never seen it.  It's not included in the documentation at the Roper Center.  The Gallup Poll used to have a newspaper column in which they highlighted findings from their polls, but I did a search and couldn't find it there.  The question is prefaced with "we have been asked to find out", which suggests they did it for some client.  Maybe it was a magazine that published an article about the poll, but if so I haven't found it.  Or maybe it was a commercial client (they occasionally put "market research" questions in their regular polls), in which case it's probably lost for good.

In conclusion, there seems to be something interesting going on, but I have no idea what it is, and little hope of ever finding out.

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

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