It’s easy to make fun of Mark Penn’s Microtrends (if you doubt it, go here). It’s glib, superficial, way too heavy on whiz-bang hubba hubba. On bankruptcy, one subject I actually know a little about, it is just laughably off base. It’s more of a quaint miscellany than a coherent presentation—the title“Microtrends” is perhaps most charitably translated as “hey, look, folks, the world is a complicated place!”
But when you stop to think about it—actuall, yes, the world is a complicated place and Penn’s presentation, however accidentally, helps to drive the point home (and the fact that he annoyed Maureen Dowd is no evidence of anything—doesn’t everything annoy Maureen Dowd?).
Some of it pretty much restates the obvious: I don’t think I need to be told, for example, that the Russians are reverting away from democracy. Some is really pretty trivial: I don’t think I need to be told that seventh-grade girls are interested in knitting. But even granted the obvious and the trivial, the result is a therapeutic reminder of just how complicated our world can be.
Eye-opening as it may be, I am amused (and I guess a little surprised) to find out how much of it applies to me. Over 65 and still working? At least part time, check. Long commute? 90 miles, check. Living together apart? Not quite, but over 28 years of domestic bliss, I’ve been away from “home” about a third of the time. We miss “met through the internet” only because we are too old: we met in the want ads, before the internet was invented.
But enough about me. Rather, allow me to cherry-pick, not his showcase findings, but some odd particular points that might spice up the picture. For example:
- Internet daters: I’m not surprised to find out that they are somewhat more urban, up-scale and (big-D) Democratic than the control group. It is intriguing to learn that they are somewhat more likely to go to church.
- Interethnic dating: not surprising to find that it is most common on the west coast. Intriguing that it is actually more accepted in the east. Boswash talks the talk; LA/Seattle walks the walk.
- The Hispanic shift to Bush in ’04—it all came from Hispanic Protestants. And BTW one reason for the rise of Protestantism among Hispanics: faith healing. Helps when you don’t have medical insurance.
- Support for gun control among American Muslims: 81 percent (v. about half for the population as a whole).
- Released prisoners. I guess I knew that a lot of mid-d-30s guys are getting out of prison (mostly with unabated drug issues). Hadn’t occurred to me that “home” is concentrated in some very particular urban neighborhoods.
- The “Disorder Divide”: “While regular folks may still see a stigma in kids’ disabilities related in any way to the brain the affluent wear them like a badge of honor, aggressively explaioning why their children undercompete.”
Oh, and one good final irony. Here’s something that is not diverse: the laptop computer. World around, it is a commodity product. Nearly every one of them is pretty much like any other. And, he might have added, mostly made in one little corner of