VACATION, PLEASE: Take This to the Shore as Your Summer Reading
As myths go, it’s a pretty implausible one. Nonetheless, we occasionally read breathless reports that Americans are now too busy for the traditional summer vacation. No doubt some career-mad types settle for impromptu weekend jaunts. For the population en masse, though, a real vacation remains part of the rhythm of life. And amid the ongoing economic boom, vacation spending figures to be on the upswing. A nationwide survey commissioned by ABCNews.com finds 36 percent of respondents expecting to spend more this summer than last. (As always, the question presupposes that people know what they spent on last year’s trip, which might be true for about 0.3 percent of us.) Thirty-four percent plan to spend less–“down from an average of 45 percent from 1991 to 1995,” says ABCNews.com in its analysis of the data. Just 17 percent won’t take a summer break. Young folks are more apt than old folks to plan a lavish getaway this year. Among the 18-34-year-olds, 46 percent plan to spend more this year than last; among those over 65, 24 percent expect to do so. In fact, oldsters are the ones most likely to go vacationless: 32 percent of the 65-plus crowd don’t plan a getaway, presumably because (a) they’re retired and don’t have a workaday routine from which to escape and (b) they don’t have young kids whose school is out of session. By contrast, a mere 13 percent of the 18-34s and 11 percent of the 35-49s don’t plan a summer vacation. And how will Americans spend their time off? In a Zogby America poll, the top choice (picked by 34 percent) was “sun, sand and the beach,” with an “adventure, nature and wildlife” trip the runner-up. In a CNN.com online poll, “exploring new sites” was favored over “revisiting a favorite haunt,” 57 percent to 31 percent. Lastly, a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll asked people whether they’d rather vacation with Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton or Buddy (the dog) Clinton. Buddy won paws down (48 percent), with Hillary (19 percent) faring somewhat better than Bill (14 percent).

BEYOND THE ECONOMY: The Era of Feeling Good
We know people are content these days. But that doesn’t mean they’re equally pleased with all aspects of their lives. With its annual Feel Good Index, the Harris Poll examines the details of current self-satisfaction. It’s nice to see some respondents distinguish between “nation’s economy” and “the state of the nation.” The fact the latter rates lower than the former may reflect respondents’ dim view of their compatriots’ morals. At the same time, though, people are generally satisfied with the values of people in their own locality. While that’s consistent with lots of other polling data, it’s still rather odd. Why don’t people look more askance at the moral shortcomings of those they see day in and day out? Perhaps there’s a simple human pleasure in imagining one’s community to be more virtuous than other places.

MIXED BLESSINGS: What Floors Are Wearing, Electing a Gladiator, Etc.
Consider yourself lucky? Most Americans do, according to a poll by ORC International. Asked whether they’re lucky or unlucky, 67 percent of respondents put themselves in the former class. Just 14 percent said they’re unlucky, with 12 percent saying they’re “neither” and 5 percent saying they’re “both.” Among respondents whose annual household income is $50,000 or more, 74 percent consider themselves lucky.
If ever an ad needed a “Naked woman not included” disclaimer, International Design Guild’s sales pitch is it. Some readers will be so reminded of the rose-petal-plus-babe image in American Beauty that they’ll go see the movie again rather than go buy a carpet. Another ad in the campaign (via T.G. Madison, Atlanta) stretches a feline-looking woman across a leopard-print carpet.
Hetero men can only hope this signals a new direction in interior-design advertising.
Here’s a job you don’t want to have. Noting the current propensity for older men to become fathers, Young & Rubicam’s Brand Futures Group predicts “a new breed of young, athletic male nannies will emerge to take on the more physically demanding aspects of fatherhood (e.g., playing football in the park with the kids).” No doubt a future Brand Futures communiquƒ will report on physical therapists who treat retired male nannies for infirmities sustained in the line of surrogate-paternal duty.
Let’s give a tip of the cranium to fatbrain.com for defining a vast target market–people who bore acqaintances with their abstruse knowledge. “Colleagues cringe. Friends tune out. Your spouse dozes off.” Sound familiar? If so, you’re among those who’ll be glad to find an attentive audience via this digital-publishing Web site. GMO/Hill, Holliday of San Francisco created the ad.
Finally, the Silly Political-Polling Factoid of the Week. The Hotline, a periodical for political types, posed this question to likely voters: “If George W. Bush and Al Gore were gladiators in the ancient Roman Coliseum, whom do you think would be the better gladiator?” Each pulled 33 percent of the vote; the rest of the respondents sensibly opted for the “not sure/refused to answer” category. What if Gore and Bush were “secret agents in the spirit of Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible?” Thirty-five percent picked Bush as “the better secret agent”; 33 percent picked Gore.

CYBERSPACE FOR ALL: As Divides Go, This One Seems Awfully Porous
The term “digital divide” has an alliterative ring to it. But does it usefully describe the differing rates of Internet access among U.S. population segments? “Digital lag” is more like it, to judge by recent Yankelovich polling. It finds that “Internet penetration has increased most dramatically among lower-income households.” For households with income under $30,000, Internet access rose from 18 percent last year to 26 percent this year–a higher level than wealthy households had a few years ago. Meanwhile, a Forrester Research report says ethnicity has an “immaterial impact” on consumers’ patterns of online activity. “Regardless of ethnicity, consumers use the Internet for the same reasons: communication, access to information, entertainment and shopping.”

A NATION OF OPTIMISTS: No Matter What The Past, The Future Looks Bright
A new Gallup poll finds a majority of Americans expect to be “financially better off” a year from now than they are at present. Of course, that’s what Gallup polls almost always find, irrespective of how people feel they’ve fared in the previous 12 months. In surveys going back nearly a quarter-century, the percentage who see a better year ahead has invariably exceeded the percentage who feel they gained ground in the prior year. It takes near despondency about the 12-month period just ended before people will be pessimistic about the 12 months ahead. For instance, when an August 1982 poll found just 25 percent of respondents saying they were better off than they’d been a year earlier, the number seeing a better year ahead sagged to 37 percent. While Americans are generally optimistic on their own account, they aren’t always so sanguine about prospects for the country in general. As such, the percentage who think that “economic conditions in the country as a whole” are improving nearly always lags behind the percentage who think their own finances will brighten in the year ahead. In the current Gallup poll, for instance, 52 percent of respondents believe the economy is getting better–not a bad percentage, but far lower than the 67 percent who foresee their own financial condition improving during the next 12 months.

WHERE THE OLD FOLKS STAY: The Spirit Doesn’t Move Us To Move When We Get Old
Does retirement mean selling the house and moving to Del Boca Vista? Not if we can help it. An AARP survey conducted among Americans age 45 and older finds 71 percent strongly agreeing “they want to stay in their current residence as long as possible.” Another 12 percent said they “somewhat” share that opinion. Among those age 55 and up, the number who’d like to stay put has risen from 84 percent in 1992 to 89 percent this year. Preference aside, 63 percent of all respondents “believe that their current residence is where they will always live.” The catch is that their current home may not suit their physical circumstances as they grow older. Indeed, 31 percent are concerned about being “forced to move to a nursing home because they have trouble getting around their own home.” Stairs are the “functional problem” most often cited. Thirty-four percent of respondents have “made modifications to their home that would allow them to live on the first floor.” Thirty percent worry about being able to afford the remodeling needed to let them stay put; 28 percent are concerned about finding “reliable contractors or handymen” to do the work.