American Consumers Newsletter

by Cheryl Russell, Editorial Director, New Strategist Press
May 2010

The Tea in Television


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1. Hot Trends 

The Tea in Television


The latest time use statistics might reveal the fuel of the Tea Party fire: the growing television addiction among older men. No one watches more TV than men aged 65 or older. They spend nearly one-third of their waking hours (4.63 hours per day) watching television as their primary activity, according to the 2008 American Time Use Survey. Men aged 55 to 64 rank second in television viewing (3.81 hours per day). Men aged 45 to 54 rank fourth (3.09 hours per day), behind women aged 65 or older (3.69 hours per day). Older men not only watch a lot of TV, but they are watching a lot more. In the past five years, men aged 45 or older have added 28 to 46 minutes to their daily dose of television. No other age group comes close.


These findings might explain the demographics of the Tea Party movement. Eighteen percent of Americans say they are Tea Party supporters, according to a New York Times poll taken last month. The 75 percent majority of supporters are aged 45 or older (versus 50 percent of all adults), and 59 percent are men (versus 49 percent of all adults).


What is the link between television and Tea Party supporters? Just ask them, which is what the New York Times did. The 47 percent plurality of Tea Party supporters acknowledge that most of their information about the movement comes from television. Not just any television, either. Sixty-three percent say they are most likely to watch Fox News for information about politics and current events.


The great majority of Tea Partiers think their beliefs are shared by most Americans. Fully 84 percent think the views of the Tea Party movement reflect the views of the general public. They are misinformed about this, and that might explain their anger. According to the New York Times:

  • 85 percent of Tea Party supporters do not think the federal government should require Americans to get health insurance. Only 45 percent of the general public agrees.
  • 76 percent of Tea Party supporters want the federal government to cut the deficit rather than create jobs. Only 42 percent of the general public agrees.
  • 51 percent of Tea Party supporters think global warming will not have a serious impact on the environment. Only 24 percent of the general public agrees.
  • 52 percent of Tea Party supporters think too much has been made of the problems facing blacks. Only 28 percent of the general public agrees.
  • 53 percent of Tea Party supporters think the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision (giving women the right to abortion) was a bad thing. Only 34 percent of the general public agrees.
  • Only 17 percent of Tea Party supporters favor raising taxes on households making more than $250,000 a year. The 54 percent majority of all Americans favor higher taxes on those households.

Fifty-three percent of Tea Party supporters say they are angry about the way things are going in Washington. When asked why they are angry, the single most important reason–after health care reform–is that Washington does not represent the people. That may be true, but Tea Party supporters do not represent the people either. They are much more likely than the average American to be retired, collecting Social Security benefits, and covered by Medicare. They are much more likely than the average American to watch a lot of TV.

By Cheryl Russell, editorial director, New Strategist Publications. If you have questions or comments about the above editorial, e-mail New Strategist at


Householders aged 25 to 34 are the best customers of beer
served at bars and restaurants.

Source: Best Customers: The Demographics of Consumer Demand

2. Q & A

What is the unemployment rate?


Each month the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports on the nation’s employment situation. With great fanfare at 8:30 a.m. on the first Friday of each month (with some exceptions), the BLS releases the previous month’s employment report including the unemployment rate. The latest announcement occurred this morning, Friday May 7, when the BLS reported that the unemployment rate in April was 9.9 percent.

The question is, 9.9 percent of what? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics definition of unemployment, it is 9.9 percent of the labor force. The labor force includes both the employed and the unemployed.

How does the government know how many are employed or unemployed? It knows because, with great effort, it asks. Each month the Current Population Survey asks a representative sample of 60,000 households about their activities during the survey’s reference week–typically the week that includes the 12th of the month. Specifically, the government asks whether respondents worked for pay or profit. People who say “yes” count as employed. People who say “no” must answer more questions. Did they want to work, were they available for work, and have they looked for work in the past four weeks? The government defines looking for work as sending out resumes, filling out job applications, and contacting employers about jobs.

What if you were sick or on vacation during the reference week? You count as employed. What if you were snowed in? Employed. What if you were temporarily laid off and waiting to be called back to work? Again, employed. Also counted as employed are people who work without pay at least 15 hours a week for a family business owned by someone in the household.

What if you are no longer looking for a job because you know there is nothing out there? Then you are classified as a “discouraged worker” and not counted in the labor force at all. Some think that the unemployment rate is artificially low because it does not include discouraged workers or those who work part-time because they can’t find a full-time job. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics produces an alternative measure of unemployment that includes those groups. In April, this more inclusive calculation stood at 17.1 percent of the labor force.

By Cheryl Russell, editorial director, New Strategist Publications. To find out more about unemployment see thisBureau of Labor Statistics page. If you have any questions or comments about the above Q & A, e-mail New Strategist at  


Hispanics spend 23 percent more than the average household on lunch at fast-food restaurants.

Source: Household Spending: Who Spends How Much on What

3. Cool Research Links

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

Income of the Population 55 or Older
This recently released biennial report from the Social Security Administration reveals the dependence of America’s older generations on Social Security benefits. The report details the type and amount of income received by people aged 55 or older in 2008, examining economic status by a variety of demographic characteristics. One of the findings: Social Security accounts for fully 58 percent of the income received by people aged 65 or older. Private pensions account for only 8 percent.

2010 Retirement Confidence Survey
This link will take you to the latest annual Retirement Confidence Survey of the Employee Benefit Research Institute and Mathew Greenwald and Associates. Not surprisingly, workers are losing confidence in their ability to afford a comfortable retirement. The proportion who are “very” confident fell to 16 percent in 2010, down from 27 percent three years earlier. Nearly half (46 percent) of workers are “not too” or “not at all” confident in their ability to afford a comfortable retirement.


Percentage of American households with incomes of $250,000 or more: 2%

Source: American Incomes

4. Find Out How American Consumers Spend Their Money

Consumers are spending more cautiously, making it vital to get the answers to Who buys? What do they buy? How much do they spend?

Now you can get accurate and reliable answers to these questions from New Strategist’s books and downloadable reference tools. Much of the data in New Strategist’s references you cannot get anywhere else–including online!


  • Starting a new business? Repositioning your products? The 14th edition of the annually updatedHousehold Spending: Who Spends How Much on What, is your exclusive guide to dollar-for-dollar answers to who is buying hundreds of products and services ranging from laundry detergent and phone cards to motorcycles, wine, and restaurant meals.
  • Best Customers: Demographics of Consumer Demand, 6th ed., is a unique guide to how changing demographics are reshaping the consumer marketplace. Find out who spends the most and who controls market share–often surprisingly different–for over 300 products and services.
  • The 14 volumes in the Who’s Buying Series, which can be purchased individually or as a set, give you the big picture about consumer spending by age, income, household type, race, Hispanic origin, region of residence, and education. Each volume focuses on an individual product category, ranging from apparel and beverages to restaurants, consumer electronics, and travel.
  • The 7th edition of American Incomes is your one-stop resource for understanding the economic status of Americans. The United States is experiencing the worst economic downturn in a generation. Incomes are down, poverty is up, and net worth has declined. As the country adjusts to the new economic reality, it is vital to stay on top of these socioeconomic trends
For your convenience, New Strategist’s titles are available as searchable single- and multiple-user pdfs that are linked to spreadsheets of all the data tables in each book so you can do your own analysis and create PowerPoint presentations.



State with the highest median
household income: Maryland ($70,545).

Source: American Incomes