Posts made in April 2018

Call your Mom!

May 1, 2018

As Mother’s Day quickly approaches, many readers are marking their calendars to make a call on May 13. But how often does the average adult child dial his or her Mom during the rest of the year?

A FiveThirtyEight/SurveyMonkey Audience poll conducted in 2016 found that most U.S. mothers do not “feel like chopped liver,” according to the researchers. But, of course, they’d like to hear from you more often.

After surveying 194 mothers with adult kids who live at a distance and 513 adult kids who live apart from their parents, here’s the good news: Most kids are doing their part, FiveThirtyEight reported.

Still, fully 21% of moms said that they’d like to hear from their kids more than once a day.

It’s no surprise that twice a day is characterized as just “too often” for more than 90% of adult kids, who told the researchers that a “reasonable expectation” would be once a day or less.

However, adult kids do expect to be in touch fairly frequently: Over half (54%) said that they should call weekly or a couple of times a week, and luckily for them, that’s exactly what almost half of moms (49%) expected.

When kids and moms do talk, it tends to be on the phone, but it might not involve a voice call. Moms reported that they were most likely to hear from their children by text, while kids ranked texts second after phone calls.

Forty-one percent of kids reported that they contacted their mothers less often than they felt they should. Only 23% of mothers felt that their children weren’t contacting them as often as they would like—and, in fact, fully 8% percent of mothers would like to hear from their children a little less.

We, personally, haven’t met those mothers—but maybe they have very large families.

 Research contact:

Native plants, yoga spaces and charging stations are trending for backyards

May 1, 2018

It’s not back to basic for residential landscapers this year. Instead, homeowners want to do downward-facing dogs in their sustainably designed backyards—while their phones are charging nearby. That is one of the conclusions of the 2018 Residential Landscape Architecture Trends Survey, conducted among 808 professionals by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) and released early in April.

For the first time this year, ASLA revised the survey this year to include new types of outdoor amenities . Because of this change, flexible outdoor spaces for such activities as yoga and outdoor movie nights, as well as charging stations for mobile devices, entered the top ten project types for the first time.

Among the landscaping projects with the largest consumer demand are the following:

  • Native plants (83.3%);
  • Native/adapted drought tolerant plants (83.0%);
  • Low-maintenance landscapes (80.0%);
  • Flexible use space for yoga classes, movie nights and more (74.2%);
  • Permeable paving (74.0%);
  • Drip/water-efficient irrigation (72.4%);
  • Rain gardens (71.2%);
  • Reduced lawn area (70.8%);
  • Food/vegetable gardens (70.5%); and
  • Charging stations for mobile devices (70.0%).

This lineup is virtually unchanged from 2017 except for the additions of flexible-use space and charging stations, the researchers said.

The top three most popular outdoor design elements this year include fire pits/ fireplaces (66.0%t), lighting (65.4%) and seating/dining areas (64.0%). Last year’s top three were fire pits/fireplaces (71.5%), wireless/internet connectivity (70.8%) and lighting (67.8%).

Indeed, wireless/internet connectivity was grouped this year with movies, TV, and video theaters and stereo systems, a lineup that received 48.0 percent of the vote in the outdoor design elements category.

The top landscape and garden elements in 2018 are expected to include native plants (83.3%), low-maintenance landscapes (80.0%) and rain gardens (71.2%). In 2017, the top three were native plants (81.6%), low-maintenance landscapes (79.3%) and food/vegetable gardens (76.5%).

The outdoor recreation amenities category has been revised this year to include amenity types for both single-family and multi-family residences. The top three types in 2018 include dog-related recreation areas (68.0%), designated areas for other outdoor recreation (61.5%) and bocce courts (42.5%).

Research contact:

Anti-Semitic GOP Senate candidate may challenge Dianne Feinstein

May 1, 2018

Overt anti-Semites who are members of the “alt-right” movement are said to have helped President Donald Trump win the presidency in 2016—and now one of them has an outside chance to represent the Republican Party in a midterm Senate race, Newsweek reported on April 28.

The hard-line white supremacist in question is Patrick Little, who will be squaring off against ten other Republicans in a “top-two primary” on June 5 in California—aimed at beating incumbent Dianne Feinstein in the general election on November 6.

A poll conducted by local ABC News affiliates along with the organization, Survey USA, suggested that Little is polling at 18% of the vote on the Republican ticket— a full ten points ahead of his next-strongest opponent, the researchers found.

The 84-year-old Feinstein, who first entered office in 1992, at the start of  former President Bill Clinton’s first term, remains a solid favorite to win the state—polling at 39%.

According to Newsweek, Little has said he believes Jews should have no say over white non-Jews and wants to see them removed from the country altogether. The weekly news magazine reports that, on Gab, a social media site with large numbers of extremist users, Little has asserted that the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer, whose editors praise Adolf Hitler, is too Jewish.

 He also wrote that he wanted to keep Americans “free from Jews.”

Research contact: @MichaelEHayden

Apprenticeships could create millions of jobs

April 30, 2018

A new report from the Harvard Business School’s Project on Managing the Future of Work and Burning Glass Technologies suggests that apprenticeship training could help students find pathways to good jobs and could help employers find skilled workers. Based on the findings, these opportunities could be made available in more than 70 skill-based occupations.

Their analysis of more than 23 million job postings—posted by the website Working Nation, shows that apprenticeships can be more than a pathway to a manufacturing job. In fact, the researchers say, apprenticeships can be applied to jobs such as shipping clerk, insurance claims adjuster and tax preparer.

These and other “middle-skill occupations” rely on workers who are capable of acquiring what the researchers say is a “narrow but deep set of skills,” many of which can be learned while on-the-job.

“Apprenticeships lend themselves to jobs with certain types of characteristics,” says report co-author and Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School Joseph B. Fuller. “We wanted to think about the scope of jobs that lend themselves to the model.”

The report, entitled Room to Grow: Identifying New Frontiers in Apprenticeship, identified the 27 occupations that currently employ apprentices and found that more than half of them were in construction or extraction—such as mining. These jobs are geared to attract entry-level workers with high school degrees and, traditionally, have been a way for these job applicants to ascend to a secure, middle-class lifestyle.

However, just 410,000 people were involved in civilian apprenticeships in 2016, the report said, citing a U.S. Department of Labor statistic.

If apprenticeship training in these “core” occupations were widespread, that number would have been more than 1.5 million, according to the study. Going deeper into other occupations that do not employ apprentices, the researchers say that 1.86 million roles could be added.

Unlike in Europe, where apprenticeship is common and has been in practice for the past 100 years, most U.S. employers have ignored this model, leaving it clustered in regions with a heavy union presence.

Burning Glass Technologies CEO Matt Sigelman says that many employers have been averse to these programs and instead rely on a college degree as a “proxy” for a skilled workforce.

“There’s a free-rider problem when it comes to how employers treat Americans’ educational training infrastructure. They are used to having the right to hire people who have been trained up for [jobs] and not have to pay for that training,” Sigelman says.

Today, such apprenticeships are making a comeback in South Carolina, which gives a tax credit of $1,000 per each apprentice registered in the program and Fuller remarked that apprenticeships in that state have “grown dramatically.”

Fuller believes that more effective work can be done at the state and local level as employers, industry associations and educators can link up to create a workforce pipeline that is responsive to industry needs.

“Small incentives encourage people to try something new,” he said.

Research contact:

40% of Americans would have sex with a robot, at least once

April 30, 2018

Fully 40% of Americans say that they would have sex with a robot at least once—“just to try it”—based on findings of a poll of 2,000 U.S. adults released by Georgia-based Eden Fantasys and posted on the SWNS website on April 27.

However, an adventurous (or desperate) 16% of respondents are “all in”—saying they would have sex with a robot “frequently.” And male respondents were 21% more likely to say they were ready for the experience.

Shockingly, 16% of respondents admitted that they would rather  have sex with a robot than with a real human. Some 13% even said that they would prefer to date a robot.

The survey went on to ask people how much they’d pay for their ideal sex robot, and found that the average American would pay an astonishing $1,666 for the sexbot of his or her dreams, with men willing to fork over an extra $560 more than women.

So, what is that ideal sexbot exactly? The study went on to explore that idea—finding that 41% of Americans would prefer their sexbot to be capable of talking, creating memories and having sentience.

And while there was overwhelming agreement that a realistically human-looking sexbot would be preferred, there were still a curious 4% of respondents who said they would rather have sex with a robot that looked more like a traditional robot.

 “Robots are entering human spaces everywhere and, as the research shows, sex will not be an exception,” said Fred Petrenko of  . “Creating a perfect sexbot will be a huge challenge both scientifically and commercially. But we are still a few years away yet.”

Bringing up a slightly dystopian predicament: if your partner has sex with a robot, would that be considered cheating? According to 30 percent of Americans, the answer is yes. And even more (53%) would consider it cheating if the robot were physically attractive and had its own personality.

Research contact:

Under fire for ethical lapses, Scott Pruitt’s job rating slips to 29%

April 30, 2018

While President Donald Trump’s approval rating continues to hover at around 40%, some of his appointees are not so fortunate. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt  currently boasts a 29% job approval rating, according to findings of a poll conducted by the Super PAC, American Bridge, and posted by The Hill.

In recent days, Pruitt’s main job has been answering to Congress, the press and the American people for a panoply of ethical violations.

As EPA Administrator, Pruitt has been under fire, CNBC reports, for his around-the-clock security detail and first-class travel.

On April 20, Politico reported that not only had Pruitt rented an apartment at a cut-rate from the wife of a lobbyist when he first moved to Washington, D.C.; but that the same lobbyist did in fact go on to do business with the EPA, according to a filing by his firm.

In addition, Pruitt is under fire for allegations that he spent $43,000 on a sound-proof booth called a SCIF in order to make private calls from his office to the White House, two blocks away—when there already are two such booths at the EPA and when his predecessors felt no need for such security measures.

 In two Congressional hearings, Pruitt first characterized the installation as a SCIF and then denied it—saying that it was simply a secure telephone line.

 The poll by American Bridge found that a plurality (43%) of those questioned believed Trump should fire Pruitt. About 31% of respondents disagreed.

Support for the administrator from Republicans polled wasn’t resounding, either, The Hill stated. The poll found that only 50% of those questioned approved of Pruitt’s job.

Research contact:

Senate Judiciary Committee moves to protect Mueller

April 27, 2018

Just one day after Fox News released findings of a poll that showed that 67% of Americans believe it is at least “somewhat important” that Robert Mueller’s investigation should continue—but that 71% fear that President Donald Trump soon will fire the Special Counsel—the Senate Judiciary Committee has taken steps to ensure that the investigation will be completed.

The New York Times reported on April 26 that the committee had “fired a political warning shot at the White House”—advancing on a bipartisan vote long-stalled legislation to allow special counsels such as Mueller to appeal their firing to a panel of judges and possibly be reinstated.

According to the Times, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to bring the bill to the Senate floor for a vote. However, with four Republicans, including the committee’s chairman, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), joining Democrats in favor of the measure, the committee sent a firm directive to the POTUS that the investigation must continue.

Even senators who voted against the legislation warned Trump against ousting Mueller. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said that “firing Mueller would cause a firestorm and bring the administration’s agenda to a halt. It could even result in impeachment.”

Will Trump back off? In an interview with Fox & Friends on April 26, the President said, “I’ve taken the position—and I don’t have to take this position and maybe I’ll change—that I will not be involved with the Justice Department. I will wait until this is over…. I may change my mind at some point.”

Research contact:

Making a ‘fast’ buck in Silicon Valley

April 27, 2018

Many Americans are “on the fast track” today—at least intermittently.  Each week, they eat for a few days and fast for a few days in order to lose weight and “purify” their digestive systems.

And those who practice intermittent fasting say it helps them to lose as much as 3% to 8% of their overall weight, Bloomberg reports, as well as 4% to 7% of their waist circumference, over periods between three and 24 weeks.

Indeed, according to a 2017 report by CNN, “Intermittent or alternate-day fasting requires routinely alternating between eating little or no food and then feasting in your daily diet. It has become a growing weight loss trend in the USA, the UK and other regions around the world.”

And although there are no data on how many people have tried fasting, several celebrities praise the practice, Longevity reports—among them, Miranda Kerr, Liv Tyler, Christy Turlington, Ben Affleck, Beyonce and Hugh Jackman.

What’s more, monthly Google searches for “intermittent fasting,” which has become a catchall term for various forms of the practice, have risen tenfold over the past three years, to as many as one million.

It also has caught on in a big way in Silicon Valley, the high-tech bastion near San Francisco. Like most of the health fads that sweep through the valley, this one broke through thanks to word-of-mouth—and a Medium website post.

Entrepreneur Sumaya Kazi told the site’s 650,000 readers that she had dropped 50 pounds on the regimen, while venture capitalist Phil Libin and others preached about it to anyone who would listen, Bloomberg states.

Indeed, Bloomberg notes, a number of meal programs have sprung up in Silicon Valley, in an attempt to profit off fasting—among them:

  • Plate Joy, a $230-a-year meal-plan subscription app that is part of a diabetes prevention program, and has attracted about 20 million followers to its site;.
  • HVMN, a ketone drink formerly known as Nootrobox, which has attracted more than $5 million in venture backing from the likes of former Yahoo! Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer and Zynga founder Mark Pincus;. And
  • ProLon, a very-low-calorie, five-day, $250 diet package that is supposed to mimic the effects of a fast—and includes small portions of soups, drink mixes, breakfast bars, vitamin supplements, and even desserts.

Should you try it? Lauren Smolar, director of programs at the National Eating Disorders Association, thinks the answer is no. “We consistently see cases where people have tried to control their intake of food, and it’s led to an eating disorder,” she told Bloomberg, adding, “There ends up being this kind of reward feeling they’re going through, which triggers them to continue on this diet. And slowly this feeling of losing control, and not being able to know when to stop, can occur.”

 The bottom line, according to Bloomberg: Startups focused on time-restricted feeding and low-calorie meal regimens plan to expand aggressively, but they may be a bit too far ahead of the science.

Research contact:

What drives vanity license plate owners?

April 27, 2018

Many Americans have a lot more on their plates than you would expect—vanity license plates, that is. The plates give clues to other drivers about the car owner’s name, attitude and more, if you can decode what they say, which is frequently abbreviated.

Among those we have recently seen: “I Gotta P,”  “OVR D EDG,” “L8R G8OR,” and “HOWIROL”

In fact, 18% of Americans say they have displayed vanity license plates on their vehicles at some point—and these folks are happier than non-owners, based on findings of a poll conducted among 2,625 U.S. adults by Civic Science and released on April 25.

The researchers say that, even though owners of vanity plates are more likely to be in a high income bracket ($100,000 annually), salaries are “all across the board for those who opt for more than a random license plate.”

While 19% of owners make more than $150,000 (which makes sense, because vanity plates are a splurge) a surprising and still solid 12% of vanity plate folks make under $25,000.

The researchers comment,”Maybe vanity plates are an aspirational item or a way to live like the other half-lives?”

 Demographically, vanity plate owners also are diverse—but they are likely to be suburban, married parents who are in the Generation X or Baby Boomer age range.

However, there is an interesting exception: Although the age group for vanity plate owners is on the older side, active Snapchat users are much more likely than others to have had a vanity plate at some point.

Maybe that means that they know how to have fun. But the fact is that 72% of those drivers who have had a vanity plate say they are happy, while only 57% of those who have never had one can say the same.

Finally, yes, respondents with vanity plates appear to be vain: Respondents told Civic Science that they consider themselves to be more physically attractive than others in their age group or gender.

Research contact:

Macron, U.S. voters want President Trump to back Iran deal

April 26, 2018

France’s President Emmanuel Macron has been making U.S. President Donald Trump “feel the love” during a White House visit this week.

Indeed, Macron, who has been dubbed “The Trump Whisperer,” hopes to influence the POTUS to sign off on a new agreement with Iran that would curb its development of ballistic missiles and contain its involvement in regional wars, in addition to halting its nuclear program, according to an April 24 Bloomberg report.

Public support for the Iran nuclear deal has remained steady, based on findings of a Morning Consult/Politico survey that was fielded ahead of last year’s October 15 deadline for Trump to declare whether the Middle Eastern country is in compliance with the accord’s framework.

In the online poll—conducted in late September among 1,987 registered voters—54% of respondents said they were in favor of the agreement reached in 2015 between former President Barack Obama, Iranian leaders and the heads of six other countries and the European Union to lift economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for its pledge to halt efforts to develop nuclear weapons.

Fully 69% of Democratic voters supported the deal, along with 46% of Independents and 43% of Republicans.

Despite confirmations from Trump administration officials that Tehran is complying with the deal, the president has continued to rail against it, calling it an “embarrassment to the United States.”

Thirty-seven percent of voters said they prefer that Trump recertify the deal, with 34% saying he should decertify it and let Congress decide whether to reimpose sanctions — effectively killing the deal.

At a joint press conference with Macron at the  White House on April 24, Trump commented, “People know my views on the Iran deal. It was a terrible deal …. It’s insane. It’s ridiculous. It should have never been made, but we will be talking about it.”

“We have a common objective, we want to make sure there’s no escalation and no nuclear proliferation in the region. We now need to find the right path forward,” Macron said, through an interpreter.

Research contact: