Children Who Believe, The Inactive List, Etc.

Young kids can seem dismayingly jaded as they discourse knowingly about the latest trash-celebrity gossip. But there’s an infallible test of whether they’re as sophisticated as they pretend to be: Do they believe in Santa Claus? By that standard, a survey of 5-18-year-olds by Weekly Reader Research finds them refreshingly innocent. Among 5-year-olds, 97 percent said they believe in Santa. It’s not until age 9 that the figure dips below a majority (45 percent). And it remains in double digits even among teens age 13 (18 percent), 14 (16 percent) and 15 (13 percent). Let us tip our fuzzy red-and-white hats to the 1 percent of 18-year-olds who still believe—or, at least, were willing to gladden the grown-ups by saying they do.

If people bought apparel that suited their actual behavior, sales of inactivewear would dwarf those of activewear. A new Gallup poll found just 35 percent of adults claiming they generally exercise five or more days per week. And it’s not as if the poll employed a terribly strict standard. Along with vigorous, get-the-blood-pumping activities, it included such “moderate sports or recreational activities” as walking and gardening. Among respondents who characterized their health as “poor,” a majority (76 percent) said they don’t exercise frequently. But so did a majority (58 percent) of those who rated their health “excellent.” While Americans agree that frequent exercise is a ticket to good health, they evidently don’t believe a lack of exercise will doom them to crummy health. On average, men claimed to engage in vigorous physical activity on 1.7 days per week, vs. 1.5 days for women. Women said they get moderate exercise 3.1 days per week on average, vs. 3 days for men.

Remember the confusion that surrounded old folks’ initial enrollment in the Medicare prescription-drug benefit? Last winter, one might have guessed that many enrollees would want to switch to a different drug plan after the new year, thus opening up a marketing opportunity for the companies that provide this coverage. It turns out, though, that most enrollees are satisfied with the prescription-drug plan they picked in the first place. In a poll conducted by Harris Interactive for The Wall Street Journal Online’s Health Industry Edition, just 2 percent of enrollees said they’re very likely to switch plans; another 11 percent said they’re somewhat likely to do so. By contrast, 34 percent said they’re not very likely and 39 percent not at all likely to do so. These figures represent a combination of consumer satisfaction and consumer inertia. Asked how satisfied they are with their current Medicare drug plan, 35 percent said “very satisfied,” 40 percent “somewhat satisfied,” 16 percent “not very satisfied” and 8 percent “not at all satisfied.” One reason for the broad satisfaction: 70 percent of enrollees said their drug plan has saved them money. The program is also prompting a shift toward generic drugs. Forty percent of enrollees said they’ve asked their doctors to prescribe a generic drug in order to lower their costs; 35 percent said their doctors have, unprompted, suggested that option.

Maybe their attitudes are nuanced. Or maybe they’re just confused. Either way, respondents to a Quinnipiac University poll (fielded since the elections) voiced opinions on immigration that are anything but simple. One question noted the recent enactment of a law to build a fence along the Mexican border and asked people whether they think “additional measures” are needed to keep illegal immigrants out. Seventy-one percent said they do. A similarly large number (65 percent) said they back fines for businesses in their community that hire illegal immigrants. So, is there now a flood tide of anti-immigrant sentiment? Not if you look at answers to a couple other questions in the survey. Sixty-five percent of respondents favor a guest worker program that would let illegal immigrants register for “temporary legal status and employment.” And 69 percent favor a program allowing such guest workers “the ability to work toward citizenship over a period of several years.”

Here’s more evidence that cash is so last millennium. New polling by Ipsos Insight and Peppercoin (the latter a technology company that deals with small non-cash payments) found that some 67 million Americans used a credit or debit card for a purchase of less than $5 at a convenience store in the past 30 days. About 57 million used a debit or credit card at a quick-serve restaurant within that period, and 42 million used a card to buy a coffee.

Haven’t used your private jet to go Christmas shopping? What a piker! A poll conducted for Elite Traveler magazine, which caters to owners of private jets, found nearly 25 percent of the “super-rich” owners of those handy vehicles (net worth: $10 million-plus) will use their jets for holiday shopping this year. Fashion, jewelry, watches and electronics top their shopping lists. You’ll be pleased to learn that these highflyers will allot more to charitable giving ($94,200, on average) than they’ll spend on fine jewelry ($91,100).

It’s less often a death sentence than it once was. But a diagnosis of cancer can still signal doom for a person’s finances. That’s clear from the findings of a survey by USA Today, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health among families in which someone was diagnosed with or treated for cancer in the past five years. The chart below gives a picture of the problem. Even among people who’ve always had health insurance, 22 percent reported going through most or all of their savings due to the financial consequences of cancer. Twenty-three percent of the insured said their health plan paid less than they’d expected for a medical bill. Ten percent said they “reached the limit of what insurance would pay for cancer treatment.”