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TV Hits New Low as Favorite Way in U.S. to Spend Evening

TV Hits New Low as Favorite Way in U.S. to Spend Evening

by Jim Norman

Story Highlights

  • Only 16% of Americans list TV as their favorite thing to do at night
  • "Staying home" still America's favorite, 34% name this
  • Relaxing (13%), reading (12%) are also popular choices

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Television viewing was once so beloved by Americans that nearly half said it was their favorite thing to do at night, but it is now less popular than ever as an evening pastime. Fifty years ago, 48% of the public said it was their "favorite way of spending an evening"; this percentage has decreased steadily through the decades and now stands at a record-low 16%.

Staying Home With Family Eclipses Television Viewing as Americans' Favorite

Meanwhile, the top choice for U.S. adults when asked how they like to spend an evening is "staying home" with 34% mentioning this activity in Gallup's December Lifestyle poll. Resting/Relaxing (13%) and reading (12%) are the third and fourth favorites, respectively. Both have been among the top choices all 11 times Gallup has asked the question since 1966.

The previous low for television viewing -- which also includes mentions of watching DVDs or videocassettes -- was 23% in 2005, the last time Gallup asked U.S. adults how they like to spend an evening. That was a slight drop from 26% in 2001.


As watching TV dropped in popularity through the years, "staying home" mentions soared -- from 5% in 1966 to 16% in 1977 to 36% in 1987. After dropping back to 25% in 2001, it climbed to 32% in 2005 and 34% in the current poll.

Parents Most Likely to Favor Staying Home

In the current poll, those most likely to say staying home with the family is their favorite thing to do at night include those younger than 55, parents and workers. The only major demographic group as likely to say television is their favorite as staying home is the 55-and-older group: 25% say television, 23% list staying at home. Less than half that many choose television among those aged 35 to 54 (12%) and 18 to 34 (10%).

Percentage of Americans Who Say Stay at Home or Television Is Favorite Way to Spend an Evening

Decades Bring Major Changes in Evening Favorites

The percentage of U.S. adults who favor spending their nights reading, relaxing or visiting with friends has, for the most part, changed little over the past half-century, while the rise in the popularity of staying home and the fall of television watching have been generally steady during that time, with a few blips. However, going out for the night -- whether to dine, see a movie, go dancing or go to bars -- grew substantially in popularity between 1966 and 1986, only to take a steep dive in the new century.

What Is Your Favorite Way of Spending an Evening?

Bottom Line

Gallup's question on Americans' favorite way to spend an evening serves as a barometer of changing lifestyles. It has captured the steady descent of television as the nation's favorite evening activity. Perhaps most tellingly, it has illustrated the changing mindset of Americans who have embraced staying at home over time.

Many factors could be behind the shift away from TV as a top choice. Television is now only one of many screens available to U.S. adults, and with Americans looking at smartphones and tablets on a near-constant basis throughout the day, the idea of sitting down to watch TV at night as a special thing to do may have lost its glow over the years.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Dec. 2-6, 2015, on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with a random sample of 824 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

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