Unloved Corporations, Hoped-For Gifts, Etc.

Maybe they should spend more on ads. Business corporations stand exceptionally low in public esteem these days, according to polling for the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. In a survey fielded last month, 8 percent of adults said they have a “very favorable” opinion of corporations, with another 37 percent expressing a “mostly” favorable view; 29 percent said they have a mostly unfavorable opinion of corporations, and 16 percent expressed a very unfavorable opinion. As recently as 2002, the favorable total exceeded the unfavorable by 62 percent to 29 percent. In the booming days of 1999, the favorable tally peaked at 73 percent, vs. a 22 percent unfavorable total. The “very favorable” vote has held fairly steady over the years. Apparently love of corporations is, as Shakespeare once wrote in a non-corporate context, “an ever-fixed mark/ That looks on tempests and is never shaken.” The collapse has been in the ranks of the mostly favorable, which constituted an outright majority of respondents in Pew’s polls throughout the 1990s and into the early part of this decade. (In 2001, for instance, 56 percent were in the mostly favorable column.) We’re also seeing a growing intensity of distaste among the corporate sector’s detractors. In 1999, the very unfavorables were less than one-sixth as numerous as the mostly unfavorables (3 percent vs. 19 percent). In the new poll, the very unfavorables are more than half as numerous as the mostly unfavorables. This suggests that anti-corporate sentiment will not be so easily assuaged by the time-honored ploys of corporate good-deedism.

Stress and anxiety are facts of life for most American women, according to a poll by Self magazine and the Anxiety Disorders Association of America. In the respondent pool of women age 18-49, 84 percent said stress and anxiety “are simply parts of your day-to-day.” Even more striking, 31 percent said they suffer “persistent, excessive, irrational stress and anxiety in everyday life.” The effects of this wear and tear often manifest themselves in physical ways. As the chart at lower left indicates, these aren’t confined to headaches, though those are the best-known symptom. In trying to cope with stress, some women make things worse, as with the 22 percent who overdose on caffeine—which, of course, makes their queasy stomachs even queasier. “And 15 percent of women who say stress is a part of daily life turn to alcohol for solace, which, apart from hangovers, may cause a host of other health consequences.”

Parents can decide for themselves whether this counts as good news or bad news: Yankelovich polling finds 44 percent of kids age 9-17 agreeing with the statement, “I often feel too tired to do the things I want to do.” Fifty-eight percent of kids in that age cohort said they’d prefer an extra hour of sleep to an extra hour of free time. If nothing else, this weariness gives the youngsters something in common with adults, among whom just 55 percent “wake up in the morning feeling well-rested” most of the time. At the drowsiest end of the spectrum, 29 percent of adults report that “lack of sleep has started to interfere with their personal and professional lives.”

No wonder so many kids don’t eat their vegetables: They are merely following the shoddy example set for them by grownups. According to a new Green Giant Vegetable Report (as summarized on the WorldOpinion Web site), the average American consumes 2.4 servings of vegetables per day—less than half the five servings recommended by the food pyramid. In polling fielded for Green Giant by Opinion Research Corp., 59 percent of respondents confessed they don’t eat as many vegetables as they should. In the struggle to make vegetables palatable, 70 percent of consumers put butter on them, 66 percent use herbs and seasonings and 50 percent add cheese. Thus, if nutritionists ever do succeed in getting Americans to ingest five servings of vegetables each day, it could prove to be a boon for the butter, herb-and-seasoning and cheese industries.

If you haven’t already bought a vest as a holiday gift for some man in your life, better skip it altogether. In a holiday-shopping survey conducted for The Macerich Co. by August Partners, just 2 percent of men cited a vest as the gift they’d most like to get. Only loafers (picked by 1 percent) had fewer takers. At the top of the list, 20 percent of men said sports tickets are the gifts they’d most like to receive, with designer jeans (16 percent) the runner-up. As for women, the most-hoped-for gifts (each mentioned by 16 percent) are DVD/CD boxed sets and layered necklaces, with embellished sweaters (don’t ask me) close behind (14 percent). At the bottom of the list, 4 percent said colorful gloves are just what they’ve always wanted. And what if consumers don’t get what they’re wishing for? Taking no chances, 44 percent of adults said they’re planning to buy “something special for themselves” as they do their holiday shopping this year. I suppose the really unimaginative ones will give themselves a gift card. Finally, the poll identifies the one respect in which women are more depraved than men: 33 percent of women admitted that they practice “re-gifting,” vs. 27 percent of men.

When homeowners buy the whole nine yards, just what is it nine yards of? An NPD Group study of the consumer home-textiles market found bath-related products accounting for 35 percent of unit sales, with kitchen textiles yielding another 35 percent. Bedding pulled in 20 percent of home-textiles unit sales, and window treatments took 9 percent. The chief venues for buying such stuff: mass merchants, specialty stores, discount stores and national chains.

Amid the brewing debate on whether “intelligent design” should be taught in schools as a respectable alternative to Darwin’s theory of evolution, Utah’s Wasatch Brewery has decided to stir things up even more. The company has relaunched its 2002 “Unofficial” Amber Ale (which mocked “official” sponsorships of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah) with a new label as Wasatch Evolution Amber Ale. The label includes a seal that marks it as “Darwin Approved” and declares that the ale was “Created in 27 days, not 7.” Whether this will make it a natural selection for Utah beer drinkers remains to be seen.

A new poll adds to the evidence that immigration is becoming a more heated issue in the U.S. Conducted by Rasmussen Reports, it focused on the fact that current law grants American citizenship to anyone born in this country. Asked about a proposal that would end this “birthright” citizenship for children of illegal immigrants, 49 percent of respondents said they favor it, while 41 percent said they’re opposed. Elsewhere in the same poll, 60 percent said they favor building a barrier along the U.S.-Mexican border to help reduce illegal immigration.