Those were among the findings of this year's Anderson Analytics fall survey, which since 2005 has posed a series of open-ended questions to college kids about their favorite brands and activities. This year more than 1,000 students across the nation were asked to quickly list things such as a favorite magazine or good book they had read recently.
While in some cases the results were predictable, there were a few surprises. Time magazine, for instance, ranked as the No. 1 magazine, unseating perennial favorite Cosmo and jumping ahead of last year's No. 2, People. CNN.com made it into the top 10 websites for the first time, while sites such as Perez Hilton and CollegeHumor dropped off the list.
Certainly in a presidential-election year, the popularity of a news magazine and website seems to make sense. But overall, the tone of the survey seemed a lot weightier than in years past. There were other changes, such as the inclusion of world peace as the No. 4 answer to the question "I wish ..." (The more-realistic tangibles of money, doing better in school and a job, however, still beat out peace.)
Why so serious? Tom Anderson, managing partner of Anderson Analytics, attributed many of the changes to President-elect Barack Obama and his campaign, which grabbed the attention of young voters and, in particular, college students.
"Even during the war in previous years, they weren't that concerned [as a majority] with things like world peace," he said. "I think Obama just really struck a chord with them."
But before you conclude that the Obama effect has led college students to become more high-minded than ever, consider this: The fondest wish of some 7.2% of respondents (and the No. 6 response, two slots below world peace) was the ability to fly.
A Time spokeswoman said the magazine did not run any specific marketing campaigns, but its website does skew younger. She added, "We found through this election cycle that Time is such a trusted news brand that people turned to us for information."
The students also indicated that they are connecting online even more this year. The number of students who share videos online jumped to almost 40% from 22% last year. Students, especially women, also said they are blogging more than ever; 16% said they maintain their own blogs. And while Facebook remained the favorite website, MySpace dropped to No. 4 from No. 2, and both Google and Yahoo moved ahead of it this year.
Students shared a dislike for Microsoft's widely panned Bill Gates/Jerry Seinfeld buddy commercial, which was the No. 1 choice for "bad" commercial. The "good" commercials they named: Apple was at No. 1, followed by the singing FreeCreditReport.com guy at No. 2.
Geico, which was cited last year for the ad students liked both best and least, dropped to No. 4 on the "good" list and No. 3 on the "bad" list.
The study also asks the broader question "What is your favorite brand?" and there were perennial favorites there. Nike took the top spot for the fourth consecutive year, and Apple was No. 2 for the second year (up from No. 6 in 2006 and No. 9 in 2005).