You’re annoyed by the crying children on your flight. What about that hippie from California two seats up?

Is everyone on planes annoyed by the same thing? At SurveyMonkey Audience, we act as a platform for people to find interesting data. Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog has open sourced the results where they‘ve used us for their articles. The files are a look into exactly what kind of data can be generated from a well written survey and tell an interesting tale about our social norms while travelling.

Open source means it’s encouraged to download, analyze, or remix it however you’d like. Walt Hickey, FiveThirtyEight’s lead lifestyle writer, recently published an article on what people think is rude or not on airplanes. I decided to go back and see if there were any significant differences between different groups in the data. It would be a good way for me to cut my teeth on telling stories with numbers and it might even make for a decent article.


When I opened up the numbers and started looking through, I had an honest expectation that I would find some interesting changes in flier’s opinions based on their demographics. That would then translate into some perfect clickbait headline, or at the very least provide some interesting insights into how who we are influences how we fly. Here’s what I found:

It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, how much you make or how educated you are. Everyone is annoyed just as much as the next person by the same stuff on airplanes.

Sure — there are a few minor differences in people’s preferences. For example, Women are 10% more likely than men to be tolerant of unruly children on planes. Young and wealthy people are more likely to have used electronics during takeoff. West-coasters are 3% more likely to think that it’s not rude to bring a baby on the plane than the rest of the nation. None of these insights are mind-blowing or even very interesting.

At first this was surprising and a bit disappointing — certainly it wasn’t the whiz-bang title I had hoped for. What was I going to write this article about? But after more thought and analysis, I decided the lack of a trend was an interesting enough story as well.

Interesting Trends? Probably not.

Everyone is statistically annoyed by the same things, the same amount. If you’re the kind of person who agonizes over whether or not to tell the person ahead of you off for reclining their seat — this may be exactly the confirmation you’re looking for. For the rest of us, it’s just nice food for thought.


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Find the code I used to do my analysis here thanks to iPython viewer (Warning, lots of charts).

Everything in this article is my own opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of SurveyMonkey.

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