One of my favorite Internet surfing spots is the “Snapshot” section of USA Today. This section presents the results of various “one question” polls that, while often interesting, are of dubious validity.
Since I annually make a 30 minute “overview” presentation about how to conduct a methodologically sound random sample survey, complete with confidence level and confidence interval parameters, I know that these polls may lack statistical validity. I do not see any “confidence interval” language (results valid by x percentage points either way) that indicates the poll is statistically valid. And if the poll is not statistically valid, then it is unreliable as a barometer of what the “true” thinking of the population is.
Still, I find it interesting to see what those who did respond are thinking. You’d be surprised…
When asked: “What do you think of while taking a shower?” the majority (56%) replied they think of their “to do” list. Only 24% think of sex…and they’re naked! I know this poll is completely worthless because it left off the answer I’d give: “absolutely nothing.” But then, I’ve never been a big fan of “multi-tasking”… probably because I miss the DOS operating system (so clean, so simple) and multi-tasking in DOS is impossible. (Don’t forget last week’s post…I’m living in the past!)
Another poll I have a…“beef” with is: “What is your favorite food to cook on the BBQ?” “Beef” was the big dog winner with 38%. What a load of bull!
It’s painfully obvious that few Southerners answered the poll because “pork” came in with a miserable, and unbelievable, 8%. Even Socrates asked: if you’re not BBQing some part of a pig, is it really BBQ? Only “hot dogs” had a lower ranking with 6%. My answer would have been “pork” and then “hot dogs” (which I liberally interpret to include all forms of sausage-like meats)
Another poll that initially surprised me, until I thought it through, was how different age groups answered whether taking vacation was “very important“ to them. The youngest age group (18-34) had the highest “yes” percentage at 74%; then the 35-54 age group with 66% and finally the 55+ age group with 61%. Notice that a majority of all age groups said a vacation is “very important.”
Initially, I thought that my 55+ age group would have the highest “yes” percentage. But then it occurred to me that my age group has probably already taken a heck of a lot of vacations, so they are not that important anymore. And if in fact I could not take another vacation again, I’d be happy with all the vacations I’ve already taken and not feel depressed over what I’ve “missed” because it‘s not been much. (Well…except for Amsterdam and Belgium, of course.)
Not surprisingly, those percentages flip flop when it comes to income. Only 59% of those with incomes below $25,000 think taking a vacation is “very important.” For those with incomes over $50,000, a vacation is “very important” for 73%. This result suggests that if you can’t afford a vacation then you compensate by reducing it’s importance in your life.
Then there’s the poll about which T-shirts we keep. Interestingly, it’s “vacation T-shirts” that are the top keepers, at 48%. I guess the 30 % who made “employer’s business T-shirt” the second highest category are the ones who don’t take vacations. (I don’t even own any employer apparel…and if I did I’d never wear it outside work.) Is it a bad omen for colleges that only 18% of folks said their “alma mater” T-shirt is a keeper? (I own a good half dozen T-shirts proudly proclaiming that I attended the American School of Manila.)
Very suspect is the “favorite veggie” poll. Only 16% said it was the tomato, making it dead last. Even broccoli received 17%. Corn came in at 19%. My eyes popped and my jaw went slack when I saw 26%, and first place, for “potato.” You’ve got to be kidding me!
Then, I realized that the poll was half-baked. That’s because it was sponsored by…the Idaho Potato Commission. I’m sure the survey was conducted among Idaho potato growers. (Excuse me while I go make a tomato sandwich, the only sandwich I put mayo on.)
Another poll asked mothers of school-age children how many times a week dinner was at a fast food restaurant. About 63% responded it was 1-3 times a week. No wonder this country is bloating out! (Yes, I’d like a triple whopper with cheese and extra mayo, extra large fries, and a diet Coke please.)
Now a poll I think is very accurate asked whether you are interested in being a manager. The youngest age group (18-34) had the highest “yes” rate with 58%. It then declined until it hit a low of 32% for the 55+ age group. Now, as a 55+ year old who was a first line manager for 10 years, I know exactly why that older group is not interested.
I became a manager when I was 32, so I was just inside that first age group of high “yes” responders. Fortunately, in that other job the upper managers during those ten years were engineers, who took a very logical approach and were somewhat insulated from politics. In my present job, I’ve been encouraged to become a manager more than a few times by both co-workers and management.
But I’ve absolutely no interest in that because in my current office environment that job would be akin to a colonoscopy without any form of sedation. Since they put me in “golden handcuffs” so it’d be difficult for me to leave for another job, I don’t need the money, which is a big reason many folks go into management. (Until they calculate the hourly rate of 50-55 hour weeks instead of 40 and realize they really took a pay cut.)
And now, here’s my own completely unscientific, statistically invalid, but “fun” poll: Who should receive the “Jackass of the Quarter Award”?