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One in Five U.S. Adults Now Has a Tattoo Yet over two in five without a tattoo say adults with tattoos are less attractive

NEW YORK, Feb. 23, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- There is a lot of culture and lore associated with tattoos from ancient art to modern expressionism and there are many reasons people choose to get, or not get, permanent body ink.  A recent Harris Poll looks at the number of Americans who currently have tattoos, and what those tattoos may say about them.

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These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,016 adults surveyed online between January 16 and 23, 2012 by Harris Interactive.

Currently one in five U.S. adults has at least one tattoo (21%) which is up from the 16% and 14% who reported having a tattoo when this question was asked in 2003 and 2008, respectively.  Tattoos seem to be most prevalent in the West — 26% of adults in that region report having at least one — compared to fewer in the East (21%), Midwest (21%) and South (18%).  Adults aged 30-39 are most likely to have a tattoo (38%) compared to both those younger (30% of those 25-29 and 22% of those 18-24) and older (27% of those 40-49, 11% of those 50-64 and just 5% of those 65 and older).  Women are slightly more likely than men, for the first time since this question was first asked, to have a tattoo (now 23% versus 19%). 

Among those with a tattoo, most have never regretted getting a tattoo (86%) and three in ten say it makes them feel more sexy (30%).  One-quarter say having a tattoo makes them feel rebellious (25%), 21% say both it makes them feel attractive or strong, 16% say it makes them feel spiritual and fewer say it makes them feel more healthy (9%), intelligent (8%) or athletic (5%). 

However, among those without tattoos the opinions differ:

  • At least two in five say that people with tattoos are less attractive (45%) or sexy (39%);
  • One-quarter say that people with tattoos are less intelligent (27%), healthy (25%) or spiritual (25%);
  • However, having a tattoo seems to make little difference in non-tattooed people's perceptions regarding strength and athleticism (82% say it makes no difference); yet,
  • Half of those without a tattoo say people with tattoos are more rebellious (50%).

This idea connecting tattoos with rebelliousness is not new, however, it may be waning.  In 2008 among all adults (whether or not they had a tattoo) almost three in ten said that people with tattoos are more likely to do something most people consider deviant (29%) while 2% said people with tattoos were less likely to do something deviant and 69% said it made no difference.  Today, the number of people who say adults with tattoos are more likely to do something most people consider deviant has dropped to 24%, and the number of people who say it makes no difference has gone up, to 74%. 

Looking at some other forms of body art or expression, currently 49% of U.S. adults have pierced ears, which is consistent with the 50% who reported having pierced ears in 2008.  Although ear piercing is fairly common, other piercings are not: only 7% say they have a piercing elsewhere on their body and 4% report having a facial piercing not on the ear.  Only 1% of U.S. adults say that they currently have a henna, or non-permanent, tattoo.

Although tattoos may be gaining popularity (or at least frequency) among U.S. adults, the majority think that one should be an adult before being able to get a tattoo — 84% of U.S. adults say that young people should be between 18 and 21 years of age before they are able to get a tattoo without parental permission.  8% think those 16 or 17 should be allowed to get tattoos and 6% say that the age limit should be 22 years or older.

So What?

Tattoos have long been a hobby for some, and with the recent proliferation of tattoo-related television shows, it seems interest in them may be broadening.  Today 21% of U.S. adults report having a tattoo which is up from previous years.  It seems that with the increasing number of adults with tattoos this permanent body art is becoming more accepted — fewer people think it is related to deviant behavior than before — yet among those without tattoos there are still several negative stigmas associated with having tattoos.  It will be interesting to see how these trends evolve in the future — if more people continue to get tattoos will the negative connotations decline, or will the percentage of Americans with tattoos begin to stagnate or wane and the stigmas hold?

TABLE 1
WHO HAS TATTOOS?
"How many tattoos do you currently have on your body?"
(People saying "one or more")

Base:  All Adults

 

2003

2008

2012

%

%

%

All Adults

16

14

21

Region

 

 

 

                East

14

12

21

                Midwest

14

10

21

                South

15

13

18

                West

20

20

26

Age

 

 

 

                18 – 24

13

9

22

                25 – 29

36

32

30

                30 – 39

28

25

38

                40 – 49

14

12

27

                50 – 64

10

8

11

                65 +

7

9

5

Sex

 

 

 

                Male

16

15

19

                Female

15

13

23

Race/Ethnicity

 

 

 

                White

16

15

20

                Black

14

7

21

                Hispanic

18

15

30

Party I.D.

 

 

 

                Republican

14

13

17

                Democratic

18

15

22

                Independent

12

13

21

 

TABLE 2
REGRET HAVING A TATTOO?
"Do you ever regret getting a tattoo?"

Base:  Currently Have a Tattoo

 

2003

2008

2012

%

%

%

Yes

17

16

14

No

83

84

86

Note: Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding.

TABLE 3
TATTOOS AND DEVIANT BEHAVIOR
"Do you think people with tattoos are more or less likely to do something most people would consider deviant?"

Base:  All adults

 

Totals

2003

2008

2012

%

%

%

More likely

27

29

24

Less likely

2

2

2

No difference

71

69

74

Note: Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding.

 

TABLE 4
HOW HAVE A TATTOO MAKES ME FEEL
"Please complete the following sentence: 'Compared to not having a tattoo...having a tattoo has made me feel...?'"

Base:  Currently Have a Tattoo

 

 

More

Less

No Difference

Sexy

%

30

3

68

Rebellious

%

25

3

72

Attractive

%

21

5

74

Strong

%

21

3

76

Spiritual

%

16

3

82

Healthy

%

9

3

88

Intelligent

%

8

5

87

Athletic

%

5

6

89

Note: Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding.

 

TABLE 5
HOW HAVE A TATTOO MAKES ME FEEL - TREND
"Please complete the following sentence: 'Compared to not having a tattoo...having a tattoo has made me feel...?'"
Those saying more

Base:  Currently Have a Tattoo

 

2003

2008

2012

Sexy

%

34

31

30

Rebellious

%

29

36

25

Attractive

%

26

19

21

Strong

%

16

19

21

Spiritual

%

20

13

16

Healthy

%

4

4

9

Intelligent

%

5

5

8

Athletic

%

3

5

5

Note: Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding.

 

TABLE 6
ATTITUDES OF THOSE WITHOUT A TATTOO
"Please complete the following sentence: 'Compared to people without tattoos, I think people with tattoos are...?'"

Base:  All Without Tattoos                                           

 

More

Less

No Difference

Rebellious

%

50

4

46

Strong

%

8

10

82

Sexy

%

5

39

56

Athletic

%

5

13

82

Spiritual

%

4

25

71

Attractive

%

4

45

51

Intelligent

%

2

27

71

Healthy

%

1

25

74

Note: Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding.

 

TABLE 7
ATTITUDES OF THOSE WITHOUT A TATTOO - TREND
"Please complete the following sentence: 'Compared to people without tattoos, I think people with tattoos are...?'"

Base:  All Without Tattoos                                           

 

More

Less

2003

2008

2012

2003

2008

2012

Rebellious

%

57

54

50

2

3

4

Strong

%

8

8

8

8

10

10

Sexy

%

8

6

5

36

39

39

Athletic

%

4

5

5

14

13

13

Spiritual

%

3

5

4

29

25

25

Attractive

%

4

4

4

42

47

45

Intelligent

%

*

1

2

31

27

27

Healthy

%

1

2

1

21

25

25

Note: Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding; * indicates less than .05%

TABLE 8
PIERCINGS AND HENNA TATTOOS
"Do you have any of the following?"

Base:  All Adults                                                               

 

Have

Do not have

Decline to answer

Pierced ears

%

49

49

2

A piercing on your body, but not on your face

%

7

91

2

A piercing on your face, but not on your ears

%

4

94

2

Henna tattoos, that is tattoos that are not permanent

%

1

97

2

                Note: Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding.

TABLE 9
PIERCINGS AND HENNA TATTOOS
"Do you have any of the following?"
Summary of those saying "have"

Base:  All Adults                                                               

 

2008

2012

Pierced ears

%

50

49

A piercing on your body, but not on your face

%

5

7

A piercing on your face, but not on your ears

%

2

4

Henna tattoos, that is tattoos that are not permanent

%

2

1

                                                                                     

TABLE 10
AGE FOR TATTOOS
"At what age do you think young people should legally be allowed to get a tattoo without parental permission?"

Base:  All Adults                                                               

Age

Total

1-10

%

*

11-13

%

*

14-15

%

*

16-17

%

8

18-21

%

84

22+

%

6

Note: Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding; * indicates less than .05%

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between January 16 and 23, 2012 among 2,016 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

J41215
Q855, 860, 865, 875, 880, 885, 890, 895

The Harris Poll® #22, February 23, 2012
By Samantha Braverman, Sr. Project Researcher, Harris Interactive

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world's leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American and European offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us — and our clients — stay ahead of what's next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.

Press Contact:
Corporate Communications
Harris Interactive
212-539-9600
press@harrisinteractive.com

 

SOURCE Harris Interactive



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