John Zogby is by far one of the most respected and prolific pollsters and chroniclers of social changes and sensibilities of our time.
In his new book "The Way We'll Be" he says that people want more than ever to be treated as individuals. He says they also want variety in the products they purchase. "They want choice, not imposition, and they are demanding to be treated as individuals," he says. I'm not sure this in and of itself is real news. But if you market to other people, it's certainly something you should know and understand. Only when you understand what people want can you successfully sell to them.
He also says that people are willing to settle for less. "Narrowing limits", he calls this attitude.
The one problem I found with the book was that the author seems to deal mostly about the current state of things and not as much about the future as you would expect. Of course, one call tell a lot about the future by the past.
What I found useful about the book is that it tells us about the consumer and the people we deal with daily. As a marketer, this information is valuable. Indeed, it is priceless. Just as politicians needs to know what motivates people, those who sell to people need to know their motivations as well.
While the book fails to tell us exactly what we might expect in the future (if that were even possible) in the way Alvin Toffler did, it is certainly a worthwhile book and one that I highly recommend.
- Susanna K. Hutcheson
This is the second book I have read in the past month by a political pollster. The first, "Words that Work," by Frank Luntz, was a cynical look at how polling can help corporations and politicians paint themselves in the most flattering light and bamboozle a helpless public. John Zogby's book could not be more different. It is a deep, exhaustive look at some of the insights he has gained through decades of polling about the state of the American psyche, what people value, want they hope for and where they would like the country and their own lives to go.
Full disclosure: I worked with the author of this book for many years on political polls he conducted when I was chief political correspondent for Reuters. Obviously, I valued that partnership -- but this book is not primarily about politics. It is a kind of "State of the Union Address" and is by turns amusing, revealing and often surprising.
Zogby's deepest insight is his proposition that there exists in our nation a vast group of Americans he calls "secular spiritualists" -- people craving meaning in their lives. Some find it through religion, but many look for spiritual sustenanance outside of organized churches. They want material comfort and security for themselves and their families, of course, but they also want to leave the world a better place than they found it; they crave emotional fulfillment and they are remarkably tolerant of ther races, religions and cultures. Unfortunately, politicians have completely failed to address these desires, preferring to fall back on unbridled negativity (as seen in this year's presidential campaign).
Americans, Zogby says, want an ethical government, ethical corporations and ethical leaders. Young Americans, who Zogby calls "First Globals," see themselves as citizens of the world as well of their own country, and are deeply committed to preserving its future.
I recommend this book for its fascinating insights into where our country may be heading in the next 10 or 20 years.
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Naturally, you would expect a pollster to take poll answers and try to use them to predict the future: That's how pollsters make a living. Interestingly, their predictions quickly fall apart when the future is more than a few days away. That should be a hint that polls are a weak basis for looking at longer-term trends.
If you had polled teenagers in the sixties, you would have extrapolated their poll answers into having a country filled with wild livers among the following generations.
Each person is formed by events, reactions to events, the passage of time, and learning. Poll answers are a result of those formative influences. If Mr. Zogby can learn how to predict those influencers, then poll answers might have more value.
This book will mostly be of interest to those who don't know very much about how young people think about today's burning questions. If you are a young person, I doubt if you will learn very much except about how polls and poll interpretations are created. If you have young people in your family, you also know what's going on. If you are older and don't have much contact with younger people, you will probably think this is a three or four star book.
I also found lots of little errors in the book that made me wonder how careful a pollster Mr. Zogby is. One of my favorites was a sentence describing how those who were born during World War II were affected by their experiences during the Depression. Hmm. I guess the effects of the outside world on yet-to-be-conceived children are much stronger than I realized.
This was a hard book for me to finish. When I was done, I didn't feel like it was worth the effort.
on September 21, 2008
Very disappointing. Zogby never goes beyond all his data to draw the insightful connections or provide the penetrating analysis that I was looking for. Yes, his central theme that American's are now living within an age of limits is a strong observation (and backed up with data) - but I was left wondering what are the larger forces that have caused this shift. Mark Penn's book Microtrends is a much better book - as by slicing the world in smaller segments he is able to tell a deeper and more satisfying story.
on November 28, 2008
This book is a survey of various polls taken by the author and his polling company, and from the results, the author makes a number of assertions that, while entertaining and encouraging, really cannot be substantiated through the poll results in an objective manner.
The one overarching theme that the author presents is that today's 18-29 year-olds are the First Globals, born into a world that is more open and globalised than ever. The author posits that this generation will lead the way into a new era sans prejudice or American selfishness. The problem with this line of reasoning is that young folks have *always* been more liberal, more at ease, more anti-establishment, and more open to new ideas. Think Romeo & Juliet and the Woodstock crowd. Unfortunately, these young, open-minded, fair Democrats generally turn into selfish, pig-headed, hateful Republicans. This is what happens when young folks turn old and start popping out little kids; their thoughts turn from a global perspective to a local, protective one. The author does not even mention this natural, obvious evolution until page 197 out of his 215 page book.
The book carries this assertion to the extreme. Through the results coming from a variety of polls and questions, the author believes that today's 18-29 generation is different from any other 18-29 generation in the history of the world. True, there is more globalisation, open communication through the Internet, and world visibility. However, the author needs to look no further than the 65+ year-old generation he additionally polled to see how these young folks will generally turn out. What would have been convincing is if the author had taken poll data from several decades ago to see if the attitudes of yesterday's youth are as open-minded as today's youth. The author presents only a few such older poll results from Gallup while the rest are from his organisation over the last five or so years. This lack of depth in comparing actual old data is quite disappointing.
Furthermore, the author draws his conclusion in very ad hoc ways from his polls. On page 92-93, he asks a number of people if they do not support the concept of "My country, right or wrong," and while the numbers for "strongly agree" and "strongly disagree" are large and clear on the page, the author instead suggests "What's the underlying dynamic? I think the answer can be found in the high 'unsure' percentage among the young." It is as if the author is picking and choosing the numbers to back his own biases, and just to be clear on this, the "unsure" value of 14% in that example is not significantly higher than many of the other "unsure" values in other polling questions.
One other thing I was very disappointed with is that the book is really written for a layman audience, and while the author spends a small portion of time in the first chapter describing margin-of-error, I really wished he had gone into more detail on the mechanics of polling and tabulation as well as the statistical theory behind his work.
on November 23, 2008
His description of the population between 18-32 -- The First Globals -- was eye-opening, but without taking into account racial, socio-economic and geographic differences, many of the interpretations seemed unfounded. Many of his descriptions of my group -- the Just Do Its -- did not apply to me, nor did they seem believeable over the vast age span. I suppose readers will take out the evidence for what they already believe and dismiss the rest, but I did not take away a fresh perspective about my future.
John Zogby is a tireles self-promoter. His flacks flog him as a "super-pollster', though his real-world results don't separate him from the herd.
Here, Zogby attempts to articulate the "transformation of the American dream". Essentially Zogby tells you what he thinks and then, magically, produces poll results to support his contention. Who needs objectivity? Not Zogby.
Zogby's personal biases, particularly political, and his ignorance are on display. He claims that Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt and Kennedy didn't campaign to the "lowest common denominator". First of all, Lincoln didn't campaign. Back then Presidential campaigns were waged entirely by surrogates - and Lincoln's campaign was particularly nasty. Roosevelt reveled in the dirty campaign and he was personally vindictive as well. Kenendy campaigned on a platform of lies, such as the non-existent missile gap. Nixon could not respond because it would have revealed our intelligence secrets to the Soviets.
Zogby claims the three "offered broad visions and empowering promises; they appealed to the best in the electorate, not the worst". Zogby could use massive education in this regard - and yet he lectures the rest of us.
Overall, this is nothing more than the posturing of a self-promoter. It is not a serious or scholarly work and is certainly devoid of any scientific value. It isn't very entertaining either.
on May 27, 2013
Followed a link from a Chris Brogan's blog to find this and have been pleasantly pleased by the book. Contrarian in its insights to the conservative declarations of pending doom, it brings data and usable information to the dialogue. Ignore it at your own peril - the stuff in this book really engages and enlightens!
Much of this book could be seen as an advertisement for the author's company. Especially in the beginning. Had he mentioned that the results he was reporting were taken from his polls, unless otherwise indicated, and said it once, that would have been sufficient. But to read about his company every couple of pages was a bit tiring.
It's always fun to read polls and to see whether you and your family and friends are in agreement with the general consensus or not. But in doing so, one notices the shortcomings of polling. A simple example is the following: when asked if you believe that poor people are poor because of their bad choices, there is no simple answer. If someone from the Kennedy family were poor, the answer would be obvious. But go to a third world country, and visit a town wehre there isn't electricity, a single car, or even a school, and the answer is no longer clear. Oftentimes questions like this are posed and discussed, but the question itself makes no sense out of context.
It was heartening to read about young adults and their thoughtful responses, which contradicted much reporting about that generation. You will be surprised to see how they have become global citizen, much more so than my generation (referred to by Zogby as the Woodstock generation).
You will find many pleasant surprises in the book, and it's a quick, fun read. I just wish it weren't so self-serving.
on January 25, 2012
Before reading this book, know this: Nate Silver, ranked by Time as one of the 100 most influential people, "called Zogby International's online polling division, Zogby Interactive, "The worst pollster in the world." ranking it last in his Pollster Rankings. He also ranked Zogby's Telephone polls 53rd of 64. He notes the pollster relies on one day polling which causes large fluctuations in data. Silver uses their misleading questions, seemingly to create a bias, as evidence for their status."
If Nate Silver was a nobody, then who would care, but he's a very, very smart man, whereas anyone who reads the first half of this book will realize that Zogby is not, or at least does not make an effort to seem so. Zogby lacks vital critical skills of analysis and this causes him to sound unintelligent, biased, and simple.
1. The polls which are performed by Zogby are interesting in themselves; however, I would recommend drawing your own conclusions. (More often than not, I found myself saying, "Yeah, that Could be, but what about this and this and this." After a while, it became quite frustrating.)
2. The key to absorbing Truth from this book is thinking about polls. Do you like to take polls? Do your friends? Do you lie to sound better? Do you actually think about your answers? What type of people agree to be polled and how much of that could be affecting the results?
3. Zogby gives his brief defense of polling mainly from a political standpoint: he predicted a bunch of elections. One must take into account that polling someone on politics is very different from polling them on bland subjects such as "Do you like Toyota?" People are much more motivated to respond politically, so having this as main tour de justification for the legitimacy is downright foolish.
4. If you want an interesting read on America, the human condition, and the "First Globals" go read some David Foster Wallace.