Betting On A Backlash, Parental Drinking, Etc.

It seems downright Victorian to look askance at gambling in an age when poker tournaments draw big TV audiences and state-run betting keeps civic budgets afloat. Still, a poll by the Pew Research Center detects a “modest backlash” against legalized gambling. While 71 percent of respondents approve of lotteries as a way for states to generate revenue, that’s down from 78 percent in a 1989 Gallup survey. Conversely, there’s been an increase (from 62 percent to 70 percent) in the number who believe legalized gambling “encourages people to gamble more than they can afford.” Most tellingly, there’s been a decline (from 34 percent to 23 percent) in the number who enjoy making bets themselves, balanced by a rise (from 38 percent to 52 percent) in the proportion who enjoy it “not at all.” Among those who have gambled during the past year, how did they make out? Thirty percent said they’ve come out ahead and 11 percent have broken even; 56 percent have lost money. The losers may not much mind, though. When past-year gamblers were asked how they feel when they lose a bet, 8 percent said they’re “extremely upset” or “very upset,” while 57 percent are “not upset.” And when they win? Twenty-one percent are “extremely” satisfied” and 30 percent “very satisfied,” vs. 7 percent “not satisfied.”

Speaking of gambling, you may hesitate to bet on cards that have a mind (or a libido) of their own. But the notion, illustrated in the ad shown below, certainly draws attention to the positioning of Paris Las Vegas as expressed in the hotel/casino’s motto, “Everything is sexier in Paris.” But who knew the queen had a wandering eye? Maybe it’s not so good to be king after all. If you guessed the ad was created by Las Vegas-based R&R Partners (of “What happens here, stays here” fame), you’re right.

The person who yammers on a cell phone while driving has won an exalted position on the hierarchy of Americans’ pet peeves. And yet, as a new Harris Poll indicates, it’s a sin relatively few people can resist committing. Conducted among adults who drive and have a cell phone, it found 6 percent saying (apologetically or otherwise) that they talk on the phone while driving “all the time.” Sixty-seven percent said they do so “sometimes,” while 27 percent “never” do it. Age is a salient factor. The “never” vote was 52 percent among respondents 61 and older, vs. 14 percent in the 18-29 bracket. The 18-29s were also the least likely to say driving while talking on a cell phone is “very dangerous”: 22 percent subscribed to that opinion, vs. 27 percent of the 30-41s, 33 percent of the 42-60s and 41 percent of those 61-plus. There was broad agreement that drivers’ use of hands-free cell phones is less dangerous than use of the hand-held variety, with 70 percent endorsing that view. So far, though, just 28 percent of talk-and-drive adults use a hands-free cell phone.

Cheerleaders for the future chronically ignore people’s contentment with the present. The fact that wonderful inventions become available doesn’t mean people will be in a hurry to use them. A survey by Ipsos Insight gives a look at this tendency in relation to new digital-video technologies. One question asked online adults whether their level of engagement with various entertainment-related activities is likely to increase during the next year. The responses showed older media consistently outscoring the newer technologies. For instance, 19 percent of adults expect to increase their listening to music on conventional broadcast radio, vs. 10 percent boosting their use of satellite radio. Likewise, 24 percent said they’ll do more viewing of DVDs they own, while 6 percent said they’ll increase their viewing of movies on an iPod or other portable media device. Eighteen percent expect to increase their viewing of programs on live TV, vs. 6 percent expecting to watch more TV programs via the Internet. As Ipsos wrote in its own analysis of the poll’s findings, “While new ways of accessing digital media are intriguing to some members of the online public, most prefer to wait and see.”

Americans are so keen on marriage that many are reluctant to have just one in their lifetime. The chart at above right, drawing on a Gallup survey, shows that people who’ve had multiple marriages outnumber those who haven’t married at all. Ninety-one percent of adults either have married already or plan to do so someday. A mere 4 percent said they have definitely ruled out married life. While there’s been evidence of a slowing in America’s epidemic of divorce, the poll finds that 28 percent of adults have divorced at least once. The figure is a remarkable 45 percent among those in the 50-64 age bracket.

Maybe kids don’t drive their parents to drink after all. The new edition of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey says that husband-and-wife-only households spent $567 on alcoholic beverages in 2004. In husband-and-wife households where the oldest child was under age 6, the figure was $330. It rose to $455 in households where the oldest kid was age 6-17 and to $506 where the oldest kid was 18 or older. Having cut back on drink when their kids were young, do empty-nesters then drown their sorrows when the offspring are grown and gone? Stranger things have happened, though not many. Meanwhile, the report’s data rebut the stereotype of people drinking themselves into the poorhouse. Households in the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution spent $194 on alcoholic beverages, vs. $876 in the highest income quintile. By comparison, outlays on the category “tobacco products and smoking supplies” were just modestly lower in the bottom fifth of households by income ($214) than in the top quintile ($272).

Europe can relax: American tourists won’t descend on it en masse in the near future. A Rasmussen Reports poll quizzed Americans about the destinations they’re likely to visit in the next few years. Nearly half said they’d consider a jaunt to Canada, including 24 percent who said they’re very likely to head that way. Thirty-one percent said they’d consider a trip to Britain, with 14 percent very likely to go there. Then there’s that inhospitable continent: “Only one-fifth or so are even thinking about visiting France or Germany any time soon.” Back in our own hemisphere, 32 percent of respondents said Mexico is a likely destination for them, with 15 percent saying they’re very likely to take a trip there.