Students Of Morality, Hostile Europeans, Etc.

And you thought college students were indifferent to morality. A national survey by Harvard’s Institute of Politics asked students whether they agree with the statement, “I am concerned about the moral direction of the country.” A majority agreed either “strongly” (28 percent) or “somewhat” (28 percent) with that sentiment. A mere 8 percent said they strongly disagree with it. Of course, given the wording of the question, the responses might mean college students are dismayed to think the country is not sinking into a slough of immorality. But we’ll assume the numbers indicate aversion to a perceived loosening of national morals. This reading gains indirect support from the responses to another query in the poll: “How important would you say religion is in your life?” A striking 42 percent of students answered “very important,” with 34 percent saying it’s “somewhat important.” Just one-fourth said religion is either “not very important” (15 percent) or “not at all important” (9 percent) in their lives.

Some advertisers hope people forget the Super Bowl halftime show. But others are glad to use the fiasco as a lever to raise their own brands’ visibility. That’s the tack taken by Dialog Telecommunications (see below), which offers flat-rate phone service. Another Dialog ad features a man who “used to think it was okay for parents to let their kids sleep over at Neverland Ranch.” Boone/Oakley of Charlotte, N.C., created the campaign.

Among the reasons why class war is a tough sell in the U.S., Americans tend to think they’re better off financially than their parents were. But has that feeling survived the economic slump? Apparently so. In a poll by the University of Rochester and Zogby International, 59 percent of adults said they’ve outpaced their parents financially; 53 percent expect to be outperformed by their own kids. One surprise in the data: The number of respondents who said their finances have improved in the past four years (36 percent) topped the number whose finances have worsened (31 percent, with 32 percent saying the state of their finances hasn’t changed).

Skinflints that they are, upper-income consumers continue to expand their use of dollar stores. In all, the household penetration rate for such stores rose from 62 percent in 2002 to 66 percent last year, according to an ACNielsen report. But the rise was sharpest among people whose household income is $70,000-plus. In this cohort, the number who shop at dollar stores rose from 45 percent to 49 percent. These consumers also increased their average number of trips per year to such stores, from seven in 2002 to eight in 2003.

How do they hate us? Let us count the ways. A Harris Interactive poll lends specificity to the impression that Europeans aren’t fans of the U.S. these days. And Euro-antipathy isn’t aimed just at the White House. Polling was conducted in Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain (ending just before the Madrid bombings). Respondents were more likely to have a positive than a negative view of “the American people” (48 percent vs. 13 percent, with the rest “neither positive nor negative” or “not sure”). American films and TV shows had more fans than detractors (48 percent vs. 22 percent). But “American values” got more negative than positive votes (34 percent vs. 30 percent), as did the “American system of government” (40 percent vs. 26 percent) and “American multinational companies” (35 percent vs. 28 percent). “American food” had few partisans (17 percent positive, 56 percent negative). If you think Europeans were sympathetic to U.S. policy before the war in Iraq, note their attitudes toward the ouster of the Taliban regime: Respondents panned “the policies of the U.S. government in Afghanistan” (16 percent positive, 57 percent negative) almost as badly as its policy on Iraq (13 percent positive, 69 percent negative).