FAST CARS, GAS GRILLS AND CABLE

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In all its years of studying U.S. consumers, DDB Needham Worldwide has figured something out: U.S. consumers are hard to figure out. We are a complex study, increasingly skeptical on the one hand, surprisingly optimistic on the other. We are conservative in some areas, liberal in others.

Here's a snapshot look at some of our biggest hopes, fears, likes and dislikes, according the agency's Life Style Study:

We wear seat belts, subscribe to cable and approve of couples living together before marriage.

We like the look of a large lamp in a picture window.

We own microwave ovens and VCRs. We think women's liberation is a good thing. We approve of abortion, pollution standards and shared child-rearing responsibilities among parents.

We long for the good old days.

We are giving up on cleanliness at all costs. Messy homes are becoming more tolerable. We don't mind dirty ashtrays. Unseen dirt is worse than the dirt we can see. Disinfectants are important.

We have less free time.

We eat dinner with our families less often. We eat big Sunday brunches less often. Men snack more often than women.

We don't play cards.

Though we're a mobile society, we'd rather lay down roots. Fewer than two out of five people will move in the next five years. Small towns are preferred over big cities and suburbs. We prefer traveling in the U.S. to visiting foreign countries.

Our greatest achievements are still ahead. If we had the chance to live our lives over, many of us would do things differently.

Our days follow routines, but we aren't good at scheduling. About half of us would try anything once.

We like a good bargain.

A growing number of people, especially men, like sports cars. A growing number of people, especially men, like driving fast. A growing number of people, especially women, are going to museums, movies, libraries and concerts.

Communism no longer threatens us.

We cook outdoors, with gas grills. Regular charcoal is passe. We don't like to shop, but when we do, we shop with lists (women more so than men). We are watching less TV.

We try to buy American. We are buying more generics. We are less loyal to brand-name products.

We approve of police using whatever force is necessary to maintain law and order. We feel smoking should not be allowed in public places. A growing number of people think there should be a gun in every home. A growing number of people think marijuana should be legal.

We are serious and reserved. We work hard most of the time and feel we are under a great deal of pressure. We never seem to get ahead.

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