TODAY   |  September 16, 2010

What are men young and old really thinking?

Esquire magazine surveyed two key groups of men, in their 20s and 50s, to see what they had to say about women, marriage, news and politics.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

MATT LAUER, co-host: We're back now at 8:51 with what men are really thinking. From who's cool to the best role model and monogamy, apparently 20 and 50 year olds have more in common than you may think. The findings are part of a national survey in the October issue of Esquire magazine . Richard Dorment is the magazine's features editor. Richard , good to see you. Good morning.

Mr. RICHARD DORMENT (Features Editor, Esquire Magazine): Good morning, Matt. Thanks for having me.

LAUER: Why 20 year olds and 50 years old? Good to have you here. Why 20 and 50?

Mr. DORMENT: So they are two really fun demographic facts going on here, the first is that of you look at the whole US population , there are more 50 year olds in America right now than any other single age group . The second largest single age group , 20 year olds. Now if you only look at men, there are more 20 year olds in America right now than any other single age group . The second largest group is 50 year olds. So we have these two huge population swells dominating American lives, we thought it would be a good opportunity to sort of feel their pulse a little bit.

LAUER: You asked these people 53 questions, from their attitude about things like marriage, work, social beliefs. Let's begin with some random items. Clint Eastwood voted coolest man in America by both age groups.

Mr. DORMENT: By both age groups. You'd think the guys born in 1960 who grew up on " Dirty Harry ," that makes sense. The guys born in 1990 who saw, you know, " Gran Torino ," doesn't -- you know, he outvoted LeBron James , Justin Timberlake .

LAUER: A couple of other things: 20 year olds are more concerned about the environment, doesn't shock me; 20 year olds are more conservative in many social attitudes, might surprise some people; 20 year olds more likely to want their wives to stay home and take care of the kids, that's surprising to me.

Mr. DORMENT: Twenty percent of 20-year-old men today would want their wives to stay home to take care of their kids compared to just 14 percent of 50 year olds.

LAUER: Let's talk about some things these groups have in common, OK? What are the biggest similarities in your mind?

Mr. DORMENT: Well, both groups when asked to name the best role model for young men in America today said Barack Obama as their top choice. However...

LAUER: But -- yeah.

Mr. DORMENT: ...later in the survey when we asked them how they thought Barack Obama was doing, both groups, the highest number of respondents in both groups, also said they didn't think he was doing a great job. So you see a big difference between how they view the president and his performance.

LAUER: Both groups feel that a million dollars means you're rich. Both groups watch television for their news, that surprises me because I thought that 20 year olds would get it on the Internet .

Mr. DORMENT: No, both groups -- nearly half of all respondents of both groups chose the TV as the -- as the top choice for their news sites.

LAUER: All right. Let's talk about some differences here. What did you find dramatic?

Mr. DORMENT: I think the biggest differences you find are -- well, they're little things ; 20 year olds are more likely to spend more than $1,000 on a suit; 20 year olds more likely to say that to make a large life announcement via Facebook or via texting. And the biggest thing that we found are that 50 year olds are really much more pessimistic in their view of the world right now, they're less likely to say that their sons are going to have a better life than them, they're less likely to say that the United States will be as strong in 2050 as it is today.

LAUER: Fifty year olds more likely to say divorce is an option and there's nothing wrong with it.

Mr. DORMENT: Compared to 20 year olds, 20 percent of whom say that divorce is never an option no matter what.

LAUER: Isn't that an experience thing, most 50 year olds have been married and most 20 year olds haven't been married?

Mr. DORMENT: Maybe. Maybe.

LAUER: Not to be pessimistic here.

Mr. DORMENT: But then again, 20 year olds also have a lot more divorced parents than 50 year olds do.

LAUER: All right. Some other findings these two generations have in common: Each chose his teenage decade as his favorite decade for music. So that means the '80s, basically.

Mr. DORMENT: Well, no. Well, for the guys in their 60s, that means the '70s. For the guys born in 1990 , that means the last decade. But one in five guys chose the '80s for no reason.

LAUER: That's like the worst era in music.

Mr. DORMENT: Well, you know.

LAUER: I mean -- no -- I...

Mr. DORMENT: Everybody loves Michael Jackson .

LAUER: Jimmy Semmelman said no, that's the best. I don't know. I go with the '70s, but that's all right. What about the best job in America ?

Mr. DORMENT: Everybody agrees that being an A-list movie star is the best job in America .

LAUER: Really?

Mr. DORMENT: However, when we asked the jobs that received the lowest number of votes, for 20 year olds it's a high school principal . For 50 year olds there's a tie, the CEO of Goldman Sachs and the president of the United States .


Mr. DORMENT: No one wants those jobs.

LAUER: And finally, when it comes to a woman's look, similar view here, favorite part of a woman's body is her face.

Mr. DORMENT: Correct. Their mothers raised them right.

LAUER: So something else in common, both lie to pollsters, apparently. Richard Dorment. We're back after your local news and weather.