The Way We'll Be ... What the Polls Show

The Way We'll Be: The Zogby Report on the Transformation of the American DreamWhere is our country headed?  What are the trends that will shape American culture?  These are the questions that John Zogby, CEO of Zogby International, seeks to answer in his new book, The Way We'll Be: The Zogby Report on the Transformation of the American Dream. Drawing on surveys he conducted over a 20-year period, Zogby analyzed responses from all age and demographic groups to project tectonic shifts in our nation.


  • Institutional authority is all but dead and gone.  Self-reliance and self-determination are on the rise.
  • logo_green.gif"Green" is more than a good slogan ... the young especially have internalized sustainability as a life goal, and that's true across the planet.
  • Christian conservatives, especially those under thirty, have moved far beyond their putative spokesmen on issues such as stem cell research, global warming, and health care. 
  • American values remain strong, but Americans increasingly see themselves as part of a bigger picture.

Global, Networked, and Inclusive (First Globals)

  • Eighteen to twenty-nine-year-olds care about more than themselves.
  • Young adults celebrate diversity.
  • The entire world excites them, not Globalizationjust their community or nation on earth.  The young think and buy globally (patriotism will not sell products), and they are sensitized to global issues from human rights to AIDS and poverty, even though they might not always command the facts.
  • First Globals poll liberal on many issues but they are more devoted than any other age group to finding common ground on tough social issues.
  • Just about everything is in the public domain (e.g., through social networks like MySpace and FaceBook), up to an including intimate details of their lives.

New American Dream-The Secular Spiritualists

  • Zogby defines "Secular Spiritualists" as those image who believe that the American dream is measured in spiritual, not material, fulfillment.
  • For at least one in three Americans, spiritual fulfillment is a higher priority than acquisition, ownership, and consumption.
  • They buy of course, but they buy in accordance with their re-prioritized lives.  Cut the frills, mute the whistles, give good value.  It's back-to-basics for this new stealth force of American society.
  • Secular Spiritualists are not big spenders even when they can afford to be.
  • God matters to many of them, but they aren't building their lives around specifically religious values.  They're looking for more meaning, not more doctrines and isms to live by.

One True Thing

  • imagePeople are demanding truth.  Everyone today has a "B.S."  detector.
  • People want reality and authenticity (Those who have seen City Slickers will understand the reason for the video below!).
  • Men and women want the same things in each other: natural over silicon, good personality over great bodies, real over make-believe.
  • In a world dominated by sizzle, it's all about the steak.

What I find particularly amazing is how current the book is.  In his introduction, Zogby writes:

As I write, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is sinking like a stone,and the president and Congress are scurrying to cobble together a stimulus package.  Either way, the media is certain to be panting after the story, but in a very real sense the public is already ahead of wherever such news is headed. 

Our polling consistently shows not only that the wealth isn't being shared equally--that's obvious--but that average Americans have made fundamental adjustments in their expectations, their needs, and their values, and that those adjustments are creating whole new paradigms through which people are making consumption and political choices that will shape the nation in the decades to come.

Polling also reveals generational divides and suggests how the weight of public opinion will shift as one generation yields dominance to the next, and the next ... Through asking questions that move beyond the present and try to get at how people will respond to situations that might arise in the future, we can anticipate changes in society ... and advise organizations how they must adapt to new realities.

That's what this book is about: the current state of America, the likelihood of the close-in future, and the movement of our underlying social geology.  Put another way, this book explores who we are, what's changing, and the way we'll be. (pp. xiv-xv)

He compares and contrasts the perspectives of four generations across political parties and income distribution.  He divides the generations as follows:

  • The Private Generation (1926-1945)
  • The Woodstock Generation (1946-1964)
  • The Nike Generation (1965-1978)
  • The First Globals (1979-1990)--usually referred to as Generation Y.

What Are His Conclusions?

  • The America of 2020 will be a more tolerant nation.
  • Our people by then will have lived for two decades in a new world of less.  We will have gotten comfortable with the limitations on us and embraced the Zen of more minimal lifestyles and consumption patterns.
  • We will expect our leaders to talk straight: Hype, hokum, and hooey--in politics, in advertising, wherever it appears--will be punished.
  • We'll care about this fragile planet in hitherto unseen ways
  • The Private Generation will fill their golden years with volunteering, mentoring, and lifelong learning opportunities.
  • Woodstockers will finally get tired of trying to look and act like their children.
  • Nikes are going to bond with their families as no generation before them.
  • First Globals are ready to go anywhere, experience everything, and work and live in exotic places.
  • Americans will continue to define themselves less and less by paid work.  "It's who I am, not what I do."
  • In the battle between science and anti-science, science wins.  No more Terri Schiavos, and no more global warming denial idiocy.  Alternative fuels will heat and light our world.
  • The church of the future will be a bungalow on Maple Street, not a megastructure in a sea of parking spaces.  It's intimacy of experience people long for, not production values.
  • The nation of the future will be in a strange way more intimate too.  Americans want to live in a world with other people, not in a walled empire surrounded by enemies.
  • My surveying shows that we are in the middle of a fundamental reorientation of the American character, away from wanton consumption and toward a new global citizenry in an age of limited resources.

It is clear that Mr. Zogby has liberal leanings, evidenced by the fact that Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post is one one of the endorsers of the book and by his many statements throughout the book that reveal his liberal worldview.  

Nevertheless, his liberalism does not invalidate solid research and data, though it can shade his interpretations and predictions.  To the extent that the data is reliable (and there is no reason to think that it is not), there is much to be gleaned from the book.

Over the HorizonThe role of the leader is to do his or her  best to peer over the horizon seeking to understand the trends and events that will affect our students, our families, and our schools so that we can position them to serve Christ effectively this century.

The Way We'll Be provides a window into our possible future. 


Zogby, J. (2008). The way we'll be: the Zogby report on the transformation of the American dream. NY: Random House.