America’s Best Days, Wiretap Wannabes, Etc.

It’s standard practice among political speechmakers to declare orotundly that “America’s best days are ahead if it.” For the party in power, it’s a way to voice buoyancy about the way things are going. For the party out of power, it’s a way to sound positive even while saying current conditions are dreadful. But do Americans in general believe it’s true? While a majority of them do, polls conducted for Adweek by Alden & Associates Marketing Research of Palos Verdes/Redondo Beach, Calif., indicate it’s a shrinking majority. In the new poll, 59 percent of adults agreed that America’s best days are ahead of it. That’s down from 75 percent in 1996 and 76 percent in 2001. Respondents with household income of $100,000-plus were more likely than those making less than $100,000 to think the nation’s best days lie ahead (73 percent vs. 58 percent). There wasn’t a gender gap on this issue, but there was a small marriage gap: 61 percent of married respondents subscribed to the statement, as did 57 percent of singles.

When ads ask the Haves to donate winter clothing to the Have-nots, the tone is often sanctimonious. One may wonder whether such an ad is aimed more at giving its authors a warm feeling than at giving some down-and-outer a warm coat. In any case, a campaign created for LaSalle Bank is commendably free of such guilt-tripping as it urges people to bring unneeded warm clothes to the bank’s branches for donation to the Salvation Army. When it comes to some of the stuff lurking in their closets, many people are rather-have-nots, and the campaign plays effectively on that fact. Why not supplement the general pleasure of helping others with the specific pleasure of getting an ex-boyfriend’s jacket out of your home? Another ad in the series (showing flannel shirts) urges readers to leave the grunge movement behind. Energy BBDO of Chicago created the campaign.

While the number of feet in the U.S. remained fairly stable, sales of footwear surged by 9 percent in dollar volume in 2005, according to a report from The NPD Group. The $42 billion in total spending covered a 5 percent rise in the number of shoes sold, to 1.4 billion pairs. The rise in fashion footwear sales (up 11 percent) outpaced the gain by athletic footwear revenues (up 3 percent). The men’s footwear market grew at a brisker clip than the female footwear sector (9 percent vs. 8 percent). Don’t rush to invest your 401(k) in shoelace futures, though. “In 2005, more than one out of every four dollars spent on men’s footwear in department stores went to a slip-on/loafer.” And thongs aren’t just for underwear anymore! Sales of men’s thong footwear in department stores “have increased fourfold since 2002.”

If we’re all in the same boat, does that mean the boat is too big? A poll conducted for Money by International Communications Research found Americans unenthused about the cruise industry’s mega-ships. Two-thirds of respondents said they’d prefer a cruise on a ship whose passenger capacity is either less than 300 (picked by 36 percent) or from 300 to 999 (33 percent). Twelve percent would prefer a cruise on a ship carrying 1,000-1,999 passengers; just 7 percent would opt for a ship carrying 2,000 or more passengers. (The rest said they didn’t know or declined to answer.)

Maybe young adults will be flattered by the opinion financial planners have of them. Or perhaps they’ll regret that the planners are deluded. A study by the Consumer Federation of America and the Financial Planning Association says financial planners “typically think that over four-fifths of young American adults could accumulate $250,000 in net wealth over a period of 30 years. And planners typically believe that about half of young Americans could accumulate $1 million in this period.” Unfortunately, just 26 percent of adults think they could amass as much as $200,000 at any point in their lives, and a mere 9 percent think they could ever salt away $1 million. In fact, when asked to identify “the most practical way” for them to accumulate several hundred thousand dollars, 21 percent of adults said “win the lottery.” Lots of luck to them.

Given how much people spend on stuff designed to make them more sexually alluring, you’d think they were forever ricocheting from one lover to the next. Oddly enough, they’re not—at least, not the adults. A survey conducted by Harris Interactive in conjunction with eHarmony finds long-term relationships (including marriages) are far more the rule than the exception. The chart below gives a snapshot of some of the survey’s findings. Among adults now in a relationship, 61 percent agreed strongly with the statement, “I would never break up with my current partner”; another 22 percent agreed somewhat. That’s consistent with responses to a query on how satisfied people are with the relationship they’re in. Among those in a relationship, 51 percent of men and 49 percent of women said they’re “completely satisfied”; another 26 percent of men and 34 percent of women said they’re “somewhat satisfied.” People are more likely to have met their romantic partners at work (18 percent did so) than through friends (14 percent) or at school (14 percent). Those in search of a partner might have better luck at a bar or nightclub (where 8 percent of respondents in a relationship met their partner) than at church (4 percent). Just 4 percent credited (or blamed) a blind date for bringing them together with the person they’re now involved with.

They probably think Dick Cheney is going to shoot them, too. Sixteen percent of Americans believe their phones have been wiretapped by the federal government, finds a new Rasmussen Reports survey. The figure rises to 26 percent among people who classify themselves as liberals, vs. 12 percent of those who term themselves conservatives. While we know that a certain amount of wiretapping really is occurring, numbers as large as these might seem to suggest rampant paranoia about the matter. But it’s probably not so much paranoia as wishful thinking: People are eager to feel that someone listens to what they say on the phone, even if the folks they call often seem not to do so.