New Poll Finds Mainers Approve of Winter, Cats
My Zeitgeist monitor must be on the fritz: the needle has been trending up toward "Cheerio" even as temperatures fall into single digits, along with the hours of daylight. I find myself staring in bemusement at these smiling faces around me. Can it be that all these folks actually like winter?
Being a thoroughly modern American as well as a responsible journalist, I decided to take a poll.
I employed the latest public-survey methodology, importuning people at inconvenient times and making rude noises in my throat when their responses annoyed me. To ensure a representative sample, I chose names at random from my "Family & Friends" contact list, supplemented by a loiter of teenagers caught wandering the halls of Watershed School in Rockland. (On this basis, I have determined that, surprisingly, 65 percent of Mainers are 18 and younger. Take that, demographic doomsayers!)
Herewith, the results. For the first category of questions, respondents were asked to state whether they Strongly Favor, Moderately Favor, Feel Neutral Toward, Moderately Oppose, or Strongly Oppose the following:
Winter. This is the single item I find most disturbing. 83 percent of Mainers surveyed report that they either strongly (48 percent) or moderately (35) approve of this ghastly time of year. Not a single respondent was willing to take a principled stand in strong opposition.
When responses were scored numerically (Strongly Favor=5, Strongly Oppose=1), the approval rating for winter stood at 4.1.
Hamlet (the play). It may not be intuitively obvious that Shakespeare's greatest tragedy is of immense topical concern to Mainers at this season. But the entire Watershed student body just finished reading the play, in preparation for watching a live broadcast from the National Theatre in London, shown locally at the Strand is Rockland — a tremendous cultural asset here in the midcoast. How fared the Bard? Hamlet scored 3.4 in overall favorability, with a distinct split according to age: adults rated it 4.2, as against 3.7 among those 18 and under.
Snow. See how the pollster cunningly changes up topics here. This is a blatant attempt to throw people off, and a patent failure. A whopping 82 percent approved of snow, with 68 percent saying they "strongly" favor it. Snow scores higher than winter at large, with a favorability rating of 4.3.
Fish. Grown-ups like fish much more than kids do, by a large margin: 4.3 to 3.4. We have our hearts to think about.
Rap music. Respondents across all generations were rather like-minded here — cool but not overtly hostile. 18 percent of young people "strongly" favored this purportedly musical genre, compared to zero adults. But if we discard those as outliers (on the reasonable ground that 1 in 5 teenagers is willing to countenance any travesty of good taste) the remainder of the sample clocks in at 2.5, hovering between Neutral and Moderately Oppose. Among Maine youth, the Bard easily bests the Bone Thugs.
See how objective I'm being here? This is how all polls ought to work.
Cats. The only contest here was between Strong (65 percent) and Moderate (35 percent) favorability. Cats scored 4.7 on the approval index, leaving winter stuck in a snowbank somewhere.
School. Now this seems odd, but Watershed students seem to like school more than their elders do. Not by a whole lot — 3.8 versus 3.5 — but not exactly what you'd expect. Adults were twice as likely to declare themselves Strongly or Moderately Opposed.
Christmas. A surprising number of Neutral responses here — 30 percent of the sample — but no total Scrooges, with overall favorability of 3.9. I suppose we must go ahead with this lamentable holiday.
The year 2010. Quite a spread: going from top to bottom, the percentages were 35, 26, 22, 13, and 0.4. One had hoped for better, somehow.
The great State of Maine acquitted herself respectfully. Asked to choose where they would rather be right now — Maine, New York City, or California — a safe majority of 52 percent chose Maine over the sunny West Coast, which ranked second at 43. Only 5 percent were drawn to the charms of Old Manhattan.
Now here comes the money question: "How do you feel about the year ahead?" Respondents were asked to choose between Very Hopeful, Moderately Hopeful, Neutral, Moderately Apprehensive, Very Apprehensive, and Filled With Dread. The question was directed first at their feelings toward themselves and their own lives, then toward Maine, the nation, and the world at large. Ready for the eye-opener? The young people in the survey expressed notably more trepidation about their own near futures (with 26 percent counting themselves as apprehensive) than the adults, the most pessimistic of whom felt merely neutral. Kids were were twice as likely, though, to count themselves as Very Hopeful (47 percent, versus 33 percent of grown-ups).
Looking at the broader picture, a different sort of generation gap emerges. The kids were all over the map: a plurality was Neutral (31 percent), with Very Hopeful and Moderately Apprehensive each polling at 23, and all other categories tied at 8. On a scale of 1-6, these young Mainers gave 2011 a respectable, if hardly stellar, 3.9.
Their elders were less sanguine. Only one adult surveyed felt better than Neutral. Half felt either Very or Moderately Apprehensive, while one-quarter allowed to being Filled With Dread.
Fun with numbers! Take this all for what it's worth, which is probably not much more than this: my students are cool and worldly-wise, and my adult friends are a bunch of liberals terrified of Paul LePage.
Complete survey results are may be obtained by standing the pollster to a pint at the Whale's Tooth Pub at Lincolnville Beach.