Tattoo Nation

Ah spring.

When a young man’s fancy lightly turns to… tattoos?

With apologies to Lord Tennyson, spring does seem to reveal more ink than even public displays of affection these days.  At the beach, the ball park, or the bars, we had been noticing a lot more tats as winter sweaters give way to summery attire.  Public Opinion Strategies worked to quantify the phenomenon in two recent national surveys of Americans.

No, you are not imagining it. There really are more tattoos today. 

Two-in-five Americans in our latest bipartisan survey on behalf of NBC-Wall Street Journal co-conducted with Hart Research Associates now say that someone in their household has a tattoo.  That is nearly double where it stood 15 years ago when 21 percent of Americans indicated they or a family member sport a tat.   Some of the sub-groups demonstrating the greatest increase in ink include:


Greatest Increase in Those Responding Yes/Someone in Household has Tattoo(s)

1999 to 2014

 Tattoo HH

Now, it is worth noting that another phenomenon may be at play in these numbers – there are significantly more households with a young adult who has returned to the nest.  So some of the jump in the numbers could potentially be attributed more to the new norm for living arrangements than for a penchant for body art.   That said, it is clear that those most likely to indicate ink in the household do tend to be younger:

Someone in Household has Tattoo(s)

by Age of Respondents

Tattoo HH by Age

Our curiosity was piqued, so we also asked about tattoos in another recent national survey that was conducted via the Internet last month.  By doing so, we were able to ask a follow-up as to whether they personally were sporting the tattoo or whether someone else in the household did.  One-in-five voters in this survey told us they personally have a tattoo (20 percent).

Visible Ink

Americans clearly want to flaunt their ink.  The vast majority of those voters we queried on-line said that at least some of their tattoos are “easily visible when wearing a bathing suit” (54 percent all easily visible, 16 percent some visible and some not).  Just three-in-ten have a tattoo(s) that is not easily visible while in a bathing suit.

Among those sporting a tattoo there is little distinction in who is most comfortable showing off that tattoo in a visible location. Upper income and working women are somewhat less likely to flaunt their tattoos.

In Tats We Stand

What is so striking in the data is how significant proportions of most American sub-groups are now part of a “tattooed household.”   Tattoos appear to be a commonality across many demographic and partisan divides.  As the next chart indicates, women are just as likely as their male counterparts to reside in a “tattoo household,” and unlike on many issues on which we poll, there is only a slight partisan distinction in this arena.


Someone in Household has Tattoo(s)

by Key Demographics


Tattoo HH by Demographics

So, now that you are armed with the data you’ll need to speak to the sleeved seatmate beside you on your next flight, have no fear.  Public Opinion Strategies will continue to track whether we are moving toward a future where the real rebel in the room will be the one with no ink, or whether the trend reverses and your next big investment should be in tattoo removal clinics.

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