What Americans Think Archive
It Depends What Your Definition of 'Do' Is
Dec. 21, 1998
President Clinton should have been a pollster. Anyone who can quibble over what the meaning of "is" is has got precisely the right stuff to appreciate how even seemingly small differences in the wording of survey questions can produce significantly different results.
Free Speech Still Gets Our Vote
Dec. 14, 1998
While Americans may be troubled by many kinds of speech and behavior, "the vast majority of Americans believe that it is dangerous for the government to put limits on certain rights because it then is easier for the government to put limits on more rights."
Some Words of Caution on Media Polls
Dec. 7, 1998
Poll-watcher Philip Meyer's gives Richard Morin his list of the do's and don'ts for conducting media polls.
What Makes a 'Bad' American
Nov. 30, 1998
The worst: A bigot on welfare who doesn't speak English and won't stand up when the national anthem is played at a baseball game.
Sometimes, It's How You Ask
Nov. 23, 1998
Even though election-night reports that union votes had surged this year were proven wrong, news organizations continue to report an increased labor turnout.
A Kinder, Gentler Government?
Nov. 16, 1998
The surprises in Washington merely confirmed what voters said so clearly on Election Day. Anger is out and compassion is suddenly in.
Finding the Smoking Gun
Nov. 9, 1998
Declining levels of trust in government appear to track with declining levels of individual trust, as revealed by national polls.
The Kids'-Eye View
Nov. 2, 1998
In recent weeks, there's been a boomlet of surveys about young people on topics ranging from the serious (violence in school) to the silly (how much allowance students collect) to the scandalous (what kids think about the Monica Lewinsky scandal).
Mixed Messages on Campus Diversity
Oct. 26, 1998
Even as the number of minorities plunges at many universities around the country, large majorities of Americans say they value racial and cultural diversity on campus.
We've Moved Forward, but We Haven't Overcome
Oct. 5, 1998
Although some key attitudes of white and black Americans toward the country's racial climate remain unchanged, recent polling data from several sources suggest that race relations have improved.
Doing the Right Thing on Trade Sanctions
Sept. 28, 1998
Americans strongly support continuing economic sanctions against Iran and Libya, but relatively few are willing to punish other countries for trading with our enemies, according to a new national survey.
Close to a Fever Pitch Over Health Care
Sept. 21, 1998
While political Washington wallows in the Lewinksy scandal, public concerns over managed care are beginning to boil over not that anybody inside the Beltway seems to notice or care.
Higher Marks for the Media
Sept. 7, 1998
Here's the latest bombshell from a new national survey sponsored by the Media Studies Center in New York: Americans are actually feeling better about the way the media are covering the crisis.
Aug. 31, 1998
Forget Gen X, those disaffected and cynical twentysomethings. It's the rise of the "X Class" Americans of all ages who badmouth their lives and prospects that should worry students of the American character, say two Stanford University sociologists.
What You Don't Know Can Kill You
Aug. 24, 1998
Most Americans believe they will not contract a sexually transmitted disease, according to a new survey by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. But one in four Americans will come down with an STD sometime in their lives, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Jokers Stacking the Deck
Aug. 17, 1998
Pollsters have hectored the masses for decades about the dangers of pseudo-polls that invite people to clip out, phone in or answer online via a computer a "survey" questionnaire. Hank the Angry, Drunken Dwarf shows how skewed Internet "polling" can be.
The Three R's Still Stand
Aug. 10, 1998
Overwhelming majorities of African American and white parents agree: Schools should focus on reading, writing and arithmetic over promoting integration and diversity, according to a new national survey of parents.
My Country, 'Tis of Thee
Aug. 3, 1998
America is the most patriotic country in the world or at least that portion of it where public opinion polls are regularly conducted. But patriotism is relatively rare in countries liberated or created by the Big Bang that obliterated the former Soviet Union.
The End of an Era
July 6, 1998
Everett Carll Ladd, who has served for 21 years as director of the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Connecticut, has announced that he is stepping down from that post, effective next July.
A Matter of Privacy
June 29, 1998
The issues that really trouble Americans about the Internet are privacy and security, not Windows98. Together, these twin worries are keeping the Internet from becoming the shopping mall of the future, according to a new national survey.
The Artful Dodgers
June 22, 1998
A new poll shows that political consultants take no responsibility for the consequences of their acts while dishing out heaps of disdain for candidates and voters.
The Move to 'Net News
June 15, 1998
America's appetite for network news is in eclipse and newspapers are holding their own, while the proportion of Americans who get their news from the Internet is growing at astonishing speed, according to a new survey of America's news habits.
When It Comes to Monica Lewinsky, It's All Academic
June 8, 1998
A look at President Clinton's popularity polls in the days and months after the Monica Lewinsky story broke shows how much the former White House intern taught us about American politics.
Can We Believe in Polls About God?
June 1, 1998
Post Polling Director Richard Morin reports that widely publicized measures of belief in God may be significantly overstating belief in a higher being and evolution.
Soon, a Break From Classes and School Crime
May 25, 1998
Recent school shootings in Oregon and Arkansas show anecdotal evidence that schools are not safe. Post Polling Director Richard Morin has statistical data that backs up that assumption.
Don't Waste the Volunteers' Time
May 18, 1998
Most volunteers who quit do so because they feel the organization is mismanaged. Most Americans mistakenly think violent crime is on the rise and only half believe that the economy is expanding. Retirement saving should be a personal effort, according to most Americans.
The Persistent Shadow of Richard Nixon
May 11, 1998
Watergate brought Richard Nixon's administration crashing down around him. Allegations of sexual adventurism and harassment seemingly have sent President Clinton's job approval ratings through the White House roof. But wait, a top pollster says that the two are strikingly similar at this stage of their scandals.
Questions Your Doctor May Not Ask
May 4, 1998
It's rare to find the results of a scientific poll on a serious subject in a woman's magazine. It's also rare to find survey results that could save your life. But it's virtually unheard of to find both in the same story. But there it was, in a recent issue of Glamour magazine.
Missing the Story on Bosnia
April 27, 1998
A recent national poll shows that public support for NATO's peacekeeping mission in Bosnia has never been higher. So Harvard University's Richard Sobel wonders why most American news media, including The Washington Post, have mischaracterized public attitudes on Bosnia.
Looking at Retirement From Both Sides
April 20, 1998
Here's some advice for young adults: Start saving for retirement, right now. And forget most of what you think you know about old age. You're probably wrong, and these misperceptions may blind you to the real problems and possibilities of life after work.
Encouraging News for Media Pollsters
April 6, 1998
A "perfect poll" conducted last year by The Pew Research Center for The People & The Press found results comparable to those found by conducting a standard poll. The similarity mostly dispelled concerns over a liberal bias in media polls.
A College Education Is Important, But ...
March 30, 1998
A growing majority of Americans say a college degree is the key to the middle class, but most of the public also believes that many students "are just wasting their time and money in college," according to a new national survey conducted by Public Agenda for the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.
A Public Paradox on the Drug War
March 23, 1998
Americans believe we're losing the war on drugs but aren't ready to abandon the fight and remain willing to spend even more money to control the use of illicit drugs, according to a major new analysis of public attitudes published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Less Than Meets the Eye
March 16, 1998
New studies call into question the validity of two of America's most popular survey tools voter exit polls and the widely-publicized "trust in government" question.
Rapping on the Glass Ceiling
March 9, 1998
Want to smash through the glass ceiling? The latest issue of the Academy of Management Executive reports a new and innovative survey of male and female senior executives at Fortune 1000 companies that might offer some advice.
Wanted: Some Time for Their Families
March 2, 1998
It's tough being a working man or woman, and that's why a majority of Americans say they want the federal government and employers to help working families ease their burden, according to a new survey conducted by the National Partnership for Women & Families.
The Pollsters' Greatest Enemy: Themselves
Feb. 23, 1998
You get interesting answers when you ask a provocative question to people who ask questions for a living. At least that was the experience of the editors of Public Perspective when they recently asked nine top pollsters to write short essays in response to this question: What are the greatest challenges confronting public opinion research?
Reporting on the Media
Feb. 16, 1998
Americans may be giving President Clinton the benefit of the doubt, but there's no doubt how the public feels about the way the media is covering the White House intern scandal.
What's Moving Clinton's Numbers?
Feb. 9, 1998
Allegations that President Clinton had sex with a young White House intern haven't yet sent his presidency into free fall but the scandal already has turned conventional wisdom about public opinion and the president on its head.
Leaning Toward an Honest Response
Feb. 2, 1998
While some national polls reported that most Americans believe President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky had an affair, other polls showed that few Americans believe the allegations. By "leaning" respondents, pollsters can drastically influence the outcome.
Turning the Question
Jan. 26, 1998
Of course Americans favor laws giving them greater freedom over their health care choices. But when asked if they would still favor such laws despite possible consequences, respondents to a Kaiser-Harvard survey were not so supportive.
Crackdown on Pollsters
Jan. 19, 1998
Big Brother is watching the world's pollsters. From Indonesia to Peru and points in between, governments are taking an increased interest in survey research. A study finds more countries than ever before are instituting embargoes on pre-election surveys.
Keeping the Faith
Jan. 12, 1998
Believe it or not: America is the most religious country in the developed world, according to a survey conducted in 60 countries.
Judging Ourselves Harshly
Jan. 5, 1998
America has a troubled image of itself. Three in four say the nation's founders would be "disappointed" with the "way things are going in the country," while just one out of six said they would approve.
The Favorite Time of the Year
Dec. 22, 1997
Of course it's the season to be jolly. How do you know for sure? You can check your calendar, or listen to the radio or page through our morning newspaper, fat with holiday ads. I, however, prefer to check the polls.
Last Requests: How We Want to Die
Dec. 15, 1997
This is how Americans say they want to die: at home, not in a hospital. We want to pray before we die, or have people praying for us. We want the doctor who attends our final hours to be a friend, not merely a health care provider. We want less technology and more family and friends at our bedsides. We want less effort to prolong our lives and more attention to matters of the spirit.
An Ocean of Concern
Dec. 8, 1997
Americans believe the seas are sick and see the declining health of the world's oceans as a direct threat to their own quality of life, according to a new national survey.
Sex and the Army: Behind the Headlines
Dec. 1, 1997
Women made headlines when the Army recently released its survey of sexual harassment in the ranks, and appropriately so. But overlooked and largely ignored in the statistical shuffle was this startling statistic: In terms of actual numbers, far more men than women reported they had been harassed, coerced or otherwise sexually assaulted while serving their country.
Misreading the Public's Attitude on Foreign Policy
Nov. 24, 1997
Americans who make foreign policy have thoroughly misread public attitudes on international affairs and the role that Americans want their country to play in the world.
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