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TV and togetherness: Americans want to stay home

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For 70 percent of Americans, when choosing where to spend an evening, there really is no place like home.

In a new survey of 1,002 adults ages 18 and older, the Gallup Organization found that the overwhelming majority of Americans prefer home-based activities to a night on the town.

In fact, only 10 percent said they'd go out. And though home has gained attention as a haven since Sept. 11, neither the homebody preference, nor its intensity, are post-terrorism phenomena. Since 1960, when Gallup began asking what Americans like to do at night, most have hung their hats at their own front doors.

Even within the comfy confines of home, age groups choose different diversions. As might be expected, favorite nighttime activities shift dramatically across demographic clusters. While 19 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds would choose to spend the evening with friends, only 7 percent of 30-to-49-year-olds, and only 4 percent of those over 50, would do the same.

Americans under 30 are the least likely group to stay home. Yet even among those young go-getters, 58 percent hunker down in their easy chairs - either alone, or with family and friends.

So what are those hermits and homebodies up to? Twenty-six percent are probably watching television or a movie, and 25 percent are spending time with family. Nine percent turn to a good book, and an equal number simply put up their feet and relax.

The television or movie-at-home option is the clear favorite among older people, while 30-to-49-year-olds are most enthusiastic about staying home with family - perhaps because, at the height of their parenting years, they tend to have the most family to keep them company.

But don't think that love of family is new - or peaking. In the poll's 32-year history, 1987 was the heyday for family time, with 36 percent of Americans turning to relatives in their evenings off. The mid-80s were also a boom time for dining out, with 10 percent of 1987 respondents saying a restaurant meal would be their top choice for a night's diversion.

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