How did people spend their free time back in the 1970s?

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How Americans whiled away the hours during the mid-1970s

Watching television remains the most popular evening pastime, according to nearly half (46%) of all persons interviewed in the latest Gallup survey. The proportion naming television, however, has not increased since a 1966 survey.

1974 Wrangler family clothes

On the other hand, movies, the theater and radio have regained some of their former appeal. In addition, the proportion of the public who say being with the family — engaging in family activities at home — is their favorite way of spending an evening has doubled since the 1966 survey, from 5% to 10%.

MORE: What kids think of family in the TV age (1955)

By way of comparison, reading was highest on the 1938 favorite pastime list, followed by the movies, the theater and dancing. Each of these pastimes fell off sharply in the next survey in 1960. Television dominated the 1960 list, and reached its high point in 1966 (46%).

Family fun pets food

Survey: Favorite Pastime Nationwide – 1974

Watching television: 46%
Reading: 14%
Dining out: 12%
Staying at home with family/engaging in family activities at home: 10%
Movies/theater: 9%
Resting/relaxing: 8%
Visiting friends: 8%
Entertaining friends: 8%
Playing cards/Scrabble/Crossword puzzles/games: 8%
Participating in sports: 5%
Listening to radio, records: 5%
Dancing: 4%
Sewing: 3%
Working in home workshop/Home repair: 3%
Club or church meetings. 3%
Other responses 9%

Total: 155%

(Note: The total adds to more than 100% because of multiple responses.)

Man and woman in a station wagon

Comparing the ’30s, ’60s and ’70s

The following table compares favorite pastimes in 1938 with those recorded in 1960, 1966 and 1974:

favorite pastimes in 1938 with those recorded in 1960 1966 and 1974


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Comments on this story

2 Responses

    1. anthony, all those categories ARE their spare time.

      i think you might be confused because there were less PERSONAL requirements then. there were no gyms and pressure to stay thin (not as much as now). So erase the gym and the numerous hours there. All the time spent surfing the internet (facebook feeds, twitter, etc.) are a person’s SPARE time – and that did not exist in the 70s. I know for me that is an entire extra hour a day, at least!.

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