Saturday, August 27, 2011

Who are the Freudians?--2

Dreams often reflect unconscious desires

         Yes  No  Not sure
18-29    63%  31%    6%
30-49    48%  38%   14%
50-64    39%  44%   17%
65+      26%  42%   33%

Children under four have sexual thoughts

         Yes  No   Not sure

18-29    22%  74%    4%
30-49    11%  77%   12%
50-64    12%  75%   12%
65+       9%  78%   13%

Main reason for psychological problems

         Parents   Own fault   Luck   Other   Don't Know

18-29    41%        22%         8%     18%     11%
30-49    29%        18%        19%     20%     15%     
50-64    21%        21%        14%     25%     20%
65+      20%        25%        11%     14%     29%

Younger people are more likely to favor the "Freudian" on all three questions.  Any time there are age differences in a survey taken at one point in time, they could be the result of either lasting generational differences or views that change with age, or some combination.  I can't think of any plausible reason that views about dreams should change with age.  On the last question, I think at least some of the differences reflect changes with age.  It seems reasonable that younger people would think that relations with parents have more impact on life, for good or bad. Still, these results suggest that "Freudian" ideas are still slowly gaining support in the general public, even as Freud has lost some standing among intellectuals. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Who are the Freudians?

My last post discussed a survey that asked about some more or less Freudian ideas--that young children have sexual thoughts, dreams often reflect unconscious desires, and the main cause of psychological problems is the relationship to one's parents.   Who accepted them?  It seems reasonable that more educated people would be more favorable.  You could argue that there's been a general drift away from tradition, so young people would be more favorable to them.  On the other hand, Freud's prestige seems to have peaked in the 1950s and 1960s, so maybe middle-aged people would be most favorable.

Dreams often reflect unconscious desires

                        Yes  No  Not sure
Not high school grad    30%  42%   28%
high school  grad       39%  42%   19%
college graduate        45%  40%   15%
graduate study          49%  32%   19%

Children under four have sexual thoughts

                        Yes  No   Not sure
Not high school grad    13%  80%    7%
high school grad        11%  80%    9%
college graduate        14%  75%   11%
graduate study          12%  63%   26%

Main reason for psychological problems
                    Parents Own fault   Luck Other Don't Know
Not high school grad  32%     32%       11%    7%    20%
High school grad      27%     22%       16%   17%    18%
college graduate      26%     17%       13%   24%    20%
graduate study        17%     19%       10%   30%    24%

There's no obvious common pattern.  An unusual thing about the second question is that the percent saying they aren't sure increases with education.  Usually educated people are more likely to offer an opinion, even on topics where not knowing is in principle the most reasonable option. 

 Three tables is probably enough for one post, so I'll leave age differences until next time.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Know thyself? No thanks

A 2006 survey by Princeton Survey Research Associates contained several questions on "psychological health."  Three of them involve acceptance of Freud's ideas, at least in a popularized form.  "Do you believe that the dreams people have often reflect unconscious desires, or not?"  43% said they did, 40% that they didn't, and 17% that they didn't know.  "If an adult has psychological problems, do you think the MAIN reason is usually .... their relationship with their parents growing up .... is their own fault .... or is just bad luck?"  29% said parents, 22% said their own fault, 13% bad luck, 18% that it was none of these or something else, and 18% that they didn't know.  "Do you believe that a very young child under four years of age is capable of having sexual thoughts and fantasies, or not?"  Only 13% said yes, 76% no, and 11% didn't know. 

It also asked "now thinking about INTENSIVE therapy or psychoanalysis, where you meet with a psychiatrist or other therapist five days a week over a long period of time:  If someone else were paying the bills, would you be interested in undergoing intensive therapy or psychoanalysis to improve your psychological health or learn more about yourself?"  13% said yes, 84% said no, and 4% weren't sure.  

In my next post, I'll look at differences by age and education. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What's an entitlement?

Journalists and people involved in politics often talk about "entitlement programs," or just "entitlements," meaning programs for which people who meet certain criteria have a legal right to benefits.  In a legal sense, "entitlement" is a synonym for "right," but in ordinary language, it tends to have a negative implication.  Someone who stands up for their rights is admirable; someone with a sense of entitlement is not.  The everyday meaning seems to be along the lines of "thinking you should get something without having to earn it." 

So I wonder how the ordinary public understands the talk of curbing the growth of "entitlement programs."  Unfortunately, recent surveys don't shed much light on this, but back in 1994 an NBC/Wall Street Journal Survey asked "Would you favor or oppose cutting spending on government entitlement programs in order to reduce the federal budget deficit?"  61% were in favor, 25% opposed, 7% said that it depends, and  7% were not sure.  But only half of the people were asked that question--the other half (randomly chosen) were asked"Would you favor or oppose cutting spending on such government programs as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and farm subsidies in order to reduce the federal budget deficit?" Only 23% were in favor, 66% were opposed, 8% said it depends, and 3% weren't sure.  The point of the comparison is that the programs mentioned are entitlement programs.  But apparently most people don't know that. 

You could regard this as a case of public ignorance or inconsistency, but I think the fault is with the insiders who keep using the technical term rather than trying to communicate in language that people will understand. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Out of the mainstream, 2

A February 2005 survey by the New York Times and CBS News asked "on the whole, do you think it should or should not be the government's responsibility to provide a decent standard of living for the elderly?"  79% said it should, 17% that it shouldn't.  Who was this 17%?  They tended to be more affluent and white--no surprise there.  But they were also better educated and older.  For example, only 5% of the people who weren't high school graduates thought it shouldn't be the government's responsibility--that rose to 27% among college graduates and 31% among people with graduate education.  Of course, more educated people tend to make more money, but the educational difference is still there after controlling for income.  I thought that the age effect might be limited to more affluent people, who might think that there were more pressing needs than looking out for them--but it seemed to apply to older people at all income levels.