mark dolliver’s takes

size 2000: It Still Weighs Heavily on Their Minds
Weight is so much simpler for men. When a man puts on pounds, nobody praises him for defying unhealthy stereotypes of male beauty or for learning to accept his true body type. They just tell him he’s gone to seed. The issue has become more conflicted for women because so much effort has gone into fighting the old rules about how their bodies must look. The results of an online poll by Self reflect the current complexities. Most of the poll’s participants (86 percent) subscribed to the statement, “You don’t have to be thin to be fit-looking.” Similarly, 86 percent agreed that one needn’t “be slim to be healthy.” The poll tapped into a different sort of sentiment, though, when women spoke specifically about themselves. Thus, 72 percent said, “I’d be happier if I lost weight.” And 67 percent assented to the statement, “I feel self-conscious about my size.” Just 29 percent said, “I feel good about myself no matter what size I am.” Revealingly, 67 percent voiced a credo of ambivalence: “I’m generally content with my size, but I’d like to lose some weight.” If that’s how people feel, we needn’t be surprised if their efforts to lose weight are half-hearted and unsuccessful. The poll found 57 percent saying they’ve been on a diet in the past year. Sixty-four percent buy fat-free foods; 60 percent purchase the low-calorie variety. But 76 percent don’t count calories, and 64 percent don’t count grams of fat. Overall, 66 percent said, “I eat healthfully, but I do not consider myself a dieter.” When the respondents do go on a systematic weight-loss program, the factor that most keeps them motivated to stick with it is “clothes fitting better” (cited by 91 percent).

a mess of data: You Know Which You Are
There are the neatniks, who keep their work space “so neat it’s scary.” Then there are the chaotics, who live in peril of being crushed if the piles of stuff on their desks ever topple. A survey by Taylor Nelson Sofres Intersearch quantifies the messy and unmessy cohorts of American office workers. Nearly half the poll’s respondents (48 percent) toil in what the research firm designates as “Neatville,” keeping their work areas orderly but not scarily so. Thirty-nine percent work in “Controlled Mess,” a condition one reaches when “the amount of piles surpasses the amount of files.” Another 4 percent have advanced to the stage of “just plain messy,” while the work space is “out of control” for 4 percent and a “disaster area” for 1 percent. At the other extreme, the scary neatniks amount to 3 percent of the office workforce. Most of the Neatville types (78 percent) straighten things up on a daily basis. Among the Controlled Mess types, 13 percent clean up “only when they can’t stand it anymore.”

teetotals: Some of You May Be Throwing Off the Averages
You’d think the wear and tear of modern life would drive everyone to drink. But Americans are a notably temperate people, at least where alcohol is concerned. When a Zogby America poll asked people how often they drink, a plurality (34 percent) said “never.” Another 17 percent succumb to the temptation twice a year. (New Year’s Eve and their birthdays, perhaps?) Then there are the reprobates who drink twice a month (22 percent) and the dissolute souls who do so twice a week (21 percent). Taking up the slack are the 7 percent who toss back a drink (or drinks) every day. The gender gap isn’t as wide as one might suppose, with 6 percent of women and
8 percent of men identifying themselves as everyday drinkers. Respondents with less than a high-school education were the most likely to say they drink every day (15 percent). But that cohort also had the highest percentage saying they never drink (58 percent). This is a roundabout tribute, no doubt, to education as a force for moderation. A breakdown of the data by age group ran counter to the stereotype of beer-guzzling youth. In fact, the 18-29 age bracket had the smallest number of daily drinkers (4 percent). The 50-64-year-olds were more than twice as likely to say they drink every day (11 percent). Then again, the 65-and-overs had the highest proportion of chronic abstainers (47 percent).

the dot-coms giveth…: Adding Up the Ads for Jobs
The market for jobs in advertising, media and marketing flattened out last month, judging by the volume of help-wanted classifieds in Adweek. The longer July 4th holiday didn’t help. But the real hit came from the dot-coms. As careful students of Adweek classifieds will recall, June’s data showed early signs of a slowdown on that front. In July, dot-com hiring went into a full stall. The fact that two of six regions were on the plus side–and only one saw a double-digit drop–is testimony to the basic strength of the advertising job market.

up-to-date: Better Canadian Living Through the Internet
Does the Internet change people’s lives? Those who use it think so, according to a survey of online Canadians by the Angus Reid Group. While 24 percent said the Internet “has not changed their lives at all,” 76 percent say it has affected them in a number of ways. Thirty-seven percent said it’s “made them more knowledgeable and up-to-date,” thanks to the access it gives to information. Thirteen percent said it has “made their life more fun,” due to its entertainment options. For 7 percent, the convenience of e-commerce has “made life easier.” And has the Internet improved their job performance? Alas, just 4 percent claimed such a transformation. On the other hand, two of the 1,084 people surveyed met their spouses through the Internet.

everyone’s an economist: BlasE About the Past Year, Upbeat About the Next One
Main Street may be less impressed by Wall Street. It’s not afraid of it, though, despite the stock market’s incorrigible volatility this year. A Bloomberg News survey conducted last month found just 13 percent of respondents predicting the Dow Jones Industrial Average will be lower a year from now. Thirty-two percent expect it to be higher, with 39 percent thinking it will be “about the same.” (A levelheaded 17 percent declined to venture an opinion on such mysteries.) As you can see from the chart, relatively few respondents expect the economy to take a turn for the worse in the next year. And people are even more upbeat when asked about their personal economic prospects: 45 percent expect their own “financial situation” to get better over the next 12 months, versus just 4 percent expecting to fare worse. Forty-seven percent thought their financial status will “stay about the same.” As things stand, 10 percent feel their finances are in “excellent shape”; 42 percent believe they’re in “good shape.” Another 34 percent term their finances “only fair”; 12 percent declare themselves to be in “poor shape.” Oddly, many respondents are unimpressed by the nation’s economy during the past year, despite GDP growth numbers that make Alan Greenspan’s hair stand on end. While 32 percent said the economy has improved during the past year, 47 percent believe it’s “stayed about the same” and a glum 17 percent feel it’s “gotten worse.”

still learning: Unlike the Young, the Old Don’t Yet Know Everything
It turns out you can teach old dogs new tricks. Or, more precisely, plenty of old dogs would like to learn new tricks. An AARP survey of Americans age 50 and older suggests they’ve got their own style of doing so. Ninety percent of respondents said they “learn best by putting their hands on something and manipulating it or figuring it out.” Further evidence that learning is not instantaneous for this cohort: 90 percent also said they learn “by watching or listening and then thinking.” Why do these codgers want to learn about new things? The most popular reason
(cited by 93 percent) is “to keep up with what’s going on in the world.” Nearly as many want to learn “for their own spiritual or personal growth” (92 percent) or “for the simple joy of learning something new” (91 percent). Sometimes, the interest is more practical, as for the 46 percent who are “extremely” or “very” interested in learning new ways to manage stress and the 49 percent keen to learn more about diet and nutrition. As you’d expect, many want to delve deeper into “a favorite hobby or pastime” (62 percent). Thirty percent are willing to spend “all the time it takes” to learn about something that’s captured their interest; 47 percent want to have control over how much time they expend.

mixed blessings: A Moving Experience, Grime’s Fresh Appeal, Etc.
It’s not a ringing endorsement for the veracity of advertising–at least, one category of it. A Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll asked people to say which are “more likely to be truthful and reliable”: the speeches at this month’s political conventions or TV spots for psychic advisers? A majority of the respondents (58 percent) gave the edge to convention oratory; 16 percent felt the psychic-adviser commercials are the more trustworthy of the two, and 26 percent couldn’t make up their minds.

Haven’t seen your neighbors lately? Maybe they moved. The latest Census Bureau tabulations show 43 million U.S. residents moved to new homes between March 1998 and March 1999. While a majority of them (59 percent) stayed within the same county, 18 percent moved to a different state and 3 percent left the country altogether. Moving is predominately a young person’s game, with 32 percent of those in their 20s pulling up stakes during that 12-month period. Still, the 5 percent of 65-and-overs who moved is not a trivial number.

Readers probably won’t rush out to buy wines from the “bucolic countryside of Northwest Illinois.” And just as well, since there’s no such thing. But the oeno-themed ad for Newell Rubbermaid (aimed at retailers) depicts the growth of a conglomerate in unusually cosy terms. Have the “people of Freeport” really been “collecting, nurturing and refining” a collection of brands? It’s a nice thought, anyway. The Ungar Group of Chicago created the ad.

People are always in the market for something to worry about, so they’ll seize on a report that cleanliness has become a threat. That thought surfaced last month in Atlanta when a microbiologist addressed the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases. (A catchy name, eh?) As reported by, he warned that parents who repeatedly scrub their children with antibacterial soaps “may actually contribute to the development of chronic diseases” and the growth of drug-resistant “superbugs.” The scientist’s theory is that youngsters need exposure to bacteria so their immune systems can develop properly. Marketers of less-potent soaps can now boast that their products leave some salutary dirt and grime behind.

It’s no surprise that many people are displeased with politicians. But a Portrait of America poll by Rasmussen Research indicates a fair number have their doubts about the regime itself. While 56 percent said “following the Constitution is the best way to govern our country today,” 37 percent said it “needs to be updated to reflect the massive changes in society” since the founding. As for the First Amendment, 81 percent said its protection of free speech is a “good thing,” while 7 percent said it’s a “bad thing” and the rest weren’t sure.

Who needs doctors when there are drugstores? A poll by the National Consumers League detects that attitude. Fifty-eight percent of Americans are “making more healthcare decisions on their own”; 57 percent rely on over-the-counter remedies “to treat themselves for minor health ailments.” Likewise, 65 percent would like to see some of their prescription drugs switch to over-the-counter status