Giving Credit To Banks, Aiding Grandkids, Etc.

One of the oddities of our capitalist society is that Americans tend to take a dim view of capitalists. Surveys routinely find them expressing unflattering opinions about the private sector and the people who run it. In a new Gallup poll on people’s trust in major institutions, a mere 18 percent said they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in “big business.” Only HMOs (15 percent) fared worse. As is often the case in such surveys, though, banks scored well, with 49 percent of respondents voicing high trust in them. That put banks in fourth place among the 15 institutions about which people were queried, trailing only the military (73 percent), the police (58 percent) and church/organized religion (52 percent). Does bank iconography work (as intended) to forestall distrust? Or maybe the high confidence level relates to the fact that ATMs let lots of us go years on end without ever dealing with a banker face-to-face. With less opportunity to feel riled by the people who run banks, we have less occasion to think ill of them as institutions.

If grandparenting were classified as a social program, it would outrank many of the small-bore initiatives that now aim at improving kids’ lives. The latest evidence of this comes from a survey conducted for the MetLife Mature Market Institute by Zogby International. Among grandparents who have grandchildren age 21 or younger, 55 percent said they contribute “in some way” to the kids’ education. Twenty-one percent report having established a fund for a grandchild’s college tuition; 5 percent are paying all or part of the college tuition; 12 percent are paying all or part of the expenses for education in preschool through high school; 24 percent are helping in some other way. Grandparents may hope their financial assistance will compensate for lapses in the way the youngsters are raised. Fifty-four percent said their adult offspring are more lenient as parents than they were themselves; 43 percent said today’s kids are given fewer household responsibilities. But surprisingly few grandparents (25 percent) said parents and kids now “spend less time together doing family things.”

It turns out we aren’t a post-literate society after all. A Rasmussen Reports poll finds 69 percent of adults saying they recently read a book. That tops the number who recently rented or bought a movie to watch at home (46 percent), saw a movie at a theater (29 percent), attended a live music event (19 percent) or went to a pro sports event (14 percent). Married respondents were more likely than singles to have read a book recently (73 percent vs. 64 percent), which may or may not be a reflection on how fascinating they find their spouses’ conversation.

Another stereotype bites the dust—in this case, the one that depicts women as the telephonic-chatterbox sex. Where cell phones are concerned, men do more talking than women, according to a survey conducted for Cingular Wireless by International Communications Research. Men who own cell phones use them an average of 546 minutes per month; women who own such phones use them 470 minutes per month. The gap stems from the fact that men are still more likely than women to use cell phones for business. The disparity has shrunk since last year, when men used their cell phones for an average of 571 minutes per month and women for 424 minutes. Anyhow, the stereotype of the phone-chatting woman isn’t entirely baseless: When it comes to home phones, women spend more time talking (and, no doubt, listening) than men: 471 minutes per month vs. 274 minutes.

At least it keeps them off the streets. In a Burst Media survey of teens age 13-17, 37 percent of those who use the Internet outside of school said they spend three hours or more per day doing so. Eighteen percent spend between two and three hours a day online when not in school. Just 20 percent spend less than an hour per day in this manner. As you might guess, multitasking while online is the teenage norm. Asked to say which offline activities they engage in while they’re using the Internet, 49 percent of the teens cited homework. Also coexisting with Web usage: watching TV shows or movies (34 percent), listening to the radio (21 percent), watching music videos on TV (21 percent), sending cell-phone text messages (20 percent), talking on a cell phone (19 percent), talking on a land-line phone (16 percent) and watching sports on TV (12 percent).

Americans generally voice satisfaction with their jobs. As we’re reminded by a Maritz Poll, though, this doesn’t necessarily mean they think highly of the people they work for. Asked to characterize the relationship between labor and management at their own companies, 9 percent of workers said it’s “extremely positive,” while 49 percent termed it “lukewarm” or “negative.” Ten percent of workers strongly agreed that their companies “genuinely listened to and cared about their employees.” A similarly derisory number (8 percent) agreed that “senior leaders’ actions were completely consistent with their words.”

Ever since “TiVo” became a household word, marketers have worried about TV viewers’ ability to bypass commercials. They’ll soon get a lot more worried, judging by a report from Forrester Research on the rapid growth in household penetration of digital video recording (DVR) technology. Thanks to proliferating usage of DVRs (especially as provided by cable- and satellite-TV companies and phone companies), households with this capability will soon be more the rule than the exception. And that’s not the whole of the bad news for advertisers and TV networks. The report notes that few homes thus far have had “multiroom” DVR hookups, which is why recorded viewing has accounted for a relatively small amount of all television viewing done in DVR households. However, Forrester predicts that “DVR homes will commonly become multiroom DVR homes in the next two years,” thus significantly boosting the amount of commercial-skipping they do.