The Ripple Effect

By Published on .

Like a boulder crashing into the middle of a still pond, the attacks of Sept. 11 have deeply disturbed the country's inner calm. Even as the passage of time moves us further away from the horror's epicenter and toward our more practical daily obligations, we still feel the ripples of its impact. Some of us feel them more strongly and with more frequency, while others feel their presence in subtler ways. Some of us have altered our lives to adjust to their continued presence; others have managed to remain still and withstand the tides.

Sept. 11 has impacted each American differently, yet our varied responses do follow some demographic patterns. In the past year, parents of young children are the most likely of all groups to have set aside more “family time� with their loved ones, while older Baby Boomers have returned to the workplace with even more gusto, hoping to retire on schedule despite the stock market's influence on their 401(k) plans and retirement nest eggs. Hispanic Americans have felt less safe in their own homes, while America's youth have become more comforted by ties to their community. And though men are twice as likely as women to say that they are more attracted to films with terrorist plots now than before 9/11, Americans living in the South and the Northeast, where the attacks took place, remain disturbed by TV shows and movies that make reference to the events.

In this special report, we present a snapshot of the American mind-set — where we are now, one year after Sept. 11. We set out to answer the following questions: How, and to what degree, have Americans' attitudes and behaviors toward family, work, spirituality, entertainment and the role of patriotism in business changed over the past year? And which demographic groups have undergone the most and the least change?

To help us paint this picture, we refielded in June the four exclusive surveys that we ran in September and October 2001, the results of which were presented in a special report, “Reality Shift,� in our December 2001 issue. In most cases, the survey questions posed in the second round were identical to those in the first. However, certain questions were reworded slightly to capture differences between respondents' intentions last fall and their actual behavior over the past year. In addition, in June we fielded a new exclusive survey on the subject of entertainment.

In the five articles that follow, we present our findings, comparing and contrasting what Americans told us immediately after the attacks with what they are saying today, and providing analysis about what it all may mean. Sprinkled throughout are comments from some of the experts whom we interviewed for our October 2001 special issue, “What's Next?� We asked these experts for their opinions on how they believe American attitudes and behaviors have or have not fundamentally changed over the past year, and how they expect them to change (or stay the same) in the future.

Our intent in presenting this report is not to explain the long-term effects of Sept. 11 on American life; we will leave those analyses to historians. Instead, our discussions examine the first set of ripples in a churning pond, one that will likely remain unsettled for years to come.


>>Last fall, American Demographics commissioned four market research firms to conduct nationally representative surveys that gauged American attitudes and behaviors as they relate to family, career, spirituality and patriotism. All four surveys, conducted both online and via telephone, were fielded between September 28 and October 11, 2001. Then, between June 12 and 30, 2002, these firms reran the surveys, using the same methodology. Slight changes in question wording were made only where necessary. In June, we also added a survey on entertainment and asked a new question about spending behavior.<<

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