The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


‘Prince of pollsters’ speaks about American dream

Acclaimed pollster John Zogby spoke to a packed Caruth Auditorium last night about the evolution of America’s character and ideals. As the featured speaker for the ExxonMobil Lecture Series on Ethics in Advertising, Zogby promoted his book, “The Way We’ll Be: The Zogby Report on the Transformation of the American Dream,” as well as commented on the upcoming presidential election.

Zogby is the president and chief executive officer of Zogby International. Coined “prince of pollsters,” he has appeared as a political commentator on shows such as MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews” and Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

Zogby opened his speech by explaining one of his early polls.

In 1987, he and his wife, Kathleen, conducted a county-wide survey in central upstate New York. They began over the phone by asking 800 respondents the following question: Do you or anyone in your household miss meals for 24 hours due to lack of money?

Intrigued by the affirmative responses, they followed with a door-to-door survey. They discovered that people who were working for lower salary than that of previously held job placed greater priority on the mortgage and car payments than food.

Zogby saw a correlation between working for less and missing meals. People were desperately trying to attain the traditional American dream-life in suburbs.

“In every domestic survey, I now ask ‘Are you making less now than at a previous job?'” Zogby said.

Due to a structural recession in the 1990s, the economy and, in turn, the job market changed. By 1998, Zogby found a shift in Americans’ attitudes.

“As many people were telling me their American dream was about living a life of meaning, spiritualism and self-fulfillment as those who believed in the traditional dream,” Zogby said.

He attributed multiple sources for this.

The “working for less” group had gone from anger and frustration to acceptance. They changed their purpose in life. The American consumer began placing value on the dollar, thus becoming “CostCo shoppers.”

Zogby claimed nine to 10 million people have achieved the old American dream.

“Now people are coming to the realization ‘Do I really need the new iPhone? I got the new one three months ago,'” Zogby said.

In addition, Americans are increasingly placing value on world issues rather than just national issues. The increase of participation in environmentally friendly initiatives illustrates this.

Driving the “planetary sensibility” movement is Generation X, which Zogby said consists of 18- to 29-year-olds.

“You are the first global citizens,” he said. “Fifty-six percent of you have active passports and travel abroad. You are as likely to say ‘I’m a citizen of planet Earth’ as ‘I am a citizen of the United States.'”

In regards to the presidential election, Zogby likened Sen. Barack Obama to President Kennedy and Sen. John McCain to President Truman. Zogby believes America will experience six months to one year of tremendous change, regardless of which candidate wins, but he said it is up to Obama to prove himself.

“In 2008, the question is ‘Who is this young man?’ The burden isn’t on Palin or Biden or McCain.”

Zogby expects America to be active in this “or else” election.

“There will be 132-135 million voters this November, and no one wants to be responsible for a lost generation of American politics,” he said.

The Temerlin Advertising Institute hosted the lecture. Students from a variety of majors as well as members of the Dallas community attended. Director of the Temerlin Advertising Institute Patricia Alvey was pleased with the event.

“I’m thrilled,” Alvey said. “He’s a thoughtful and mesmerizing speaker. Beyond that, he has pure wisdom for all of us. And he’s funny!”

Students shared similar sentiments.

“I think has a lot of insight on our generation,” senior advertising major Matt Lindner said. “That’s when my ears perked up. He gave me hope. He does a great job of presenting information.”

Zogby International has partnered with Reuters News Agency and C-Span for the 2008 presidential election. Zogby has polled for NBC, the New York Post, Fox News and the Houston Chronicle, among others. Companies for which he has consulted, researched and polled include Coca-Cola, IBM, Microsoft and the United States Census Bureau.

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