A tattoo artist works on a client at the The Family Business Tattoo parlor.
Photo by Sarah LeeSarah Lee/Eyevine/Redux

Poll finds big changes in American life

Over the past decade and a half, it’s become far more likely that you’re a tattooed American who doesn’t read the newspaper. That’s according to some fascinating results in a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that asked questions about America’s culture and habits.

In 1999, just 21% of people told pollsters that someone in their home had a tattoo. Fast forward to the present, and the number of respondents with an inked member of the household has nearly doubled to 40%.

There’s a similar change in the way we get our news. A decade and a half ago, about four out of every five Americans read the newspaper in print - as in, words printed on literal paper – at least three times a week. Today it’s less than half of Americans at just 47%.

However, if you factor in online readership, we are still a nation of newspaper readers. Seventy-one percent of Americans still read the paper, either in print or online, three or more times each week.

The poll also reveals the seismic shift in American life brought about by the Internet. Sixty-two percent of us now pay bills online. Sixty-eight percent have an online profile on at least one social media site. And 69% of us shop online.

To put into perspective just how rare that kind of online activity was 15 years ago, the first banking performed on the Internet happened in 1994, and Amazon didn’t launch its website until 1995. Both online shopping and banking were each in their infancy in 1999.

As for social media, it was still all but unheard of in 1999. Myspace and LinkedIn were both founded in 2003; Facebook came one year later, and Twitter didn’t launch until 2006.

As for video games, 32% currently say they regularly play a console like a PlayStation 4 or XBox One. There’s no statistic for the number of gamers from 15 years ago, but it’s worth noting that in 1999 Sony users were still playing on the original PlayStation, rather than the fourth generation version now available. Microsoft, on the other hand, had yet to even release its original XBox.

But other aspects of American life have stayed more or less the same in the past 15 years. Our poll found that nearly the same number of people say they have dinner with their family at least five nights a week: 60% in 1999 compared to 58% now.

Neighborhoods were just a bit friendlier 15 years ago. In today’s poll, 69% say they know their neighbors well, compared to 73% in 1999. Military service is also down a bit. Today, 38% of people say there is an active duty servicemember or veteran living in their home, compared to 44% a decade and a half ago.