And now a Break from Politics: Presenting TATTOOS!

We don’t know about you, but it’s been a busy week for us here at Eagleton what with the Republican convention and all. So we thought we’d take a slight break from politics and look at the burning issue of tattoos! Yep, we’re wondering just how many New Jersey voters have them, and what they think about it. And with the announcement that Jersey Shore is ending, what better time – can we pick our topics or what?

Of course, we can’t quite avoid politics; our release (text is below, PDF with full text, tables, and questions is here) does take a quick look at whose supporters – Romney’s or Obama’s – are most likely to be tattooed. Bet you can’t guess…

Oh, and we need to give credit to John Weingart, Associate Director here at the Eagleton Institute. Asking about tattoos was initially his idea, many months ago, and we’re glad we could finally fit it in the survey!


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Now that Jersey Shore will sink beneath TV’s waves after next season, viewers surely must be wondering, “Where will we get our fix of impressive body art?” The Rutgers-Eagleton Poll has the answer: they can ask their millennial neighbors. Nearly 40 percent of New Jersey voters born after 1980 say they sport at least one tattoo, while across all age groups, 19 percent have ink somewhere on their bodies. Sixty-two percent are proud of their body art, 6 percent not so much. The remaining respondents feel neutral about their body-altering decision.

The non-tattooed are not necessarily itching to get inked: only 8 percent say they plan to get one. Also, the have-nots are not all that impressed by the haves. About a quarter say they think worse of people with tattoos, while 75 percent say their opinion of others are not affected by body art. Only one person said tattoos create a better impression of a person.

“Shows like Jersey Shore helped bring tattoos into the mainstream in the past few years,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “But even as ink goes mainstream, those without are far more likely to look down on their tattooed neighbors than to think better of them.”

Results are from a poll of 916 registered voters conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from Aug 23 – 25. The sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.2 percentage points.

Millennials more likely to be tattooed; Shore residents not so much

Millennials, who began coming of age after the turn of the century, are most likely to be inked at 37 percent. The percentage drops with age until only 5 percent of seniors 65 and older admit to being tattooed. Likewise, the chance of having body art also declines as education and income increase.

Despite their visibility on actual shore boardwalks (and the show), tats are most prevalent in urban areas (26 percent) and southern New Jersey (24 percent). Only 18 percent of shore residents sport artwork. Suburbanites and exurbanites are least likely to have them.

“We suspect that a large share of the tattoos you see on beach-goers are on summer visitors,” said Redlawsk. “MTV’s Jersey Shore doesn’t represent the real thing, Pauly D’s tattoos notwithstanding.”

Race and religion also play large roles in the decision to be tattooed. Whites are 10 percentage points less likely to have body art than blacks. Those not religious or not part of a mainstream religious group are more likely than many Christians to have tattoos, 30 percent compared to 17 percent for Catholics and 18 percent for Evangelicals.

Of those who without tats, millennials are the only demographic to really harbor aspirations for future body art. One-third of 18 to 29 year-olds say they might get inked, more than three times as likely as any other age group.

Tattoos and politics

In the spirit of the election season, President Obama leads Republican Mitt Romney not just among voters, but in tattooed followers as well. Fourteen percent of Romney voters have tattoos, but the president is well ahead in inked fans at 22 percent. Unlike the real presidential vote, there is no gender difference. Men and women are equally as likely to have tattoos.

Republicans (15 percent) are five points less likely to have tattoos than Democrats, and six points less than independents. A similar pattern is seen with ideology. About 20 percent of liberals and moderates have tats, compared to 16 percent of conservatives.

Ideological conservatives without ink are eight points more likely to think worse of people with body art than moderates and 14 points more likely than liberals. Similarly, non-tattooed Republicans (34 percent) are twice as likely as independents and 14 more points likely than Democrats to have negative views. Interestingly, there is also no gender gap in opinions about those with ink.

For the most part, those without tattoos do not have strong feelings about those who have them.  But disdain for body art steadily increases with age – 30 percent of those 65 and older think worse of tattooed people, versus only 8 percent of millennials. Those with high levels of education and income also are more likely to negatively judge tattoos; college graduates (26 percent) and those with graduate work (27 percent) are about 10 points more likely to think worse of body art wearers. The tattooless in the highest income bracket (32 percent) are 12 to 13 points more likely to think this way than any other income level.


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One response to “And now a Break from Politics: Presenting TATTOOS!

  1. Pingback: Got Ink? Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics Shows New Jersey Voters Do

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