5/3: What Do Lee Miringoff and Babe Ruth Have in Common?

By Dr. Lee M. Miringoff

The latest joke circulating The Marist Poll these days (courtesy of JS and MG) goes something like this: “What do Lee Miringoff and Babe Ruth have in common?”  Answer: They both hit 60.  For Ruth, it obviously refers to his prodigious 1927 season when he shattered all records for homers.  For yours truly, it refers to all of us baby-boomers who have now reached 6 decades.

Of course, for the birther club of ’51, it was also the year of Bobby Thomson’s shot heard ‘round the world when the “Giants Won the Pennant!  The Giants Won the Pennant!  Of course, “The Yankees won the series!” But, I digress.

Now, I recognize this probably doesn’t qualify for side splitting (or bat splitting) humor.  But, you new media, blog reading youngsters need to realize the years, and apparently, the decades roll by.

So, how does a number crunching pollster come to terms with advancing, or perhaps, retreating middle age?  Why not let the public decide.  And, that’s exactly what we’ve been doing at The Marist Poll on this issue for over 20 years.  Each year, as May 3rd approaches, we ask as part of a national sample whether people consider my age to be “young, middle-aged, or old?”  And, each year, I await the findings with no less zeal than an election eve poll on a closely contested presidential race.

In the past, there have been certain birthday polls that were potentially more ominous than others.  The switch from 39 to 40 and the hazards of turning 50 come to mind.  Yet, my faith in public opinion (and no doubt an aging population) kept the numbers intact.  But now, the big 6-0 is on the table and anyway you slice it that translates into a mess of birthday candles.

Does being 60 years old shake the public’s perception of middle age?  Well, sort of.

The good news:  63% of adults nationwide think someone who is 60 years old is still middle-aged.  Not too shabby.  (I know that technically means I would have to reach 120.  But, we’re talking perceptions here not actuarial tables.).  Under the heading of “misery loves company, “ 26% of people who have already turned 60 think that even if you were born in 1951, you should still be considered young.  Only 15% of my new decade-mates think it is old.  Well, that’s it for the good news.

Now, for the bad news:  Last year, 72% thought being 59 was middle-aged.  That makes this year’s drop to 63% too big to ignore.   Ouch!

And, if that isn’t bad enough, let’s add another wrinkle to the aging data.  A full 23% think, despite the dyed hair, the sixth decade makes you old compared to only 13% who think you remain young.  We’ll skip the cross-tabs containing the views of those under 30 years old.  Didn’t we use to say “you can’t trust anyone under 30?” Or, was it the other way around?

Well, that pretty much wraps it up for this year.  If the “Babe” and I can both hit 60, does that mean next year that my 61st birthday needs to be referred to with an asterisk… “61*”   (If you’re puzzled by this reference, just ask someone who remembers Roger Maris).

Ok.  Where’s that cake with all those candles?

Table: How Old is 60?

Marist Poll Methodology

Lee Miringoff discusses hitting the big 6-0: