1994 Roper: Outdoor Recreation Proven Key Remedy to Societal Ills

1994 Roper Research

Key Findings

Outdoor Recreation Proven Key Remedy to Societal Ills

People who recreate outdoors on a regular basis, or for whom outdoor recreation was important while growing up, are more likely than all others to be completely satisfied with their lives, according to a new Recreation Roundtable/Roper Starch Worldwide survey. Those who recreate most often are most likely to be completely satisfied with their choice of careers, friends, and their perceived success in life. However, the "Outdoor Recreation in America" report suggests that the connection between recreation and family may be at risk. Comparisons with a 1986 study show that the proportion of the public who say recreation was very important while growing up is down 7 points to 25%.

The door-to-door survey of 2,000 adults was conducted from April 15 to 22, 1994. In addition to linking outdoor recreation participation with quality of life, the study also looked at motivations for and barriers to recreation as well as satisfaction levels with recreational opportunities. The study shows that two-thirds of Americans participate in outdoor recreation every year and half do so at least every month.

"The conclusions Roper has drawn from its survey are very encouraging," said Francis Pandolfi, Chairman of the Recreation Roundtable and President of Times Mirror Magazines, "We now know conclusively that the American public associates recreation with three great issues of the 1990's: family, the environment and health. Second, we know that people who participate in recreation often, and those who were raised in families where recreation was an important element, are happier with their lives than the public at large." The correlation between satisfaction and recreation participation was found at four different educational levels.

Reasons for participating in outdoor recreation reflect a commitment to family life and personal fitness. The number one purpose for participating is "to have fun" (76%) and other key recreational motivators include "relaxation" (71%), "health and exercise" (70%), "family togetherness" (68%) and "stress reduction" (66%). Over the last year, the top recreational activity has been pleasure driving, done by 40% of the public. The survey shows other leading activities are swimming (35%), fishing (25%), camping (25%) and bicycling (21%).

The most avid recreationists are a group called the "Influentials." This is a trendsetting segment of the population that Roper has monitored for 50 years. This group tends to be politically vocal and community active. The "Influentials" participation rate in outdoor recreation is double that of other Americans. Additionally, nearly 4 in 10 of these outdoor enthusiasts expect to increase their future participation. The "Outdoor Recreation in America" report also reveals gender differences in favorite recreational choices. Fishing was the overwhelming favorite activity for men (19% versus 7% of women). When women were asked for their favorite activity, swimming came out on top (12% versus 6% of men). However, men and women do share a similar enthusiasm for pleasure driving and camping. Recreation often starts with the family. Parents introduced 43% of the respondents to their favorite activity and 16% found it through another relative. Clubs such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts do not appear to play a major role, as only 2% found their favorite activity through these organizations. The report says that "the single most consistent predictor of outdoor recreation attitudes, participation and satisfaction is the value placed on recreation while growing up. A family that heavily emphasizes and participates in outdoor recreation raises children who turn into recreation supporters, participators and enthusiasts as adults."

According to the survey, one in three Americans took an outdoor recreation vacation last year. Water destinations such as oceans, lakes and rivers, drew 40% of the vacationing public. Federal and state parks account for another 38% of recreation vacation spots. A large majority (77%) of the public believe that the availability of local parks is either "excellent" or "good." While receiving information in advance of recreation is not a major problem, the public is relatively unsatisfied with the amount of information available during an outdoor recreation experience. 7 in 10 Americans feel that displays and other programs teaching about history and resources are important. Yet only 12% are satisfied with the interpretive resources currently available.

The study shows regional differences in recreational patterns. Westerners are the most likely to utilize their nation's natural resources and southerners are the most apt to go fishing. Although people in the Northeast are most willing to volunteer their time in the future to recreation facilities, they show the least enthusiasm for outdoor recreation. People in the Midwest are the most satisfied with the recreational opportunities that currently exist. 91% of the public agrees that "outdoor recreation is a very healthy type of leisure activity."

The survey discovered that time constraints are the principle obstacle to recreation. Nearly 60% say that time is a limiting factor. Less than half cite the expense of recreation as a reason. The idea that only the wealthy can afford to recreate was rejected by three quarters of the public. Predictions for future recreation indicate that most people (63%) will continue to participate at the same level. One fifth (22%) think they will become more active while 6% believe they will be less active in recreational activities next year.

In his executive summary of the report, Mr. Pandolfi stated, "The data clearly demonstrates that providing appropriate opportunities for high-quality outdoor recreation contributes importantly to other societal goals, including a sound environment, healthy rural economies, strengthened families and better personal health."

The Recreation Roundtable, sponsor of the study, is comprised of 25 leading recreation company executives.The Roundtable seeks to promote high quality and readily available recreation opportunities for all Americans. Click Here, for more key statistics from the 1994 Survey. Copies of the study summary are available through:

The Recreation Roundtable
1225 New York Avenue, NW Suite 450
Washington, DC 20005
FAX 202-682-9529