Believing In Miracles, I’ll Have The Usual, Etc.

They may not believe the sales pitches you concoct, but that doesn’t mean Americans are an altogether disbelieving bunch. In a poll conducted for Adweek by Alden & Associates Marketing Research of Palos Verdes/Redondo Beach, Calif., adults were asked, “Do you believe in miracles?” Eighty-five percent said they do, up from the 79 percent who said so when we posed this question in a 2001 poll. More women than men (90 percent vs. 80 percent) said they believe in miracles. Perhaps men feel less need of miraculous intervention as they bull their way through life.

Here’s more evidence of male infidelity. A study by WSL Strategic Retail asked people whether they have a brand they “use most often” in various consumer categories. In most of the sectors included in the poll, men were more likely than women to say they don’t have a “most often” brand. Some of the results played true to gender stereotype. More men than women said they don’t have a “most often” brand of laundry soap (13 percent vs. 5 percent) or of shampoo (16 percent vs. 9 percent). But the same pattern was evident in categories where you wouldn’t necessarily expect a gender gap. For instance, men were more likely than women to say they do not have a regular brand of coffee (15 percent vs. 10 percent), breakfast cereal (14 percent vs. 10 percent), pain reliever (15 percent vs. 9 percent) or allergy remedy (13 percent vs. 8 percent). Pet food was a rare exception, with 11 percent of men and women alike saying they do not have a “most often” brand. Though men are dogs, at least they’re no less likely than women to keep their pet supplied with its accustomed food.

Feel sorry for parents as they scrimp to save for their kids’ college education? Your sympathy may be misplaced. A Wall Street Journal Online/Harris Interactive poll finds that nearly all parents of children under 18 expect the youngsters to attend college. And of such parents, 79 percent expect to pay at least some of the cost. But the survey also finds a majority have “saved little or nothing for this anticipated expense.” Thirty-two percent haven’t saved a cent specifically for that purpose; another 26 percent have saved less than $5,000. Twelve percent claim to have salted away $20,000 or more for their kids’ college costs. In part, says the study, the failure to save likely reflects a wishful expectation that scholarships and/or other financial aid will pick up the tab. At the same time, Mom and Dad appear increasingly willing to foist some of the costs of a college education onto their offspring. Just 12 percent of parents expect to pay the whole bill themselves.

Those darn hormones. In a survey of women by Self magazine, 60 percent of respondents said hormones “have wreaked havoc on their complexion.” Elsewhere in the survey, 23 percent of women said they would prefer having flawless skin to getting a $5,000 raise. Instead of giving them raises, their employers could get off cheap by letting them come to work later in the morning. After all, 89 percent of respondents said sleep keeps their skin healthy. As for women who’d take the $5,000 raise, most wouldn’t spend it on drastic anti-aging treatments. In all, 78 percent of the women said they would not want to get a cosmetic procedure that makes them look younger.

Just as tastes differ in the things people like, tastes differs in the things they regret. But there are matters in which we assume opinion will be uniform. Among adults who dropped out of high school, for instance, we expect all of them regret having done so. This turns out not to be true, though. In a poll commissioned by Time and The Oprah Winfrey Show, 70 percent of respondents who dropped out of school said they regret having done so. But a sizable minority (28 percent) said they don’t regret dropping out. Respondents who did finish high school weren’t asked whether they regret sticking it out to the bitter end.

A CBS News poll makes much of its finding that 45 percent of American adults now have an unfavorable impression of Islam (up from 33 percent in 2002), vs. just 19 percent having a favorable view. (The rest said they didn’t know.) Given all the controversies currently surrounding that religion and its adherents, this level of disapproval seems unremarkable. What’s more striking is that many respondents also take a dim view of religions long familiar in this country. Looking at the chart below, one can’t help but notice that Americans aren’t very comfortable with religions whose adherents are, how shall I put this, religious! Given the history of anti-Semitism (milder in the U.S. than elsewhere, but still a factor), one might be surprised that Judaism scored so well in the poll. One obvious explanation is that people don’t think of modern American Jews as being particularly religious. The same goes for mainline Protestants. As it happens, a report by Gallup on attendance at religious services finds Jews and Episcopalians the least likely to go on a regular basis. Mormons, evangelical Protestants and Baptists are the most likely to attend regularly. (Averaging survey data from the past several years, this report didn’t break out figures for Moslems.) Americans’ ideal religion, it seems, would be one with picturesque churches or colorful traditions but as little fervor as possible. If nothing else, the polling data ought to give pause to culture critics who habitually describe Americans as a uniquely God-ridden people.