August 1, 2006

Americans and Their Cars: Is the Romance on the Skids?

II. Who Likes to Drive, Who Doesn’t, and Why

FigureWhen asked whether they like to drive or consider it a chore, Americans by a better than two-to-one margin (69%-28%) say they like to drive. However, this ratio was even more lopsided 15 years ago – 79% to 20%. Also, only a fifth of American drivers today report that they like to drive “a great deal,” down from 29% who said this in the 1991 survey by Gallup.

This decline over the past 15 years in enjoyment of driving has occurred among men and women, young and old, as well as in all regions of the country. Those in the lowest income brackets are more likely than others to describe driving as a chore, and among this group this view has grown from 14% in 1991 to 36% today. People who rack up the most miles on their odometers tend to be the most inclined to say they like to drive, but the feeling that driving is a chore has grown since 1991 among heavy as well as light travelers.

What is it about driving that Americans like and don’t like? When asked to put their reasons in their own words, respondents who like to drive most often cited being alone and getting time to think or relax (21%) and being able see new sights and scenery (19%). Some drivers specifically mentioned the sense of freedom or independence while driving (14%) and others talked about the control over when and where to go that comes with driving compared with other forms of transportation (9%). Another 12% of responses suggested a more utilitarian appreciation for just being able to get around.

FigureWomen are more likely than men to cite relaxation and quiet time as the reason they enjoy driving, while men are more prone to cite the scenery and seeing new sights.

Among those who consider driving a chore, the most common reason cited was traffic congestion (23% of responses) followed by complaints about the behavior of those pesky humans who share the roadways (14%), the drudgery of running errands or commuting to work (10% each) and a laundry list of other complaints.

Overall, there is not much difference across sociodemographic groups in enjoyment of driving. Men and women are about equally likely to consider driving a chore and to say they like to drive “a great deal.” Similarly, there are no significant differences on these measures for residents of urban, suburban, rural areas or regions of the country. Even the differences by age are modest; adults under age 30 are a bit more enthusiastic about driving, with 82% saying they like to drive a fair amount or a great deal, compared with 70% to 73% among those in older age brackets.

Cite this publication: . “Americans and Their Cars: Is the Romance on the Skids?.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (August 1, 2006) http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2006/08/01/americans-and-their-cars-is-the-romance-on-the-skids/, accessed on July 23, 2014.