In Tune With Women, Longing For Sleep, Etc.

Criticize a young woman’s taste in music and you’re asking for trouble. A survey commissioned by Jane asked women age 20-29 to identify ways in which they express themselves. Ninety-three percent cited music, topping the number who picked fashion (86 percent), causes/charities (85 percent), the magazines they read (65 percent) and their job (61 percent). That last figure is a telltale sign that the women aren’t entirely enthused about work. Another question in the poll makes this clear: Just 46 percent subscribed to the statement, “I like my job a lot,” down from 60 percent in a 1996 poll. It’s not because young women feel their gender holds them back in today’s workplace. Seventy-seven percent believe that “within my peer group, men and women are on the same level professionally.” And they don’t foresee kids (if and when they have any) impinging on professional success. A mere 17 percent agreed that “women need to choose between a career and motherhood.”

Why learn to drive a stick shift when you can get rich in the stock market and then have your chauffeur do it for you? A poll by Opinion Research Corp. presented adults with a list of eight skills and asked which ones they’d be interested in learning. Fifteen percent said they’d like to learn to drive a stick shift, while 49 percent would like to learn how to invest money. Scores for other items: speak a foreign language (47 percent), make home repairs (43 percent), play an instrument (32 percent), cook (31 percent), fix a car (28 percent) and play a sport (20 percent).

Owners of small businesses are still recovering from the impact of high energy prices, to judge by polling commissioned for the latest semi-annual Open from American Express Small Business Monitor. Seventy-eight percent of owners said those prices had at least a moderate impact on their business this year. Thirty-one percent lost sales due to high energy prices. That’s consistent with the fact that 33 percent had to raise their own prices. But these difficulties haven’t derailed their capital-investment plans, at least where technology is concerned. The poll found 33 percent planning to buy computers within the next six months, while 25 percent will look at “major infrastructure investments,” including software and phone systems.

Live celebrities often embarrass the brands they’re paid to endorse. Dead ones are a safer bet. Thus, a fledgling sandwich chain named the Earl of Sandwich (see the ad below) can make the most of its namesake, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, who is credited with having invented the sandwich. We won’t see tabloid photos of him walking around with a slice of pizza or a taco, since the old boy has been six feet under for a couple centuries. On the other hand, the 11th Earl of Sandwich is alive and involved in the company behind the sandwich chain, so his partners will have to trust his discretion. Another ad in the series says the sandwich shops were launched because “We grew tired of watching others give us a bad name” by selling shoddy sandwiches that “made a mockery of the creation that bears our family name.” If the world is ready for an indignant sandwich chain, this one should prosper. The agency behind the campaign is Push of Orlando, Fla.

Break out the champagne. The percentage of respondents to a Washington Post/ABC News poll who consider the economy “excellent” has reached double digits for the first time since January 2001. Ten percent of adults in the new poll said the economy is excellent these days, with another 45 percent calling it “good.” Twenty-eight percent said it’s “not so good,” and 17 percent said it’s “poor.” The survey also asked people about their own family’s finances. Twenty-three percent said they’re “falling behind financially,” while 24 percent said they’re “getting ahead.” More than half (52 percent) said they have “just enough” to maintain their standard of living. Meanwhile, a survey conducted for Money magazine by International Communications Research asked adults to take a retrospective view of their finances. Thirty-one percent said they’re now better off than they were two years ago, while 29 percent said they’re worse off. The rest said their financial standing was unchanged. Men were more apt than women (38 percent vs. 25 percent) to say they’re better off now.

Does it reflect poorly on our waking lives that we’re so enthusiastic about sleep? A poll by The Barna Group asked adults to say which of various activities they look forward to a lot. The biggest vote (71 percent) went to “getting a good night of sleep.” Only two other items on the list were picked by a majority of respondents: spending time with friends (55 percent) and listening to music (54 percent). People were only a bit more likely to say they look forward to shopping for clothes (16 percent) than to say the same about getting a physical (14 percent).

An adverse opinion of an industry does not necessarily betoken negative views of the companies in it. The chart below excerpts the findings of a survey by Ipsos Public Affairs, which has been tracking attitudes toward the insurance sector since Hurricane Katrina. As you can see, that industry enjoys less public esteem than fiendish Big Pharma and the bumbling federal government. Responses were more positive, though, when people were asked about individual insurance companies. “Some of the 30 leading companies studied are viewed favorably by as many as 50 percent of the American public, and none is viewed unfavorably by more than 12 percent.” That’s partly because they get good word-of-mouth from their clients. “The best-rated companies, many of which are market leaders, receive a favorable opinion from over 80 percent of their policyholders.” Drug companies might fare better in public opinion if the people who benefit from their products were less reticent in talking about it.

You might think consumers, chastened by the high gas prices earlier this year, have turned their backs once and for all on big pickup trucks and SUVs. Guess again. According to a report from J.D. Power and Associates, “Owner retention rates for the large pickup, large utility and midsize utility segments have all risen in the seven-week period from mid-August to early October. …” (The research firm defines owner retention as “the percent of owners in any given category who trade for another vehicle in the same category.”) Earlier in the year, says the report, retention rates for these market segments were “adversely affected” by high gas prices. Of course, a rise in retention rates among people who already own such vehicles doesn’t mean that others will decide against shunning big gas-guzzlers. But there’s already a big fan base for large pickup, large utility and midsize utility vehicles. From January through September of 2006—i.e., a period during which drivers were squealing like stuck pigs about gas prices—those three segments accounted for 23.5 percent of all new-vehicle sales in the U.S.