Thursday, September 16, 2010

Esquire - 20/50: The Esquire Survey of American Men

Esquire has conducted a large survey of American males, and it turns out there are more 20-year-olds than any other age, with 50-year-olds coming in second.

Some interesting findings - in some ways younger people are more liberal (gay marriage), but also more conservative (religion, abortion, legal weed).

20/50: The Esquire Survey of American Men

Fact: Among the total population, there are more 50-year-olds in America right now than any other single-age group, and the second largest single-age group (not counting the stragglers around 50) is 20-year-olds. Fact: If you're looking at only the male population, there are more 20-year-olds in America right now than any other single-age group, and the second largest single-age group is — wait for it — 50-year-olds.* Fact: This is pretty cool, and after commissioning a nationwide survey of men born in 1960 and 1990, we learned just how far apart today's 20-year-olds and 50-year-olds are in their attitudes, expectations, and beliefs.

dan brummer glen brummer survey of american men

Mike McGregor

Dan Brummer, 20, and his father, Glen, 50.

Published in the October issue of Esquire — on sale any day now


1. On a scale of 1 to 5 — 1 being "not happy" and 5 being "very happy" — how would you rate your level of personal happiness right now?

1 4% 4%

2 10% 13%

3 25% 34%

4 39% 37%

5 22% 12%

A CLOSER LOOK: 61% of 20-year-olds say they're generally happy (answering 4 or 5 on our scale) compared with just 49% of 50-year-olds. And though the sample sizes for some of our ethnicities are small, we couldn't help but notice certain trends. The men with the highest all-around happiness? 50-year-old African-Americans (68% consider themselves generally happy). The group with the highest all-around unhappiness? 50-year-old Asian-Americans (33% consider themselves unhappy).

2. Who is the best role model for young men in America today?

Barack Obama 41% 32%

George Clooney 13% 13%

Tom Brady 10% 5%

Bono 4% 5%

Rev. Billy Graham 7% 22%

Jay-Z 10% 1%

Steve Jobs 10% 13%

Mitt Romney 5% 8%

3. Whom do you consider the coolest man in America?

Barack Obama 21% 14%

George Clooney 12% 21%

Clint Eastwood 26% 55%

Robert Pattinson 3% 1%

LeBron James 20% 5%

Jack White 3% 1%

Justin Timberlake 9% 2%

Mike "the Situation" Sorrentino 6% 1%

4. Of the following, which one is the most trustworthy news source?

Jon Stewart 24% 12%

Brian Williams 26% 34%

Anderson Cooper 28% 27%

Glenn Beck 22% 27%

A CLOSER LOOK: Of the men we surveyed, there were clear preferences among certain ethnicities: 50% of 50-year-old Asian-Americans really like Brian Williams; 43% of 50-year-old African-Americans like Anderson Cooper; and, surprisingly, more than 29% of both 20-year-old African-Americans and 50-year-old whites find Glenn Beck the most trustworthy.

6. How much is too much to pay for a suit?

$200 17% 25%

$500 29% 31%

$1,000 32% 29%

$2,000 22% 15%

What They Look Like
A visual survey of 20- and 50-year-old men, photographed exclusively for Esquire in New York City on August 5 and August 11, 2010.


8. How do you get most of your news these days?

Watching television. 49% 48%

Reading newspapers. 9% 11%

Browsing online news sites. 27% 30%

Browsing blogs. 3% 1%

Listening to the radio. 4% 7%

I don't really follow the news. 7% 3%

9. Have you been involved in a physical altercation at any point over the past year?

10. Do you have a better sense of style than your father?

11. What's your favorite spectator sport?

Baseball 15% 20%

Football 33% 57%

Golf 4% 5%

Basketball 22% 11%

Ultimate Fighting 26% 7%

12. When was the last time you had five or more drinks in a single sitting?

Today 2% 3%

2 to 3 days ago 15% 13%

1 week ago 8% 8%

2 to 3 weeks ago 7% 7%

More than a month ago 23% 48%

Never 44% 20%

13. Which of the following decades produced the best music of the past 50 years?

The 1960s 7% 23%

The 1970s 14% 49%

The 1980s 23% 21%

The 1990s 22% 5%

The 2000s 34% 3%

Mike McGregor
Luke and Mark Petrinovic


15. How important is daily exercise in your life?

Very. If I'm not getting stronger, I'm getting weaker. 43% 25%

Somewhat. I exercise when I can, but it's not a huge deal. 46% 53%

Not very 11% 22%

A CLOSER LOOK: Among both 20-year-olds and 50-year-olds, men who say exercise is very important are more likely to say they're generally happy than men who don't exercise. Broken down by age and ethnicity, the group most enthusiastic about exercise is 20-year-old African-Americans (52% answered "very"); the least enthusiastic is 50-year-old Hispanic men (33%).

16. Do you believe in God?

17. You've got a big announcement to make to your close friends. What's your preferred method of communication?

Twitter 1% 0%

Facebook 25% 8%

E-mail 4% 8%

Texting 24% 5%

Telephone 16% 30%

In person 31% 50%

18. How many times in the past two years have you cheated on your wife/girlfriend/significant other?

Zero 82% 92%

Once 8% 3%

Two to four times 6% 2%

Five times or more 4% 3%

19. Have you ever been romantically involved with a woman from outside your race or ethnicity?

21. Whom would you most like to sleep with?

Kristen Stewart 5% 5%

Megan Fox 66% 25%

Christina Hendricks 5% 5%

Halle Berry 19% 37%

Demi Moore 5% 29%

22. In your version of an ideal marriage, your wife would:

Stay home and take care of the kids. 20% 14%

Work outside the home and help you pay the bills. 29% 30%

Work outside the home while you stay home and take care of the kids. 3% 1%

She should do whatever she wants. 47% 55%

23. What is the most important goal in your life?

To be happy. 60% 56%

To be wealthy. 13% 10%

To make other people's lives better. 19% 26%

To live a long time. 7% 8%


25. Which of the following best describes your opinion about divorce:

It's not an option, not ever. 20% 6%

It's an option, but it's a last resort. 63% 66%

It's an option, and I don't think there's anything wrong with it. 16% 27%

26. How often do you have sex?

Once or more a day 17% 6%

Two to three times a week 19% 25%

Once a week 10% 13%

Two to three times a month 8% 11%

Once a month 7% 6%

Less than once a month, but I'll take it when I can get it. 14% 27%

Never 25% 12%

A CLOSER LOOK: 20-year-olds are three times more likely to have daily sex than 50-year-olds, but 50-year-olds are more likely to have sex on a regular basis. Also: 20-year-olds have, on average, sex 7.7 times a month; for 50-year-old men, that number is 5.2.

27. How much do you enjoy giving oral sex to your wife or girlfriend?

I love it. 43% 68%

I like it okay, but only in small doses. 33% 20%

I don't like it, but I do it anyway. 9% 5%

I hate it. 15% 8%

28. Do you believe that lifelong monogamy is a realistic expectation for a married couple?

30. At what age do you want to retire?

55 17% 15%

65 34% 30%

75 11% 6%

As soon as possible 20% 30%

I don't think I'll ever want to retire. 17% 20%


31. Which of the following describes your opinion about marijuana?

It is a dangerous drug and should be illegal in all circumstances. 22% 11%

It should be illegal except when it is grown and used for medicinal purposes. 28% 30%

It should be legalized, taxed, and regulated by the government for the general population. 37% 49%

Live and let live, brah. 12% 9%

32. How many sexual partners have you had?

1 20% 11%

2 to 4 28% 19%

5 to 8 10% 16%

9 to 12 5% 9%

13 to 15 4% 5%

More than 15 8% 36%

None 26% 4%

33. At a work- (or school-) related conference, you have a dalliance with a woman who is not your significant other. At what point does it become cheating?

Flirting over a drink 17% 17%

Kissing/fooling around 57% 53%

Oral sex 8% 6%

Intercourse 5% 9%

Planning a rendezvous 13% 16%

34. How much do you make a year?

$0 to $24,999 53% 28%

$25,000 to $49,999 18% 29%

$50,000 to $74,999 12% 24%

$75,000 to $99,999 6% 11%

$100,000 to $149,999 6% 7%

$150,000 to $249,000 4% 1%

$250,000 or more 1% 1%

35. What do you expect to make at your earning peak?

$60,000 21% 48%

$100,000 33% 34%

$250,000 17% 8%

$500,000 14% 4%

$1,000,000 15% 5%

36. A year from now, do you expect to be more, less, or as financially comfortable as you are today?

More financially comfortable 62% 43%

Less financially comfortable 12% 21%

As financially comfortable 27% 35%

37. Which of the following best describes your definition of success?

A job that pays me enough money so I can buy what I want. 26% 19%

A job that leaves me emotionally fulfilled and personally content. 35% 49%

A job that makes my family proud. 26% 6%

Not having to work at all. 12% 26%

38. How much money would you need in the bank before you'd consider yourself rich?

$10,000 7% 5%

$100,000 18% 13%

$1,000,000 46% 46%

$10,000,000 28% 36%


40. How do you identify yourself politically?

Conservative Republican 12% 20%

Moderate Republican 15% 13%

Moderate Democrat 19% 19%

Liberal Democrat 12% 14%

None of the above. I'm an Independent. 43% 33%

A CLOSER LOOK: Among 50-year-olds who self-identify as conservative Republicans, the highest number of respondents make $50,000 to $99,999 a year; among the 50-year-olds who self-identify as moderate Republicans, the highest number make $100,000 or more. Also: Among the African-Americans surveyed, 20-year-olds are nearly five times as likely to self-identify as conservative as 50-year-olds (17% versus 4%).

41. Do you think President Obama is doing a good job?

A CLOSER LOOK: Among 50-year-olds, disapproval of Barack Obama rises in direct correlation to income. Among 20-year-olds, the opposite is true: $100,000-plus earners are more likely to say they think he's doing a good job than those earning $50,000 or less.

42. True or false: Climate change is real.

True, and it's caused by humans. 40% 38%

True, but it's not necessarily caused by humans. 36% 34%

False 7% 12%

There's just not enough evidence to say. 16% 17%

A CLOSER LOOK: Both 20- and 50-year-olds who make more than $100,000 a year are far less likely to say climate change is real than those who make less than $50,000 a year.

43. What's your take on the Tea Party movement?

Patriots 36% 34%

Nutcases 15% 22%

I don't know enough about them to say. 50% 44%

44. How would you characterize your position on abortion?

I'm pro-choice, without qualification. 19% 25%

I'm pro-choice, but I believe abortions should be restricted to the first 20 weeks. 29% 23%

I'm pro-life, but I believe exceptions should be made in the case of rape or incest or if the woman's health is in danger. 38% 42%

I'm pro-life, without qualification. 15% 11%

45. How strongly do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Today is the best time in the history of the country to be a man."

Strongly disagree 10% 17%

Moderately disagree 20% 23%

Neither agree nor disagree 39% 42%

Moderately agree 18% 11%

Strongly agree 13% 7%

46. What should be the number-one priority on President Obama's domestic agenda?

Enacting immigration reform. 12% 11%

Stimulating job growth. 49% 66%

Achieving energy independence. 23% 18%

Protecting the environment. 16% 5%

47. Do two men or two women have a right to get married?


48. If you had to boil down your thoughts on the following issues, would you describe yourself as "pro," "anti," or neither?

Gun control

Pro 46% 41%

Anti 29% 37%

Neither 26% 22%

Death penalty

Pro 49% 68%

Anti 26% 15%

Neither 26% 17%

Offshore drilling

Pro 36% 45%

Anti 37% 28%

Neither 28% 28%

49. What is the best solution for immigration reform?

Securing the border to keep undocumented workers out of our country. 34% 50%

Relaxing immigration standards and making it easier for illegals to become legal. 31% 14%

Hunting down undocumented workers currently in the country and sending them home. 20% 22%

Making English the national language. 16% 14%

A CLOSER LOOK: Among the Hispanic men we surveyed, 20-year-olds are twice as likely to endorse hunting down undocumented workers as 50-year-old Hispanic men (28% versus 14%).

50. Which of the following worries you the most?

The size of the federal debt. 26% 25%

The possibility of a terrorist attack. 18% 18%

The impact of global warming on our environment. 17% 13%

The unemployment rate. 30% 40%

The specter of one day becoming impotent. 8% 4%

51. How sure are you that your kids will have a better life than you did?

52. Which country do you view as the biggest threat to America in the 21st century?

53. Do you believe the United States will be as strong in 2050 as it is today?

Yes 31% 18%

No 29% 37%

I don't know. 40% 45%

A CLOSER LOOK: 20-year-olds are more bullish on America's future than 50-year-olds, especially among whites surveyed (31% of 20-year-old whites think we'll be as strong in 2050; only 16% of 50-year-old whites share that view).


So what are we to make of all of this? First, there are a few things that 20-year-olds and 50-year-olds seem to agree on. The unrivaled joy of watching football, the abiding coolness of Clint Eastwood, gun control and the death penalty and performing oral sex: Both age groups love 'em all. But there are differences of opinion, too, about off-shore drilling and Megan Fox and how much they're willing to pay for a suit. Surprisingly, 20-year-olds are more conservative in many of their social attitudes: They're three times more likely than 50-year-olds to say that divorce is never an option; they're more likely to want their wives to stay home and take care of the kids; and there are more 20-year-olds who self-identify as pro-life than pro-choice. Fifty-year-olds, meanwhile, are a lot less optimistic than 20-year-olds: They're more doubtful that their kids will have a better life than them; they're less likely to think today is the best time to be a man; and they generally don't think that the U. S. will be as strong in 2050 as it is today. To see if they're right, check out our follow-up survey, "60/90: The Esquire Survey of American Men," hitting newsstands on October 1, 2050.

Icons and map by John Grimwade

*With thanks to Moody's Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi for pointing out these facts to us and to the U. S. Census Bureau for confirming them. About our methodology: "20/50: The Esquire Survey of American Men" was conducted exclusively for Esquire by Beta Research Corporation, an independent firm located in Syosset, New York. The six hundred respondents were randomly selected from a pool of Internet-connected adults and results were weighted to reflect a national sample of American men aged fifty and twenty. Margin of error on totals is +/ — 4 percent at the 95 percent level of confidence, and for a sample size of three hundred it is +/ — 6 percent at the 95 percent level of confidence. The respondents completed the online survey between June 21 and June 30, 2010. Because of rounding, some percentages may not add up to 100.

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