There's a 57% Chance Your Going too be Annoyed by this Headline

New Harris Poll looks at travel, tech, and other pet peeves

May 05, 2014, 05:00 ET from The Harris Poll

NEW YORK, May 5, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Like nails on a chalkboard, we all have our triggers that just, well, get to us. Perhaps it's that fellow air traveler from the 21st row who crammed half his worldly possessions into the bin over your seat in row 14 or the cousin who writes to tell you how excited they are "to come to you're party!" Maybe it's the friend who's always late to meet you or the aunt who responds to every email ALL IN CAPS. Or, after a long winter, you may have simply hit your limit of hearing people complain about the cold. Whatever they are, we all have pet peeves, and while Americans appear to have a strong consensus on what behaviors most get under their collective skin in some situations, we as a nation appear somewhat split on others.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,234 adults surveyed online between March 12 and 17, 2014. (Full results, including data tables, can be found here)

In the air and on the road
It's hard to know where to begin when it comes to air travel. The quality of the free meals airlines used to provide was once a staple of stand-up comedy; today it's more common to hear people complain about a la carte costs and fees airlines charge for just about everything – including the food. But what bugs Americans more about their fellow air travelers? Two-thirds of Americans (65%) say travelers who misuse the overhead bins (by putting all their items overhead or using a bin in a different section of the plane, for example) annoy them the most, while one-third (35%) are most annoyed with travelers who recline their seats in the coach cabin.

As for road-bound travelling annoyances, Americans are more split on whether tailgaters (53%) or slow drivers who stay in the passing lane (47%) are the more grievous offenders, with the tailgaters taking the annoyance crown by a slim margin.

  • Looking at this generationally, Millennials and Gen Xers are more conflicted, with both giving a very slight edge to the slow drivers in the passing lane (51% each) over tailgaters (49% each). Baby Boomers and Matures are more likely to indicate that it's the tailgaters (56% Baby Boomers, 59% Matures) who most get under their skin.
  • As for gender divisions, men are more likely to be most annoyed by slow drivers in the passing lane (54% men vs. 42% women), while women are more likely to point to tailgaters (58% women vs. 46% men).

Tech habits that turn us testy
Do you get annoyed when struggling to hold a conversation at your table in a restaurant over the sound of a diner at the next table having a loud phone conversation? You're not alone, as nearly two-thirds of Americans say people who have loud conversations on their mobile phones in public places annoy them most (65%), over people who repeatedly check their mobile phones while having an in-person conversation (with 35% saying these are the ones who most annoy them).

As for email habits, six in ten Americans (60%) are most annoyed by emails written ALL IN CAPS, while being too brief or terse in an email is a graver offense to four in ten (40%). Americans are more split on reply-related annoyances, with overuse of "reply all" on emails (51%) edging out those who simply don't reply to emails (49%) by the statistical equivalent of a photo finish.

  • Generationally, Millennials alone buck this trend, being most annoyed by those who don't reply (59%).
  • Men are most annoyed by those over-using "reply all" (55%), while women are most set on edge when their emails get no reply at all (52%).

Turning to social media, more Americans say excessive complainers on social media annoy them most (55%), though a strong minority point to excessive braggers (45%). Matures are slightly more likely to single out the braggers (52%) than the complainers (48%).

Bad behavior and unsolicited advice
In one of the most decisive responses of this poll, a vast majority of Americans say they're most annoyed by parents letting their children run wild or be disruptive in public places (86%), while 14% are most annoyed by people who give unsolicited parenting advice to strangers. Those in households with children are more likely than those without (25% vs. 10%, respectively) to say the unsolicited advisors most bother them, though three-fourths of even this group still points to the non-parenting parents (75%) as most annoying.

Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words… can really bug the heck out of us, when used improperly; 57% of Americans say misuse of common words annoys them most, while 43% are most annoyed by unsolicited grammar or wording "editors."

Eight in ten Americans each indicate being most annoyed by people who are chronically late and those who are slobs (80% each), while two in ten each say it's the watch-watchers (those who are intolerant of even infrequent or slight lateness) and the "clean freaks" (20% each) who most set them off.

The social contract
TV's Seinfeld famously lampooned all sorts of conversational tics, including both "low" and "high" talkers, but here seven in ten Americans point to loud talkers (71%) as most annoying, while three in ten call out the Seinfeld-ian close talkers (29%).

In other behavioral news, far more Americans say openly rude people (85%) get their goat than select passive aggressive people (15%) for this dubious honor.

Do you like to caveat every food order with special substitutions or requests for every little thing on the side? Then six in ten Americans have a bone to pick with you, as 60% say people who special order everything annoy them most; four in ten (40%) save this level of distain for people who won't try new foods.

And finally, a majority of Americans (57%) say people who complain about the heat get them hot under the collar the most; 43% most wish people who complain about the cold would cool it already. But of course, we'll see if this perception changes after what's expected to be a long, hot summer.

To view the full findings, or to see other recent Harris Polls, please visit the Harris Poll News Room.

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This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between March 12 and 17, 2014 among 2,234 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, The Harris Poll 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 Poll 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 our 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 The Harris Poll.

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

The Harris Poll® #44, May 5, 2014
By Larry Shannon-Missal, Harris Poll Research Manager

About Nielsen & The Harris Poll
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