Sunday, November 25, 2012

How important is important?

I saw an interesting link on Instapundit today, under the headline "men on strike".

It took me to a Fox News article entitled "The War on Men" which led with a study by the Pew Research Group that said:  
According to Pew Research Center, the share of women ages eighteen to thirty-four that say having a successful marriage is one of the most important things in their lives rose nine percentage points since 1997 – from 28 percent to 37 percent. For men, the opposite occurred. The share voicing this opinion dropped, from 35 percent to 29 percent.

The article went on to elaborate that this was a huge societal change caused by feminist women being too angry and unmarriable for men to bother.

Really? Because feminism started in 1997?

Despite the hoards of internet commenters regaling everyone in the comments sections about how their own lives (and ex-wives), like, totes prove that women are awful (obvi), I felt a little dubious.  I was curious about  this survey.....if we were really reading this that women value marriage more than men now, was that not true in 1997?  I remember 1997, and I'm pretty sure the sexual revolution (cited in the article as part of the problem) was over by then.

Anyway, since most Pew Research studies are surveys of about 1000 people, I went searching for the sample size on this one.  I was curious what those 60 or so males were answering in 1997 that was so different.  Of course I had to search the Pew website for a while to find the survey (my suspicions grow when articles don't provide a link) but I found it here.  

As I scrolled down, one graph caught my eye:

Wait a minute....that graph shows men and women being pretty equal on the topic of marriage.  What gives?

Here's the graph the Fox News article was talking about:

See the difference?  It's in the notes.

Men and women differ when the response is "one of the most important things" but not when you include the next answer down...."very important".

So the big culture strike is men moving marriage from "one of the most important" things to a "very important" thing.  That's not nearly as sensational as promised.

I'm actually curious what percentage of the respondents in this survey were married when they answered this.  For an unmarried person, this could be a bit of a "how often do you beat your wife?" question.  I mean, if you're not sure if you want to get married would you answer not important?  Because then it sounds like you're saying you'd be okay with an unsuccessful marriage.  I'm not sure what I would have answered prior to getting married myself....marriage always felt pretty optional to me.  Anyway, now that I am married, I would have definitely answered "one of the most important things".  If this had been two different questions, I would feel better about extrapolating from the results.


  1. I'm starting to think that journalists should stick to reporting actual events. Meaning, things that actually happen. What people may or may not think -- is that really news anyhow?

    At least, that's what *I* think.

  2. Reporting on polls, with varying degrees of meaning, as a news event...hmm. I can see the point, because changes in attitude are certainly worth knowing about in a culture. And further, there are supposedly-academically-credible studies that aren't much better. But some further line is indeed being crossed in the hall-of-mirrors game.

    1. I found out after I wrote this that the author is Phylis Schlafly's niece. So the stat wasn't at all important, she's had this opinion since she was born.

      I figured it was just a prop for a bigger argument, but did she have to pick such a flimsy one?

  3. I just don't understand the graphs. Are very important and somewhat important answers added together, or are the bars just of the very important response?

    Rereading the note, well, what do those bars actually mean? I can't figure it out, because I don't know what info is being presented.

    1. In the first graph, they added together "one of the most important things" and "very important". In the second graph, they only show "one of the most important things".

      I'm just curious how many people have a strong reasoning why they would rank something "one of the most important things" vs "very important".