Female Teenage Angst, Rude on the Road, Etc.

Just be glad you’re not a teenage girl. The life of today’s female teen is a stressful one, as documented in polling by Mediamark Research Inc. For starters, teen girls are much more likely than teen boys (59 percent vs. 42 percent) to say they feel stressed out all the time or some of the time. The disparity reflects the fact that girls are stressed by a wider variety of factors than boys are. Some of these have no obvious gender component, as when 57 percent of girls and 42 percent of boys say they’re stressed by lack of sleep. Other factors are more in sync with gender stereotype. For instance, girls are more likely than boys to be stressed about weight and body image (46 percent vs. 19 percent) and by their overall appearance (33 percent vs. 17 percent). Girls are also more prone to stress about the way they relate to other people: 50 percent of girls, vs. 28 percent of boys, are stressed about relationships with friends; 45 percent of girls, vs. 30 percent of boys, are stressed about relationships with their parents.

Of all the consumer delusions, one of the oddest is the belief that you own an item when you actually don’t have one. A study by Ipsos-Insight finds that high-definition TV has caused an outbreak of this syndrome. Thirteen percent of adults surveyed said they own an HDTV set, a figure far higher than the technology’s still-small sales figures. Needless to say, people who mistakenly think they already own one of these gizmos will be unreceptive to sales pitches that urge them to go buy one. But then, consumers in general haven’t been stampeding the stores for HDTV. Seventy-six percent of adults have heard of the technology, up a shade from 74 percent in 2002. And even among these consumers, 40 percent said they “didn’t know anything about it,” a proportion unchanged from 2002. Moreover, 76 percent of the HDTV-familiar respondents said the sets are too expensive, despite the fact that prices have been falling.

We’d like movie stars more if it weren’t for those darn movies they persist in making. At least, that’s one way of interpreting the Harris Poll’s latest annual survey in which adults are asked to name their favorite movie star. As the polling firm noted in analyzing its findings, most of the stars who made 2003’s top 10 list didn’t release a major movie in that year. Since so many movies are so awful, maybe we like our favorite stars best when we don’t have to watch them on the big screen. Indeed, being dead has not been a disadvantage for John Wayne, who has made the top 10 in each of the 10 years Harris has conducted this poll. (He came in at No. 7 this time, and was No. 1 with male respondents.) Mel Gibson was the poll’s top vote-getter. Julia Roberts, at No. 2, was the only woman in the top 10. Other faves included Sean Connery, Tom Hanks and Harrison Ford. Johnny Depp (at No. 10) was the only top-10 finisher this time who didn’t make the cut the previous year. Harris also asked adults to identify their favorite TV star. Oprah Winfrey was tops in that category, followed by David Letterman, Bill O’Reilly, Ray Romano and Jay Leno. Dr. Phil McGraw made his debut on this top-10 list, coming in at No. 6. In an ethnic breakdown of the voting, Winfrey was the top choice of both blacks and whites, while Ellen DeGeneres scored best among Hispanics.

Rudeness is a business issue for travel companies—our rudeness and theirs. A poll by Travelocity asked travelers what they’ve done after suffering rude treatment from travel-service personnel. Of those who’ve been in this boat (or train or plane, as the case may be), 72 percent said they’ve told their friends about it. Fifty percent said they’ve “refused to do business” again with the offending company. Of course, travelers can be plenty rude themselves. The chart at right gives examples of the provocations that prompt people to respond rudely. If people are most apt to react badly to rudeness from travel workers, maybe it’s because they’re accustomed to receiving polite treatment from that quarter. Eighty-six percent of travelers said they’re treated with “courtesy and respect” by airline workers either “all” or “most” of the time; just 49 percent said they’re treated as well by their fellow travelers. In a Public Agenda survey of travel-service personnel, 35 percent said the problem of rude passengers is “widespread and caused by many people.” The moral: To create a happy travel experience for all concerned, a smart company will pitch its ads in ways that attract polite customers, not the peremptory and demanding ones.

When people buy a new car, do they stick with the brand they’ve already got? According to research by J.D. Power and Associates, a shade less than 50 percent of car owners do so. Chevrolet boasts the highest customer-retention rate (60.8 percent), followed by Toyota (59.3 percent), Mercedes-Benz (58.7 percent), Ford (58.1 percent) and Honda (57.1 percent). Isuzu ranked at the bottom of the list (3.5 percent). When consumers “defect” to another automaker for their next car, it’s often because their current brand “does not make the type of vehicle they want when they re-enter the new-vehicle market”—hence the importance (from an automaker’s standpoint) of offering a broad product line.

One percent of respondents to a recent Gallup poll rated the ethical standards of advertising practitioners as “extremely high.” Sadly, we must temper this good news by noting that the survey had a 3 percent margin of error. Thus, the admiring 1 percent may not actually exist. But another 11 percent rated the ethics and honesty of ad people as “high,” while 48 percent said they’re “average.” We’ll have to forgive the misguided souls who rated ad people’s ethics as either “low” (29 percent) or “very low” (7 percent). As you can see from the chart above, which excerpts the poll’s results, nurses fared the best, as they routinely do. Doctors, dentists and chiropracters had the biggest gains in their scores vs. the previous year’s poll; U.S. senators and state governors had the biggest declines.

When we’re told that teenagers are abandoning one vice, it makes us wonder what other vice they’re picking up in its place. Perhaps next year at this time we’ll be reading about a rise in cocktail-onion abuse among teens. For now, though, there’s some good news from the Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey. In data released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the latest MTF survey showed a significant decline in the number of 8th, 10th and 12th graders identifying themselves as “current” users of any illicit drugs (i.e., having used drugs during the past 30 days). The number fell from 19.4 percent in 2001 to 17.3 percent in 2003. Teen cigarette smoking also declined last year, but by a much smaller amount than had been the case in the previous several years. MTF data released by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research showed a 2.3 percent drop in the incidence of current smoking among 12th graders. For the 8th and 10th graders, the declines were so small that they fell within the survey’s margin of error. In all, 10 percent of 8th graders, 17 percent of 10th graders and 24 percent of 12th graders said they’d smoked in the 30 days prior to being polled.