Popular study only states the obvious

An Earth-shattering survey by the Student Monitor’s Lifestyle and Media Study reported that iPods are more popular with college students than beer. For the past month, papers from around the world, including China, India, Australia, South Africa and the United States, reported this news in some form.

“Apple’s portable music players are more popular than beer? Now that’s surprising,” wrote Mike Snider of USA Today in the article titled “iPods knock over beer mugs.”

It seems as though people across the world can’t believe that students tore themselves away from a couple of mugs of frosty fermented beverages just to take a 10-minute survey.

People should be stunned that a study like this received international attention or that it was so necessary for people to know. Anyone with an Internet connection can Google Apple’s sales figures.

If students’ fascinations with iPods weren’t surprising enough, tied for second place with beer was Facebook.com. Again, it’s another technology that no one had to be told was popular. The site boasts that it has over 7.5 million members. And the term Facebook has become more than a noun – it is now a verb among college students.

The percentage difference between iPods and beer is not that much; iPods were mentioned by 73 percent of the students, while beer got 71 percent.

And even if there were no mistakes, beer companies have no reason to worry: 71 percent of college students still believe beer is ‘in.’

The real surprise in the survey is the study’s validity. Students were told to choose if an item was either “in” or “out” from a list of things they thought students were interested in. Some of them included browsing the Web community, Facebook, drinking other alcohol, bar-hopping, coffee and text messaging. Furthermore, the study’s margin of error was +/- 2.3 percentage points, which could render the research useless because the margin between iPods and beer was only 2 percent.

So iPods and beer were the favorite among activities that involved drinking and technology.

Yeah, huge surprise.

The Student Monitor should have saved its resources and time. Maybe they could have given students a chance to write down what they felt were “in” rather than supplying a list. Or maybe it could have devoted some time to a topic with substance, like how many students become alcoholics after binge drinking in college or how many students lose the chance of getting a job due to incriminating photos on Facebook.

At USF, lots of students have headphones plugged into some kind of iPod. The Student Monitor didn’t need to survey 1,200 college students to get that information – they could have asked just one.