Small-Screen Faves, Upstanding Teens, Etc.

Need one ask who Americans’ “favorite TV personality” is? The folks at the Harris Poll felt impelled to do so, apparently, with the result that respondents once again crowned Oprah Winfrey as their favorite, just as they’d done in each of the previous three years. In the 13 years Harris has conducted such a poll, Winfrey has ranked in the top three every time. Of course, “favorite TV personality” seems an insufficient category in which to rank Winfrey, who has come to be more a deity than a mere celebrity. Who are we mere mortals to rank her as a “favorite” or not? (When John Lennon said the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, the possibility that he was correct at the time didn’t save him from sounding asinine.) Filling out this year’s top-10 roster, in order of finish: Jon Stewart, David Letterman, Jay Leno, Bill O’Reilly, Ellen DeGeneres, Conan O’Brien, Jerry Seinfeld, George Lopez and Tim Allen. The list is most interesting for the range of tone it represents, from painfully sincere to painfully ironic. TV has something for everyone! Winfrey was the top vote-getter among women, Letterman among men and O’Brien among respondents age 18-24. O’Brien and Lopez are on the list for the first time. Dropping out of the top 10 since last year are Ray Romano, Bill Cosby, Dr. Phil McGraw and Regis Philbin.

Against all odds, American teens are not especially depraved. Or, more precisely, a 13-nation poll commissioned by Energy BBDO of Chicago finds teens in the U.S. more likely than their foreign counterparts to subscribe to traditional moral norms. Most broadly, 58 percent of American teenagers declared their intention to “live by high moral standards.” If that number doesn’t seem high, it roundly beats the 33 percent rate of assent from the survey sample as a whole. (Besides the U.S., the survey was conducted in Mexico, Brazil, Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Australia, Russia, Poland, China, Taiwan and India.) Forty-five percent of the U.S. teens said they believe “it is best to remain a virgin as long as possible,” vs. 22 percent of the poll’s whole sample. But they won’t remain virgins forever, as 74 percent in the U.S. (vs. 52 percent of total teens) said they want to be parents someday.

Love is not love that alters when it comes up against rude and offensive use of wireless communications. Or so one would have thought before seeing the findings of a pre-Valentine’s poll conducted for Cingular Wireless by International Communications Research. As you can gather from the chart, some people have found themselves dumped for such behavior. Elsewhere in the same survey, 17 percent of wireless users said their wireless phone has bailed them out of an “uncomfortable date.” That’s nearly double the 9 percent who said they’ve used text messaging as “a conversation starter” with a date.

Maybe teens aren’t so uncommunicative after all. In a poll by Barna Research on teens’ interest in supernatural phenomena, 10 percent of the youngsters claimed to have communicated with the dead. Elsewhere in the poll, 30 percent of teens said they’ve had their palms read, and 27 percent reported having their fortune told. Nine percent have visited a “medium or spiritual guide,” and the same proportion have consulted a psychic (or, at least, someone who purports to be one).