American Consumers Newsletter

by Cheryl Russell, Editorial Director, New Strategist Press
May 2008

Ten All-American Traits

4. New from New Strategist: A TO Z GUIDE TO AMERICAN CONSUMERS

1. Hot Trends

Ten All-American Traits

In the run-up to the November election, we are engaged–once again–in ritual self-analysis. Who are the American people? What do we believe? How will our national identity play out in the election?

For the answers, let’s peer into the statistical mirror–the General Social Survey. The GSS has been reflecting the American identity for more than 30 years. The most recent results from the 2006 survey reveal the good, the bad, and the ugly of the American identity. Take a look.

1. We are tough. Among the world’s nations, the United States ranks number one in prisoners per capita, yet

68 percent of Americans still think the courts
are not harsh enough on criminals.

And our toughness extends well beyond law enforcement.

72 percent agree that it is sometimes necessary
to discipline a child with a “good, hard spanking.”


2. We want it both ways. Fully 63 percent of the public wants to cut the government’s purse strings. Only 13 percent oppose spending cuts. But when asked what we should cut, our enthusiasm wanes. These are the percentages of Americans who want to cut spending by specific program area:

education: 4
health care: 6
retirement benefits: 7
law enforcement: 8
environment: 13
natural disasters: 14
military: 26
arts: 30

3. We are careless. Americans are forever thumping their chests with pride, and the one thing we boast about the most is our freedom. Yet the majority of Americans are willing to give up that freedom without much of a fight:

56 percent think the government probably or definitely
should have the right to jail people without a trial.


4. We are religious. Among the world’s developed countries, the United States stands alone in its religiosity.

59 percent pray at least once a day.
Only 50 percent believe in evolution.


5. We are hard working. In fact, we are workaholics. This may explain why American workers have so little vacation time compared to their European counterparts and why we do not demand more time off:

70 percent would continue to work even if rich.


6. We are diverse. The Census Bureau continually tells us how diverse we are, but does it matter much anymore? GSS results suggest that the racial divide is not so big after all:

74 percent of blacks have trusted white friends.
52 percent of whites have trusted black friends.


54 percent of blacks have white family members.
20 percent of whites have black family members.


7. We are alienated. Americans do not have warm and fuzzy feelings toward public officials or their fellow citizens:

Only 35 percent say politicians are interested
in the problems of the average person.

Only 32 percent believe most people can be trusted.

80 percent believe others will take advantage of you
if you are not careful.


8. We are uptight. Americans have a well-deserved reputation for being prudish about sex:

Only 46 percent believe premarital sex is not wrong at all.
Only 32 percent believe homosexuality is not wrong at all.

But we are also practical:

89 percent support sex education in the public schools.
54 percent think teens should have access to birth control.


9. We like to stay put. Americans live in the third largest country in the world, but they restrict themselves to a very small portion of it.

38 percent still live in the same city they lived in at age 16.
62 percent live in the same state they lived in at age 16.


10. We still dream. Perhaps the single defining characteristic of Americans in both good times and bad is our steadfast belief in the American Dream:

69 percent say hard work, rather than luck or connections,
determines success.

70 percent say the United States gives people like them
the opportunity to improve their standard of living.


By Cheryl Russell, editorial director, New Strategist Publications

For more about American attitudes and values, see the all-new fifth edition of American Attitudes: What We Think About the Issues That Shape Our Lives. If you have questions or comments about the above editorial, e-mail New Strategist at



Percentage of Americans who think the government should have
the right to tap people’s telephone conversations: 56.

2. Q & A

How Green Are We?

Are you kidding? Americans have a long way to go before they show the slightest hint of green. The first results from the federal government’s Residential Energy Consumption Survey released a few weeks ago reveal how much energy households use–and waste. The survey, taken every five years, asks households about their heating and cooling practices, electronics ownership, and appliance use. The latest results are from the 2005 survey–admittedly a bit dated, but the U.S. housing stock is so massive that these numbers change slowly. Here is the bad news.


  • Only 16 percent of American households are not air-conditioned. Fifty-nine percent have central air conditioning, and another 26 percent have window or wall units.
  • Sixty-one percent of households with central air-conditioning run the system all summer.
  • Only 48 percent of homes with central air-conditioning have large trees that shade their house.


  • Twenty-four percent of homes have high ceilings, which require more energy to heat.
  • Only 19 percent of all homes use a programmable thermostat to reduce temperature settings at night.
  • Forty percent say their home is drafty in the winter.


  • Fifty-eight percent of households have a dishwasher, 79 percent have a clothes dryer, 83 percent have a clothes washer, and everyone has a refrigerator.
  • Twenty-two percent of homes have two or more refrigerators.


  • Virtually every household (99 percent) has at least one color television set. Seventy-eight percent have at least two sets, and 43 percent have three or more.
  • Half of households have their television turned on most or all of the time.

By Cheryl Russell, editorial director, New Strategist Publications

If you have any questions or comments about the above Q & A, e-mail New Strategist at



Since 1990, the number of homeowners under age 25 has doubled.

3. Cool Research Links

To keep up-to-date on ever-changing demographics and lifestyles, check out these useful links.

New population estimates

Safe to say, many Americans cringe when the Census Bureau releases its annual population estimates. We have grown by another how many million? You can find out the details at this site. Between July 1, 2006 and July 1, 2007, we gained 3 million people–4 million births plus 1 million immigrants minus 2 million deaths.

Who is happy?

The intriguing study, “Social Inequalities in Happiness in the United States, 1972 to 2004: An Age-Period-Cohort Analysis” by Yang Yang, published in the April 2008 issue of American Sociological Review, examines happiness over time and by demographic characteristic. Some of the findings: the probability of being happy has fallen over the past three decades; the odds of being happy increase with age; and baby boomers are not as happy as older or younger generations.

Married parents use of time

It is easy to guess who has less free time than anyone else: married women with preschoolers and full-time jobs. These hard workers have only 2.70 hours of leisure a day compared with 3.50 hours of leisure enjoyed by their male counterparts and 3.89 leisure hours for mothers who do not work. Get the facts at this link to American Time Use Survey data.



Percentage who read a newspaper every day:
Millennial generation: 16
World War II generation: 72

4. A to Z Guide to American Consumers

Need a research assistant? Here is one that is reliable and does not have to be added to the payroll: The A to Z Guide to American Consumers: Quick Links to Free Demographics, to be published next month by New Strategist. For only $59.95–or an even better $49.95 if you opt for the handy electronic version–you can get the demographic information you need in just a few keystrokes. The A to Z Guide is your quick link to free information about topics ranging from Adoption to Zip Code Demographics. Plus, there is a contact list of 54 major surveys or data collection efforts ranging from the American Community Survey to the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System that provide demographic information about the U.S. population, all available for free or a nominal charge.
(ISBN 978-1-933588-97-1) Just $49.95 for the electronic version, which can be downloaded today at, or order the hard copy ($59.95) available in June. To see the table of contents, sample pages, and more, go to

5. New Editions of Best Sellers

American Attitudes

Researchers who want to explore Americans’ changing attitudes can rejoice: the new fifth edition of American Attitudes is finally here. American Attitudes: What We Think about the Issues That Shape Our Lives reveals what the public thinks about topics ranging from premarital sex to global warming, how Americans feel about their money and their marriages, what our hopes for our children are, how often we socialize and with whom, our religious beliefs, political leanings, and working conditions. It shows those answers by the demographics that shape perspective–sex, age, race, and education. American Attitudes also compares attitudes in 2006 with 1996, examining how opinions have–and have not–changed during those 10 years. Please note that the electronic version of this title includes links to spreadsheets of the book’s 321 tables.

(ISBN 978-1-933588-93-3) Just $79.95 for the electronic version, which can be downloaded today at, or order the hard copy ($89.95), which will be available in June. To see the table of contents, sample pages, and more, go to


American Generations

Joining the lineup of updated titles is the long-awaited sixth edition of American Generations: Who They Are and How They Live, a superior resource for researchers who want to quickly and easily compare and contrast the five living generations–Millennial, Generation X, Baby Boom, Swing, and World War II. Opening with an in-depth overview of the demographics of the generations, American Generations’ 12 chapters examine attitudes (a newly added chapter) education, health, housing, incomes, labor force, living arrangements, population, spending, time use (a newly added chapter), and wealth. Please note that the electronic version of this title includes links to spreadsheets of the book’s 273 tables.
(ISBN 978-1-933588-95-7) Just $79.95 for the electronic version, which can be downloaded today at, or order the hard copy ($89.95) available in June. To see the table of contents, sample pages, and more, go to