Social Trends: Americans and Their Cars--Is the Romance on the Skids?

Source Organization: Pew Research Center

08/01/2006 - Any nation with more passenger vehicles than licensed drivers has a pretty serious love affair with the automobile. But the romance seems to be cooling off a bit -- a casualty of its own intensity.

Today 69% of American drivers say they like to drive, down from 79% in a 1991 Gallup survey. And just 23% say they consider their car "something special -- more than just a way to get around," barely half of the 43% who felt this way in 1991.

The biggest reason for the cooling of the affair isn't the recent spike in gas prices. Rather, it appears to be the result of a longer term trend -- the growing hassle of traffic congestion, according to a Pew Research Center telephone survey among a nationally representative sample of 1,182 adults (including 1,048 drivers) conducted from June 20 through July 16, 2006.

When asked whether they like to drive or consider it a chore, 69% of drivers in the Pew survey said the former, while 28% said the latter. When the "chore" respondents were asked why they felt this way, traffic congestion (23%) and "other drivers" (14%) topped the list of reasons. Just 3% cited the expense.

Among the still sizable majority who say they like to drive, the biggest reasons offered were the relaxation (21%), the scenery (19%), the freedom (14%) and the ability to get around (12%).

Read the full report Americans and Their Cars--Is the Romance on the Skids? on the Pew Research Center Web site.

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