Americans turn to the outdoors for comfort during war -- sort of

From April 17 to 21, an online survey of 2,153 American adults age 18 and older revealed that while 30 percent did nothing to avoid the war coverage, 70 percent took action to escape. Of the 70 percent who did something, fewer than 25 percent (less than 400 of those surveyed) actually opted for outdoor recreation of any kind.
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From April 17 to 21, an online survey of 2,153 American adults age 18 and older revealed that while 30 percent did nothing to avoid the war coverage, 70 percent took action to escape. Of the 70 percent who did something, fewer than 25 percent (less than 400 of those surveyed) actually opted for outdoor recreation of any kind.

The survey, performed by Harris Interactive -- www.harrisinteractive.com -- and sponsored by PR firm CGPR, asked respondents to answer, "Which of the following activities have you done since the war with Iraq began, to seek comfort or 'get away' from all the international conflict/war coverage?" Survey respondents were allowed to select as many activities as applied.

Of the 70 percent who responded that they actually did something to avoid the war coverage, 82 percent said they simply watched alternative programming. Seventy-one percent surfed the Internet, 56 percent visited family or friends, 46 percent went to the mall or went shopping, 39 percent played video/computer games, 31 percent went to the movies and 20 percent got creative with arts and crafts.

So did anyone actually do anything outdoors? Yes, but fewer than the industry would hope for considering the situation. Only 373 stated they turned to the outdoors in any fashion. Of the 70 percent total who did anything to escape, 8 percent went bird-watching, 7 percent turned to their bikes, 7 percent went climbing or hiking, 4 percent ran trails, 4 percent went camping/car camping, 2 percent hit the snow to ski, snowboard or snowshoe, 1 percent went backpacking, and 1 percent went paddling. Fly-fishing only garnered seven responses and didn't register on the percentage meter.

Drilling down further into the survey, males from age 18 to 34 represented 34 percent of the men participating in outdoor activities. Women skewed older, with those 45 to 54 representing 28 percent of the female respondents heading outdoors.

Regionally, it was no surprise that the West represented the highest percentage of outdoor participation among those surveyed at 29 percent.

SNEWS View: It is important to realize that this was a web-based survey, meaning if a person did not have access to the web, they were not included. No doubt the weather had something to do with the responses as well. Winter was confusing the bejeezus out of most of the country with wet, windy, snowy, cold April days, so heading outdoors was probably not on the minds of the majority. Though spring had officially sprung, Mother Nature did not deliver ideal weather for paddling, camping, climbing or backpacking to be sure. We would also imagine that snowsports registered so low on the survey simply because most average folks have already stowed their snow gear for the year. For anyone who thought that bird-watching was not considered an outdoor activity, wake up! It is huge and seeing that it topped the survey responses here for folks heading outdoors is an indication the population thinks of bird-watching as an outdoor activity. If your store is not embracing the needs of that sector of the population, might be worth a strong look-see to determine how to cash in.

More than anything, what this survey says to us is that our industry has a lot of work to do. Outreach -- such as the initiatives pushed by the Outdoor Industry Association and SIA -- is more important than ever! Looked at one way, it would be a safe assumption that up to 25 percent of our population think of the outdoors as an outlet for both fitness of body and mind. Looked at the other way, it is horrifying to imagine that 75 percent of the population don't appear to think much of the outdoors at all. Video games, the Web and shopping rule the minds of the majority? Scary!

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