Three in 10 Americans have tried to close the elevator door to leave someone behind

Jamie BallardData Journalist
May 08, 2023, 8:17 PM GMT+0

A recent YouGov poll about holding elevator doors got plenty of reactions on social media from people who had varying opinions about whether it’s acceptable to try to close the elevator door before someone can board. We dug deeper into the poll results for this article, and also looked at another survey asking Americans about holding doors — generally speaking — for other people.

Three in 10 people say they have hit the button to close an elevator’s doors because they saw someone approaching and wanted to leave without them. Among Gen Z (born in 2000 and later), 40% say they’ve done this, while 42% of Millennials (born between 1982 and 1999) and 34% of Gen Xers (1965-1981) have. Fewer (18%) of Baby Boomers (1946 -1964) confess to having done this.

(Generation Z is made up of people born in 2000 or later; Millennials were born between 1982 and 1999; members of Generation X were born between 1965 and 1981; and Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964. Data on members of the Silent Generation is not reflected in charts or copy because data on this group is typically limited. These definitions of the birth years of members of each generation differ from Pew Research Center’s and others; there is no single official definition.)

People who live in cities (38%) are more likely than residents of suburbs (27%), towns (25%), or rural areas (20%) to say they’ve hit the buttons to shut elevator doors before someone can board.

What goes around might also come back around. While 31% say they’ve tried to close an elevator on someone, 35% of Americans think they’ve been the victim of such a situation — including 72% of people who say they've done this to someone else. Gen Zers (45%), Millennials (45%), and Gen Xers (38%) are more likely than Baby Boomers (24%) to believe this has happened to them.

Four in 10 (43%) city dwellers think someone has hit the button to shut the door on them; fewer people in suburbs (31%), towns (30%), and rural areas (25%) have had this experience.

Black Americans (42%) and Hispanic Americans (38%) are more likely than white Americans (34%) to believe that someone else has tried to close the elevator door to keep them from getting on.

There’s also the question of whether hitting the buttons in an elevator has the intended consequence. While the largest share of Americans (43%) believe that hitting the buttons to close the doors will make the doors close sooner, 26% believe hitting the button to close the door usually does nothing and 11% say it delays the closing of the doors.

The 26% of Americans who believe hitting the button doesn’t do anything are probably right, according to an article published in the New York Times in 2016. Karen W. Penafiel, the former executive director of National Elevator Industry Inc., a trade group, told the Times that the close-door feature was effectively discontinued after the enactment of the Americans With Disabilities Act in 1990.

In a separate YouGov poll, Americans were asked similar questions about holding doors for people and having doors held open for them — this time, not specifically about elevator doors.

Three in 10 Americans (29%) say they have deliberately not held a door open for someone else when they were nearby. Generational differences are similar to the ones for elevator doors, with 44% of Gen Zers, 43% of Millennials, 25% of Gen Xers, and 12% of Baby Boomers saying they have done this.

Differences between people in different living environments also persist. As with elevators, people in cities (39%) are more likely than residents of suburbs (21%), towns (22%), and rural areas (16%) to say they have purposefully not held a door open — possibly because people in denser areas encounter these situations more often.

Nearly half (47%) of Americans believe that they’ve been on the receiving end of this — including 74% of people who say they've done this to someone else. Around half of each generational group younger than Baby Boomers — Gen Zers, Millennials, and Gen Xers — have thought that someone deliberately didn’t hold a door open for them when they were approaching, while 43% of Boomers say the same.

The majority (55%) of Black Americans think that someone has deliberately not held a door open for them, higher than the percentages of Hispanic Americans (47%) and white Americans (46%) who say this has happened to them.

Even though many Americans say they’ve deliberately not held a door open for someone, the majority of people say it is either never OK (33%) or rarely OK (24%) to do this. Another 22% say it is sometimes OK to deliberately not hold the door open for someone close by, and 10% say it’s always OK.

Baby Boomers (48%) are more likely than Gen Xers (37%), Millennials (19%), and Gen Zers (15%) to say it is never OK to not hold the door open for someone.

Americans who live in rural areas (46%) are also more likely than residents of towns (40%), suburbs (38%), and cities (24%) to say it is never OK to not hold the door.

Even among people who have ever not held a door for someone, 18% say it is rarely OK to do so and 12% say it is never OK.

Related: The 15-minute neighborhood: Most Americans want essential amenities close to home

— Linley Sanders, Taylor Orth, and Carl Bialik contributed to this article

Methodology: The Daily Questions survey on elevators was conducted online on April 7 - 10 among 29,439 U.S. adults. The Daily Questions survey on doors was conducted online April 12 - 13, 2023 among 7,448 U.S. adults. The samples were weighted according to gender, age, race, education, U.S. census region, and political party.

See the results of these polls:

Image: Adobe Stock (Nattawit)

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