We Asked The American Public To Settle 5 Of The Internet's Dumbest Debates

Our poll showed some surprising generational divides.

Survey research allows us to get a sense of how the nation as a whole feels about current events, rather than trying to draw inferences from the people we know, or from the groups stating their opinions the most loudly. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, it also allows us to get a scientifically valid perspective on whatever people are yelling about on the internet.

This week, that would be whether the voice in a random sound bite is saying the name “Yanny” or “Laurel.”

The U.S., however, is a country where most voters don’t believe people can agree on basic facts. And when we asked 1,000 Americans to listen to the audio as part of a new HuffPost/YouGov poll, the responses showed little signs of consensus: 35 percent said “Yanny,” 31 percent said “Laurel,” and 14 percent didn’t hear either. The rest weren’t sure.

The poll seemingly supports the theory that age may play a role in the differing perceptions, with younger people more attuned to the higher-frequency sounds ― and more likely to fall into the “Yanny” camp. Americans under age 30 were Team Yanny by an 18-point margin, compared to just an 8-point margin for those aged 30-44. Americans aged 45-64 and those 65 or older were Team Laurel by a 2-point margin and a 5-point margin, respectively.

While we were at it, we asked our respondents to weigh in on four more pressing internet controversies (no, not The Dress ... we already did that one). And while most political polling demonstrates just how polarized the country is along partisan lines, the results of this survey suggest there are also some major generational fault lines in our assumptions on everything from the meaning of internet acronyms to how we classify our food.

Does the “H” in “IMHO” stand for “honest” or “humble”?

BuzzFeed touched off an internet firestorm when they asked earlier this month. Once again, we’re a nation divided: 29 percent say “humble,” 32 percent say “honest,” and the rest say it’s neither or that they’re not sure. And once again, there’s a notable generational divide, with younger Americans far more likely to think it’s “honest.” There’s also an educational gap, with college grads saying by an 18-point margin that it’s “humble,” and those without a degree saying by an 11-point margin that it’s “honest.” (Side note: BuzzFeed’s reader poll found “honest” winning by a significant margin. That makes sense, since the site probably has disproportionately younger readers. It’s also a good reminder that reader polls ― the kind that allow anyone browsing a website to answer, and don’t keep track of the demographics of the people responding, or use weighting to make sure they match the composition of the nation as a whole ― aren’t a representative gauge of anything beyond the opinions of the people who click on them.)

Is a hot dog a sandwich?

The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council has weighed in. So have Stephen Colbert and John Hodgman. Here’s the court of public opinion: a 53 percent majority say no, with just 35 percent believing that it is, and the remaining 12 percent having better things to do with their lives.

Results are impressively consistent along a number of demographic lines. A roughly equivalent 56 percent of Democrats, 53 percent of Republicans and 51 percent of independents agree on a hot dog’s lack of sandwich status. There’s no sign of an education, racial or gender gap either.

Age, however, once again comes into play. Americans under age 45 overwhelmingly contest the hot dog’s claim to sandwichness. Their older compatriots are closer to evenly split. There’s also a regional divide, with Midwesterners most amenable to Team Sandwich, and Northeasterners by far the least so.


One or two spaces after a period?

This is another perennial debate to flare up this month, thanks to an article in The Washington Post. By a 11-point margin, 47 percent to 36 percent, Americans prefer one space.

Americans under 30 are overwhelmingly Team One Space, while those over 65 are closely divided. There’s also an educational divide, with those who hold college degrees preferring two spaces, and those without favoring just one.

How do you pronounce “GIF”?

The creator of the GIF says it’s with a soft “G,” like “giraffe.” But he’s outnumbered: 63 percent of the American public disagrees, preferring the hard “G,” as in “gift.” Not a single demographic group examined in the survey, regardless of age, education or anything else, prefers the soft “G.”


Glad that’s all settled!

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted May 15-16 among U.S. adults using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

HuffPost has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.

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