Tattoos, Pot and Football: Our Daily Lives Reflected in WSJ/NBC News Polls

The below article from Aaron Zitner and Danny Dougherty at The Wall Street Journal profiles and highlights data from years of work that Public Opinion Strategies partners Bill McInturff and Micah Roberts have done in cooperation with Hart Research Associates, The Wall Street Journal, and NBC News.

Would you rather be five years younger or 15 pounds lighter? Does anyone in your home have a tattoo? Which is more harmful to health: a sugar-laden candy bar or a marijuana joint?

Since its first questionnaire in 1989, the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll has tracked changes in American politics and society. The three decades of surveys have shown the nation growing more comfortable with social change while also more polarized in its politics.

But the poll has also asked more intimate questions intended to get at the texture of daily life: how do we feel about ourselves, what do we worry about and what do we look forward to. The surveys have captured the rise of online culture, the decline in military service and fears about personal finances.

As the poll reaches its 30th anniversary, the Journal has been looking back at what it has discovered. Here are findings that explore aspects of daily life.

Candy, or a Toke?
In 2018, Americans questioned in the survey said sugar was more harmful to health than marijuana. But a cigarette was seen as worst of all.

Would You Rather…
Given a choice, men in 1996 said they would rather be younger, while women said they’d prefer to be thinner.

Football Fear
In 2018, nearly half of Americans said they were concerned about children playing football, due to fear of concussions. Moms worried most of all. More Americans registered concerns than in a survey four years earlier.

Social Change
As they looked toward the coming century in 1999, more Americans were certain that a woman would be elected president than would a black person. Only 13% were sure that gay marriage would become legal. Events, of course, played out differently.

Body Ink
In 1999, 21% of Americans said that someone in their household had a tattoo. By 2014, that share had doubled.

Morals vs. Finances
In 1996, Americans felt the most serious problems facing the country stemmed mainly from a decline in moral values. By 2013, a larger share said family financial pressures deserved the most blame.

Military Service
In 1999, 44% of Americans said that someone in their household had served or currently served in the military. That group fell to 38% by 2014.

To Post, or Not to Post
In 2019, Americans said that social media wastes our time, spreads lies and divides the nation. And yet 70% said they use sites such as Twitter or Facebook at least once a day.

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