“So the kids, they dance, they shake their bones,
And the politicians throwing stones…”
Throwing Stones, Grateful Dead
Image 1

The Grateful Dead’s “Fare Thee Well” tour ends a 50 year run for the band with three final shows this weekend at Chicago’s Soldier Field.  And oh what a long, strange trip it has been.

Our recent poll conducted in June with the Mellman Group measuring the band’s image among all Americans demonstrates that the impact of the Grateful Dead has been broader and affected a more eclectic group than one might imagine.

The band is quite well known – four-in-five Americans (79{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) have heard of the Grateful Dead, and two-in-five (39{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) know them well enough to have formed an impression of them (“hard name id”).  The band has made its mark on voters who are more “middle age” today – those 35-64 years of age have higher hard name id for the band (51{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}).  If you want to feel old, note that just 27{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of those under the age of 35 know the Dead well enough to have formed an impression of them – fewer than among the nation’s seniors (30{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}).

And here’s where it does get strange – our politics have changed so much, Republicans are better acquainted with the Grateful Dead, in large part due to that “Touch of Grey” age distinction.  The band is better known among the GOP (46{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} hard name id) than among Democrats (37{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) or independents (35{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}).

Overall, 29{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Americans have a positive impression of the Dead and 10{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} an unfavorable one.  (As an aside, that three-to-one image ratio bests every single political figure we tested in a recent NBC / Wall Street Journal survey in June.)

Perhaps most strikingly, perceptions of the Grateful Dead lack the kind of significant partisan divides we have seen for most cultural phenomenon in American life – from French fries to rainbow flags.  Republicans give the band a 32{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} favorable/15{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} unfavorable rating, close to that among independents (26{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} favorable, 9{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} unfavorable), and Democrats (31{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} favorable/6{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} unfavorable).

With that level of positive regard, don’t be surprised if you hear “Truckin’” coming from a GOP candidate’s campaign bus at their next stop in Iowa or New Hampshire.

Lori Weigel, a Partner with Public Opinion Strategies co-conducted this survey with the Mellman Group.  The poll of 1009 adults nationwide (landline and cell phone) has a +/- 3.1{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} margin of error. Gordon Hensley, a Washington DC-based corporate communications consultant, long-time fan, and board member of the non-partisan NYC-based voter registration group, Headcount.org, funded the poll.  Lori regrets only having seen the Grateful Dead once, although many of their songs bring back warm memories of the summer when she was 17. 

Public Opinion Strategies