Football remains America’s #1 favorite sport – and it isn’t even close.

Favorite sportsThe Super Bowl XLVIII game between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos may have been a yawner … but that doesn’t mean pro football is in any danger of being knocked off its perch as America’s #1 favorite sport.

In fact, a December 2013 Harris Interactive Poll of ~2,300 American adults who follow at least one sport finds that the gap between pro football and any other favorite sport is a big as ever.

Today, ~35% of American adults say that professional football is their favorite sport, whereas only ~14% say that professional baseball, the next most popular sport, is their favorite.

That 21 percentage point gap is even larger than the previous year’s polling by Harris, which found ~34% naming pro football as their favorite sport, compared to ~16% for pro baseball – a difference of “only” 18 points.

Harris has been querying American adults on this topic annually for nearly 30 years.  In only one other instance before has the preference gap between football and baseball been as great as it is today.

In fact, since the question was first asked by Harris back in 1985, pro football’s popularity as a favorite sport has risen 11 percentage points … while pro baseball has dropped by 9 points.

That means that whereas the two sports were at near-parity barely a generation ago, the divergence in the two’s fortunes has been dramatic since then.

If you’re wondering what other sports are considered “favorites” by Americans, only one comes even close to professional football and baseball – college football.  Here are Harris’ popularity figures found in its most recent survey:

  • Pro football:  ~35% consider the sport to be their #1 favorite
  • Pro baseball:  ~14%
  • College football:  ~11%
  • Auto racing:  ~7%
  • Men’s pro basketball:  ~6%
  • Men’s hockey:  ~5%
  • Men’s college basketball:  ~3%
  • Men’s golf:  ~2%
  • Men’s soccer:  ~2%
  • Swimming:  ~2%
  • Men’s boxing:  ~2%
  • Men’s tennis:  ~2%

[Eight other sports were cited by 1% or fewer survey respondents each.]

Harris has also published cross-tabs which point to some interesting differences in sports preferences within certain sub-groups.  Some of those include:

  • Americans who live in rural areas are more likely to cite pro football as their favorite sport (~44%), as are ~39% of Easterners and ~42% of people with children under the age of 18.
  • At the other end of the football popularity scale, people with post-graduate degrees are less likely to prefer professional football (~24%).  Perhaps the game isn’t subtle enough for them!
  • As for professional baseball, Hispanic Americans are more likely to cite it as their top favorite sport (~19%), as well as similar popularity percentages of suburbanites and people living in households with incomes over $100,000.
  • Is it a surprise that Southerners are more likely to cite college football (~17%) than any demographic other sub-group as being their #1 favorite sport?  I think not.
  • And how about auto racing?  It’s the #1 favorite for Americans living in rural areas (~12%) … those with household incomes under $35,000 (~12%) … as well as people with high school or less education levels (~11%).

If you’re interested to see how Harris’ survey results reinforce certain demographic stereotypes – or not – you can view more details here.

Americans’ Personal Outlook for 2014: The “Blahs” Have It

economic pessimismThe U.S. stock market may have achieved record-high performance in 2013, but a December 2013 poll of American consumers, conducted by Harris Interactive, is painting a decidedly different picture when it comes to the outlook for the New Year.

The degree of pessimism manifests itself in a higher percentage of adults believing that the economy will get worse (~32%) compared to those who feel it will get better (~27%).

The most optimistic contingent are Baby Boomers (age 49 to 67), where nearly 30% feel the economy will improve in 2014.  The opposite is true with the very youngest group (age 18 to 36), where only ~23% think the American economy will improve this year.

And the most pessimistic group when it comes to believing the economy will get worse?  That would be the oldest contingent (people age 68 and older), ~40% of whom share this opinion.

The message Americans seem to be sending is this:  “We may be in the fifth year of a recovery … but we’re still waiting for it to hit us.”

Comparing these Harris figures to what the pollsters recorded a year earlier, it’s interesting that the percentage of people who envision the economy “staying the same” has grown by ~11 percentage points.  So, treading water appears to be the order of the day.

How Americans are responding in their own personal lives to their views of the economy correlate to their level of general optimism or pessimism.  Here’s what the survey found in terms of their intentions for the year:

  • Cut back on my household spending:  ~45%
  • Save more in the year ahead:  ~40%
  • Pay down my debt level:  ~40%
  • Save more for retirement:  ~23%
  • Get rid of one or more credit card:  ~15%

Broadly speaking, the Harris poll findings point to a distinctly blasé environment.  And it helps explain the mediocre holiday shopping season we just witnessed – more than inclement weather and a shorter shopping days calendar can explain.

More Harris Interactive poll result details are available here.

Password Pandemonium

Too many user names and passwords to remember ...It seems that many people have been heeding admonitions from seemingly everywhere that they should refrain from using the same user name and password for their various online accounts.

“Password creep” has been the result. Just how much so is revealed in a recently published research studied from social web SaaS provider Janrain, in concert with Harris Interactive.

The 2012 Online Registration & Password Study found that nearly 60% of online adults have five or more unique passwords associated with their online logins.

One-third of the respondents report that they maintain 10 or more passwords. And ~10% report having more than 20 individual passwords.

These figures are up significantly from the first Janrain study, which was conducted back in 2006.

Of course, when one considers the myriad of online activities many people engage in, it’s not hard to fathom how the number of passwords per user has become so large.  Consider all of these possibilities just for starters:

  • Retail sites and loyalty programs
  • TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, Yelp! and other review sites
  • Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites
  • LinkedIn, Career Builder and other career-oriented sites
  • Google, Yahoo and other e-mail/search portals
  • PayPal and other payment, banking and financial sites
  • Hobby sites and discussion boards
  • Personal blogs

And the list goes on …

The Janrain/Harris study also uncovered several interesting findings based on age and gender demographics:

  • Older people (age 55+) are more likely to have a higher number of unique passwords than younger adults.
  • Men age 45-54 report having the highest average number of unique password (~10).

There’s no question that people have heeded the warnings about using passwords that are too easy to “game” … and thus are creating passwords that incorporate a combination of letters, numbers and other symbols.

But the downside is a considerable percentage of people forgetting their passwords frequently. 

In fact, more than one-third of the respondents reporte that they have had to ask for assistance on their user name or password at least once in the past month.

And another thing: The vast majority of people (~85%) dislike being asked to register to access information on a new website.

What did they dislike in particular? Half of the respondents complained about having to create and remember yet another user name and password. And ~45% believe that online registration forms are too long and time-consuming to complete.

Despite the irritations of “password pandemonium,” it’s doubtful many online consumers are going to be changing their behaviors very soon.

One alternative would be to create a few strong, secure passwords that are used across multiple sites but changed regularly.  But to many, that “cure” is no better than the “disease” they have already.

Vacation time? What’s that?

Americans not taking their vacation daysIf you’ve been wondering if you’re the only chump in the business world who never takes advantage of all the vacation days you’re due … it turns out you’ve got lots of company.

We have three separate surveys conducted within the past six months that point to the same conclusion: American workers are the great ones for skipping their vacation time.

In a survey conducted by Kelton Research for the Radisson hotel chain, American workers reported that they are granted an average of 18 vacation days per year. But in 2011, nearly half of the ~1,000 survey respondents took 50% or fewer of their allotted vacation days.

A startling finding for sure. But Harris Interactive discovered a similar result in its American Travel Behavior Survey conducted for Hotwire.com. That survey of ~2,000 adult workers fielded in late 2011 found that the average American employee left more than six days of paid vacation “on the table” at the end of the year.

Lastly, a survey conducted for JetBlue Airlines in September 2011 found that nearly 60% of the ~1,100 workers polled didn’t use all of their allotted paid vacation days.

The average number of days not taken? In this survey, it was a whopping 11 days.

Why are so many people taking so few vacation days? Especially when it’s something nearly every social psychologist says is important for a healthy balance between work and social life?

The survey findings give us tantalizing clues: It’s a combination of “taking one for the team” and just plain “fear”:

 Excessive workload raises the “guilt level” for taking vacation time.

Concern about asking for vacation days even when the time is due, because of lean office staffing and how the time off will affect work colleagues.

 Reluctance to play “catch-up” in the workplace following a vacation. Overstuffed e-mail inboxes are just the beginning.

 Concern about job security in a time of high unemployment.

Looking ahead, will workers will start taking more of the vacation days they’re due? If these surveys are a correct barometer, the answer is a firm “No.”

What do consumers think of America’s corporations?

Corporate Trust ... Corporate ReputationWith the budget negotiations in full swing – and high dudgeon – on Capital Hill, naturally the public’s critical eye is trained on our political figures. And Congress is most assuredly taking a beating in the political polls, with approval ratings plunging astonishly below the 20% figure.

[Of course, is that really so surprising? After all, Congress is pretty evenly matched between the two parties … so partisans see much to criticize on both sides.]

The focus of attention on Washington has taken the spotlight off of corporate America – at least in terms of media attention. But that doesn’t mean that “John Q. Public” is giving companies much of a break.

I’ve blogged before about corporate reputations — most recently commenting on a field survey conducted early this year by Harris Interactive that measured the appeal of 60 of the “most visible” American corporate brands. That survey showed an uptick in positive opinions about those firms when compared to prior-year results.

But a May 2011 survey by GfK Custom Research North America shows otherwise. The findings from GfK’s online field survey of ~1,000 U.S. consumers include this doozy: Two-thirds of respondents believe that it’s harder today for American companies to be trusted than it was three years ago.

Furthermore, ~55% say it will be harder for companies to gain their trust in the years to come.

What’s bothering people about U.S. corporations? In order of significance, here are the key concerns:

 The perception that CEOs and other senior executives of corporations are overpaid.

 Corruption in senior management circles.

 Companies make up lost earnings at the expense of their customers.

 More products than ever are being manufactured overseas.

Interestingly, there’s less concern about declining product or service quality as a reason for lower levels of trust. And as has been found in other studies, the public’s view of technology companies is somewhat higher than its trust for companies in other industry segments.

But back to the rather grim overall findings … fewer than one in five survey respondents anticipate that corporate corruption will become better over time – a result that’s substantially lower than what was found in similar field research conducted by GfK a few years ago.

This survey underscores the fact that corporate America has a long way to go to change the sharply negative impressions consumers have of the world of business. Clearly, the financial crisis of 2008 continues to extend its long shadow more than two years later.

And it looms over everyone – public and private sector alike.

This helps explain the generally sour mood people are in these days.

A surprise? Corporate reputations on the rise.

Corporate reputations on the riseWhat’s happening with the reputations of the leading U.S. corporations? Are we talking “bad rep” or “bum rap”?

Actually, it turns out that corporate reputations are on the rise; that’s according to findings from the 2011 Reputation Quotient® Survey conducted by market research firm Harris Interactive.

Each year since 1999, Harris has measured the reputations of the 60 “most visible” corporations in the United States. The 2011 survey, fielded in January and February, included ~30,000 Americans who are part of Harris’ online panel database. Respondents rated the companies on 20 attributes that comprise what Harris deems the overall “reputation quotient” (RQ).

The 2011 survey contained 54 “most visible” companies that were also part of the 2010 survey. Of those, 18 of the firms showed significant RQ increases compared to only two with declines.

The 20 attributes in the Harris survey are then grouped into six larger categories that are known to influence reputation and consumer behavior:

 Products and services
 Financial performance
 Emotional appeal
 Vision and leadership
 Workplace environment
 Social responsibility

Each of the ten top-rated companies in the 2011 survey achieved between an 81 and 84 RQ score in corporate reputation. (Any RQ score over 80 is considered “excellent” in the Harris study). In cescending order of score, these top-ranked corporations were:

 Google
 Johnson & Johnson
 3M Company
 Berkshire Hathaway
 Apple
 Intel Corporation
 Kraft Foods
 Amazon.com
 Disney Company
 General Mills

At the other end of the scale, the ten companies with the lowest ratings among the 60 included on the survey were:

 Delta Airlines (61 RQ score)
 JPMorgan Chase (61)
 ExxonMobil (61)
 General Motors (60)
 Bank of America (59)
 Chrysler (58)
 Citigroup (57)
 Goldman Sachs (54)
 BP (50)
 AIG (48)

Clearly, BP and AIG haven’t escaped their bottom-of-the-barrel ratings – and probably won’t anytime soon.

What about certain industries in general? The Harris research reveals that the technology segment is perceived most positively, with ~75% of respondents giving that sector a positive rating.

The next most popular segment – retail – had ~57% of respondents giving it a positive rating.

For the auto industry, the big news is not that it’s held in high regard (it’s not) … but that its ratings jumped 15 percentage points between 2010 and 2011. That’s the largest one-year jump recorded for any industry in any year since the Harris RQ Survey began.

What industries are bouncing along the bottom? Predictably, it’s financial services firms and oil companies.

But the news from this survey is, on balance, quite positive. In fact, Harris found that there were actually more individual companies rated “excellent” than has ever been recorded in the history of the survey. Considering the sorry state of the economy and how badly many brands have been battered, that result is nothing short of amazing

A Green Fog

Green marketing hypeI’ve blogged before about evolving consumer attitudes on “green” products, and the telltale signs that “green fatigue” may be setting in with at least some people.

And now we have survey results that lend additional support to this observation. Harris Interactive conducted an online survey of ~2,350 U.S. adults in November, 2010 – one which is done annually by the polling firm. A comparison between the 2010 and 2009 survey results suggests that fewer Americans are engaging in various green behaviors in their daily lives.

While the year-on-year differences may be slight, the overall trend in participation is down. To illustrate, here are the comparative percentages of respondents who report that they “always” or “often” engage in certain “green” activities:

 Turning off lights when leaving a room: 81% (versus 83% in 2009)
 Making an effort to use less water: 57% (vs. 60%)
 Purchasing locally grown produce: 33% (vs. 39%)
 Purchasing locally manufactured products: 23% (vs. 26%)

Are there any areas where the trend is up rather than down? Actually, no. But Harris did find one area of stability: The same percentage of respondents in both years reported “always” or “often” engaging in recycling activities (68%).

What about other environmental activities? Again, the trend lines aren’t going in green’s favor:

 Purchased energy-efficient appliances (e.g., Energy Star): 30% (versus 36% in 2009)
 Donated or recycled electronic devices or parts: 32% (vs. 41%)
 Switched from bottled water to filtered tap water: 23% (vs. 29%)
 Purchased a more fuel-efficient car or hybrid vehicle: 8% (vs. 13%)

In fact, only one of the nearly 20 activities that were surveyed by Harris showed a positive “green” trend for 2010 versus the year prior — and that was switching to paperless statements for personal financial accounts.

Big whoop.

In trying to understand what is causing the change in behavior, it’s too simplistic to cite the economic recession. After all, 2010 was a less challenging year on that front compared to 2009, when the economy was really in the dumper.

For clues, we might turn to several other consumer research studies. The 2010 Green Gauge® Study conducted by GfK Roper gives us some possible reasons. That study concluded that there’s a sense of “green fatigue” among U.S. consumers. Clear majorities believe that green products are “too expensive” … while one–third of the people surveyed believe that green products “don’t work as well” as the alternatives.

But a more startling statistic from the GfK Roper study is that nearly 40% of the people surveyed feel that “green products aren’t really better for the environment.”

That shows a pretty skeptical public! And what about the issue of truth in advertising? The newest Green Gap Trend Tracker survey from Cone, just released this month, found that well over half of the ~1,035 adults surveyed do not trust the “green” claims made by products and brands.

Interestingly, even with so much of the consumer participation trending down rather than up, these surveys also found that more people today actually consider themselves to be environmentalists or green/environmentally aware.

So, consumers see themselves as green-friendly … but it’s all in how someone defines the term. As it turns out, it’s a murky definition that has people all over the map when it comes to the actual behavior.