Tattoo Takeover: Three in Ten Americans Have Tattoos, and Most Don’t Stop at Just One

Even among those without, findings indicate broadening mainstream acceptance

05:00 AM EST Feb 10, 2016 Rating
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Tattoo Takeover: Three in Ten Americans Have Tattoos, and Most Don’t Stop at Just One

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Tattoos can take any number of forms, from animals to quotes to cryptic symbols, and appear in all sorts of spots on our bodies – some visible in everyday life, others not so much. But one thing’s for sure – more and more Americans are getting them. About three in ten Americans (29%) have at least one tattoo, up from roughly two in ten (21%) just four years ago. What’s more, few inked Americans stop at one; among those with any tattoos, seven in ten (69%) have two or more.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,225 U.S. adults surveyed online from October 14-19, 2015.

Tattoo Inforgraphic

Tattoos are especially prevalent among younger Americans, with nearly half of Millennials (47%) and over a third of Gen Xers (36%) saying they have at least one, compared to 13% of Baby Boomers and one in ten Matures (10%). Millennials and Gen Xers (37% and 24%) are also exponentially more likely than their elders (6% Baby Boomers, 2% Matures) to have multiple tattoos.

Some other interesting comparisons:

Regrets, I’ve had a few

With tattoos on the rise, regrets have risen as well; though a strong majority still has no regrets, nearly one fourth (23%) of those with tattoos say they ever regret getting one – up from 14% in 2012.

Top-ranked regrets (collected in an open-ended manner) include:

Hooked on a feeling

A third (33%) of inked adults indicate having a tattoo has made them feel sexy (up marginally from 30% in 2012). Roughly a third also say that it makes them feel attractive (32%), though it’s worth noting that this percentage has grown considerably from 21% in 2012. Just over a quarter (27%) say it makes them feel more rebellious and two in ten (20%) feel more spiritual as a result of their tattoos. Fewer say it makes them feel more intelligent (13%), respected (13%), employable (10%) and healthy (9%). 

Perhaps the more important learning, though, is that most say that having a tattoo hasn’t made them feel any different on any of these measures.

Outside impressions

Opinions differ more broadly among those without tattoos:

Across professions, visible tattoos no big deal

Further driving home the message of tattoos going mainstream, majorities of Americans would be comfortable seeing a person with visible tattoos serve in roles across a diverse range of industries and professions. Comfort ranges from highs of 86% for athletes, 81% for IT technicians and 78% for chefs, to lower majorities of 59% each for primary school teachers and judges, and even 58% for presidential candidates.

That’s all well and good, but parents are likely to have a whole different set of standards when it comes to who interacts with their kids, right? Wrong. In fact, a separate poll of parents with kids under 18 in the household found that strong majorities are comfortable (roughly four in ten of them “extremely” so) with people sporting visible tattoos serving in a number of positions that involve interacting with the kiddos:

 

TABLE 1a

HOW MANY TATTOOS DO YOU CURRENTLY HAVE

“How many tattoos do you currently have on your body? By tattoos, we mean ink-based tattoos that have been permanently placed on your skin and that you have not had removed.”

Base: All adults

 

Total

Generation

Children in HH

Metro Status

Have a Tattoo

Millennials (18-35)

Gen X (36-50)

Baby Boomers (51-69)

Matures (70+)

Yes

No

Urban

Suburban

Rural

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

None

71

53

64

87

90

57

79

67

75

65

--

One or more (NET)

29

47

36

13

10

43

21

33

25

35

100

     One

9

10

12

6

8

11

8

8

7

15

31

Two or more (NET)

20

37

24

6

2

32

13

25

17

20

69

     Two

7

13

7

3

2

12

5

9

5

10

25

     Three

3

6

4

1

1

5

2

5

3

2

11

     Four

2

3

4

1

--

3

2

3

3

1

8

     Five or more

7

15

9

2

--

13

4

9

7

7

26

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

 

TABLE 1b

TATTOO TRENDS

“How many tattoos do you currently have on your body?”

(People saying “one or more”)

Base:  All Adults

 

2003

2008

2012

2015

%

%

%

%

All Adults

16

14

21

29

Region

 

 

 

 

                East

14

12

21

28

                Midwest

14

10

21

27

                South

15

13

18

32

                West

20

20

26

27

Age

 

 

 

 

                18 – 24

13

9

22

35

                25 – 29

36

32

30

42

                30 – 39

28

25

38

55

                40 – 49

14

12

27

33

                50 – 64

10

8

11

13

                65 +

7

9

5

11

Sex

 

 

 

 

                Male

16

15

19

27

                Female

15

13

23

31

Political Party

 

 

 

 

                Republican

14

13

17

27

                Democratic

18

15

22

29

                Independent

12

13

21

28

 

 

TABLE 2

EVER REGRET GETTING A TATTOO

“Do you ever regret getting a tattoo?”

Base:  Currently Have a Tattoo

 

2003

2008

2012

2015

%

%

%

%

Yes

17

16

14

23

No

83

84

86

77

Note: Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding.

 

 

TABLE 3

WHY REGRET GETTING A TATTOO

Top 5 Responses, by Rank

“Why do you regret getting a tattoo?”

Base:  Ever regret getting a tattoo

 

Total

Too young when I got the tattoo

1

Personality changes/Doesn’t fit my present lifestyle

2

Got someone’s name that I am no longer with

3

Poorly done/Doesn’t look professional

4

Isn’t meaningful

5

 

 

TABLE 4a

HOW HAVING A TATTOO MAKES ME FEEL

“Please complete the following sentence: ‘Compared to not having a tattoo…having a tattoo has made me feel…?’”

                Base:  Currently Have a Tattoo

 

More

Less

No Difference

Total

Men

Women

Total

Men

Women

Total

Men

Women

Sexy

%

33

38

30

3

5

2

63

57

68

Attractive

%

32

40

25

6

6

6

62

54

69

Rebellious

%

27

31

23

4

7

1

69

62

75

Spiritual

%

19

25

14

6

7

6

75

68

80

Intelligent

%

13

20

8

2

3

1

85

77

91

Respected

%

13

22

5

7

9

6

80

70

89

Employable

%

10

16

5

9

10

8

81

74

87

Healthy

%

9

16

4

5

6

4

86

78

93

                Note: Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding.

 

TABLE 4b

HAVING A TATTOO MAKES ME FEEL MORE

TREND

“Please complete the following sentence: ‘Compared to not having a tattoo…having a tattoo has made me feel…?’”

Those saying more

Base:  Currently Have a Tattoo

 

2003

2008

2012

2015

Sexy

%

34

31

30

33

Attractive

%

26

19

21

32

Rebellious

%

29

36

25

27

Spiritual

%

20

13

16

19

Intelligent

%

5

5

8

13

Healthy

%

4

4

9

9

Note: Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding.

 

 

TABLE 5a

PERCEPTIONS OF PEOPLE WITH TATTOOS

“Please complete the following sentence: ‘Compared to people without tattoos, I think people with tattoos are…?’”

Base:  All Adults

 

More

Less

No Difference

Total

Have a tattoo

Total

Have a tattoo

Total

Have a tattoo

Yes

No

Yes

No

Yes

No

Rebellious

%

40

28

45

6

4

7

54

68

49

Attractive

%

16

33

8

36

9

47

48

57

44

Sexy

%

15

35

7

33

8

44

52

57

49

Spiritual

%

9

14

7

20

7

25

71

79

68

Respectable

%

7

13

5

26

7

34

66

81

60

Intelligent

%

4

7

2

23

7

29

74

86

69

Healthy

%

4

7

2

22

8

28

74

86

70

Note: Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding.

 

TABLE 5b

PERCEPTIONS AMONG THOSE WITHOUT A TATTOO - TREND

“Please complete the following sentence: ‘Compared to people without tattoos, I think people with tattoos are…?’”

Base:  Adults Without Tattoos                                                                       

 

More

Less

2003

2008

2012

2015

2003

2008

2012

2015

Rebellious

%

57

54

50

45

2

3

4

7

Attractive

%

4

4

4

8

42

47

45

47

Sexy

%

8

6

5

7

36

39

39

44

Spiritual

%

3

5

4

7

29

25

25

25

Intelligent

%

*

1

2

2

31

27

27

29

Healthy

%

1

2

1

2

21

25

25

28

Note: Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding; * indicates less than .05%

 

TABLE 6a

COMFORT WITH THOSE WITH VISIBLE TATTOOS SERVING IN DIFFERENT PROFESSIONS

“Thinking about the following occupations, how comfortable, if at all, would you be with a person with a visible tattoo serving in such a position?”

Base: All adults

 

 

Comfortable (NET)

Extremely comfortable

Somewhat comfortable

Not comfortable (NET)

Not very comfortable

Not at all comfortable

Athlete

%

86

51

35

14

9

6

IT technician

%

81

43

38

19

10

8

Chef

%

78

43

35

22

13

9

Police officer

%

70

39

31

30

17

13

Real estate broker/agent

%

68

37

32

32

19

12

Camp counselor

%

67

36

31

33

20

13

Banker

%

64

36

28

36

21

15

Doctor

%

62

35

27

38

18

20

Primary school teacher

%

59

32

27

41

20

21

Judge

%

59

34

25

41

18

23

Presidential candidate

%

58

32

26

42

17

25

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

TABLE 6b

EXTREMELY COMFORTABLE WITH THOSE WITH VISIBLE TATTOOS SERVING IN DIFFERENT PROFESSIONS

“Thinking about the following occupations, how comfortable, if at all, would you be with a person with a visible tattoo serving in such a position?”

Base: All adults

 

Total

Generation

Children in HH

Have a tattoo

Millennials (18-35)

Gen X (36-50)

Baby Boomers (51-69)

Matures (70+)

Yes

No

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Athlete

51

66

63

35

23

63

44

74

41

Chef

43

60

54

28

15

54

37

69

32

IT technician

43

58

54

29

19

53

37

67

33

Police officer

39

54

49

24

17

49

33

64

28

Real estate broker/agent

37

52

44

23

16

47

31

61

27

Banker

36

50

45

23

15

46

31

62

26

Camp counselor

36

52

41

25

13

47

30

61

26

Doctor

35

51

42

22

15

46

29

61

25

Judge

34

49

38

22

15

43

29

60

23

Presidential candidate

32

46

39

21

13

42

27

58

22

Primary school teacher

32

46

39

21

12

42

27

57

22

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

 

 

TABLE 6c

NOT COMFORTABLE WITH THOSE WITH VISIBLE TATTOOS SERVING IN DIFFERENT PROFESSIONS

“Thinking about the following occupations, how comfortable, if at all, would you be with a person with a visible tattoo serving in such a position?”

Base: All adults

 

Total

Generation

Children in HH

Have a tattoo

Millennials (18-35)

Gen X (36-50)

Baby Boomers (51-69)

Matures (70+)

Yes

No

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Presidential candidate

42

26

39

53

59

33

46

17

52

Judge

41

28

37

50

62

31

47

17

51

Primary school teacher

41

26

34

55

62

30

47

18

51

Doctor

38

23

31

51

60

26

44

15

47

Banker

36

23

27

48

54

26

41

14

44

Camp counselor

33

19

28

43

55

23

38

13

41

Real estate broker/agent

32

21

27

40

47

24

36

13

40

Police officer

30

17

25

39

51

20

35

9

39

Chef

22

12

14

30

41

14

26

8

27

IT technician

19

14

11

24

33

14

21

8

23

Athlete

14

9

8

18

31

10

17

6

18

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.


TABLE 7

AGE AT WHICH YOU’D ALLOW YOUR CHILD(REN) TO…

“At what age would you allow your child(ren) to get/do each of the following?”

Base: Parents with kids <18 in HH

 

Total

Parent Gender

Parent Age

Men

Women

18-34

35-44

45+

%

%

%

%

%

%

TATTOOS

 

 

 

 

 

 

Would ever allow (NET)

63

58

66

72

66

51

Under age 18

7

8

7

13

6

4

Age 18

41

38

44

51

44

30

Age 19-20

2

1

2

1

2

1

Age 21    

12

11

13

7

13

16

Would never allow

37

42

34

28

34

49

Mean

17.9

17.3

18.2

17.0

18.3

18.5

PIERCED EARS

 

 

 

 

 

 

Would ever allow (NET)

86

83

89

89

88

82

     Under age 18

76

74

79

81

77

71

     Age 18

8

6

9

8

7

8

     Age 19-20

*

*

1

--

1

*

     Age 21

2

3

1

1

2

3

Would never allow

14

17

11

11

12

18

Mean

9.2

10.5

8.3

7.4

9.4

11.0

PIERCING SOMEWHERE ELSE ON THEIR FACE

 

 

 

 

 

 

Would ever allow (NET)

48

45

50

62

45

36

     Under age 18

11

10

11

20

8

5

     Age 18

27

24

30

34

29

19

     Age 19-20

1

1

2

1

1

1

     Age 21

8

10

7

6

7

11

Would never allow

52

55

50

38

55

64

Mean

17.3

16.8

17.7

16.4

17.9

18.2

PIERCING SOMEWHERE ELSE ON THEIR BODY

 

 

 

 

 

 

Would ever allow (NET)

52

49

55

63

54

40

     Under age 18

9

12

8

15

9

4

     Age 18

32

26

37

41

34

23

     Age 19-20

2

1

2

1

3

1

     Age 21

9

10

8

7

9

12

Would never allow

48

51

45

37

46

60

Mean

17.5

16.9

18

16.7

18.0

18.3

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

* indicates <0.5% selected this response

-- indicates no selections for this response

 


TABLE 8a

COMFORT WITH THOSE WITH VISIBLE TATTOOS IN ROLES INTERACTING WITH YOUR CHILDREN

“Thinking about the following people who may interact with your child(ren), how comfortable, if at all, would you be with a person with a visible tattoo serving in such a role?”

Base: Parents with kids <18 in HH

 

 

Comfortable (NET)

Extremely comfortable

Somewhat comfortable

Not comfortable (NET)

Not very comfortable

Not at all comfortable

Coach

%

81

39

42

19

11

8

High school teacher

%

75

39

36

25

13

12

Camp counselor

%

73

36

38

27

16

11

Sitter/Caregiver

%

73

37

36

27

14

12

Primary school teacher

%

71

37

34

29

16

13

Pediatrician

%

71

40

30

29

16

13

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

 

TABLE 8b

EXTREMELY COMFORTABLE WITH THOSE WITH VISIBLE TATTOOS IN ROLES INTERACTING WITH YOUR CHILDREN

“Thinking about the following people who may interact with your child(ren), how comfortable, if at all, would you be with a person with a visible tattoo serving in such a role?”

Base: Parents with kids <18 in HH

 

Total

Parent Gender

Parent Age

Men

Women

18-34

35-44

45+

%

%

%

%

%

%

Pediatrician

40

35

45

52

42

28

Coach

39

34

43

53

42

24

High school teacher

39

32

44

51

42

24

Primary school teacher

37

31

42

48

40

25

Sitter/Caregiver

37

30

43

49

38

26

Camp counselor

36

27

42

46

39

23

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.


Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between October 14 and 19, 2015 among 2,225 adults (aged 18 and over). Additional polling was conducted online in the United States between November 6 and 16, 2015 among 1,093 parents (aged 18 and over) with children under 18 in the household. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. 

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

The Harris Poll® #12, February 10, 2016

By Larry Shannon-Missal, Managing Editor, The Harris Poll 

 

About The Harris Poll®

Begun in 1963, The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys measuring public opinion in the U.S. and is highly regarded throughout the world. The nationally representative polls, conducted primarily online, measure the knowledge, opinions, behaviors and motivations of the general public. New and trended polls on a wide variety of subjects including politics, the economy, healthcare, foreign affairs, science and technology, sports and entertainment, and lifestyles are published weekly. 

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