- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 7 Mar 1985, p. 359-376
- Gallup, George III, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- The fiftieth anniversary year of the founding of the American Gallup Poll by the speaker's father in 1935. Also the forty-fourth anniversary of the affiliate, the Canadian Institute of Public Opinion. The role and function of Gallup-affiliated and other survey organizations. The predictive power of public opinion. Emerging trends. Seeking opinions of experts to focus on the future. Thoughts about our move towards the future, and factors affecting that move. The bewildering array of social problems globally, and the specific situation in the United States. Responses to those situations by the public. The activities of volunteer groups, and the significant role of volunteers. Beliefs of the American people. Coming face-to-face with people in need, and the American people's response to it. Nine "future forces" as outlined in the book "Forecast 2000": the nuclear threat, overpopulation, economic pressures, technological progress, the "environmental emergency," crime and violence, the "faltering family," personal health, and political issues. A surveyed response to these categories, and the results. What is an ideal society? The power of deep spiritual commitment to change society. A positive outlook for Americans and Canadians in the move towards the year 2000.
- Date of Original
- 7 Mar 1985
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- Full Text
- March 7, 1985
Catherine R. Charlton, M.A., Chairman
Honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen: We feel particularly grateful to the man who is our guest speaker today, for service to the Empire Club above and beyond the call of duty. Early last year, we had persuaded his father to address us in the fall. Before he could fulfill his commitment, as you probably know, death took Dr. George Gallup Sr. while he was holidaying in Switzerland. Recognizing his father's commitment to the Empire Club, George Gallup Jr. graciously agreed to assume it. Thank you Mr. Gallup.
Actually, it would have been impossible to find anyone nearly as well qualified to fill the gap as our speaker today. Since the time he was a young boy, through his student days at Princeton University, Gallup the Younger showed a keen interest in the pioneer work his father was doing in the field of public opinion research. For the past thirty years, he has worked in all phases of this complex field. Since 1966 he has served the widespread Gallup organization as president, and since his father's death, as chairman.
Mr. Gallup's deep interest in religion and attitude research is indicated by the fact that his graduating thesis at Princeton was on the subject of the American public's reasons for belief or disbelief, in God. In 1977, in partnership with an academician from Notre Dame University, he founded the "Princeton Religious Research Center", the main function of which is to apply scientific methods to studies of the nature of religious beliefs in the United States and abroad. He has been awarded an honorary degree by four American universities and colleges. He currently serves on both the Religious and Sociology Departments' advisory councils at Princeton.
The eclectic breadth of his interests is indicated by the fact he is a keen Gilbert and Sullivan fan, and a participating one at that, having played the role of the Mikado in twenty-five performances, and leading roles in half a dozen Gilbert and Sullivan operas. He has, of course, published many articles and several books, chiefly on sociological and and religious subjects. One of the latter, entitled My Kid on Drugs?, was written in collaboration with Art Linkletter. He is married and has three children, including (in the family tradition) a fourth generation George Gallup!
Mr. Gallup, I cannot guarantee that this audience is what I think pollsters refer to as "a representative sample" of the Canadian population, but my belief is that it is a representative sample of what the Canadian population ought to be. They are anxious to hear you.
Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. George Gallup.
George Gallup III
Madam President, other officers of the Empire Club of Canada, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen: It is a great honour for me to speak at your luncheon meeting today. As you know, my father, Dr. George Gallup, who was originally scheduled to be with you, died last year in Switzerland. So it is with sadness that I speak to you; but at the same time, it is with a renewed and deepened commitment to pursue my father's goal of giving the public a voice in the direction taken by nations. For my father was truly the "public's advocate" and as Dr. Albert Cantril wrote in a memorial article in a recent issue of Public Opinion Quarterly: "George Gallup was a true democrat--small 'd'. His faith in the good sense of the public was boundless, and he saw the public opinion poll as a powerful tool for bringing that good sense to bear on the affairs of state."
This is the fiftieth anniversary year of the founding of the American Gallup Poll by my father in 1935. It also marks the forty-fourth anniversary of our affiliate, the Canadian Institute of Public Opinion, founded by Wilfrid Sanders and now ably led by Frank Kielty. For forty-four years the American and Canadian institutes have been functioning side-by-side, providing a constant flow of information about the attitudes of the two respective populations, and sometimes toward each other's nation, hopefully leading to a deeper understanding between our two peoples. Certainly such efforts are important, because the fates of our two nations are closely entwined.
Surveys by Gallup-affiliated and other survey organizations have carefully charted public opinion over the last turbulent half-century and as such have given us a continuous series of snapshots of opinion at a given point in time. Yet while polls are generally believed to reflect only the moment of the interview, I feel there may possibly be another function of polls in the future--probing the predictive power of public opinion. Through surveys we may be able to plumb what could be called the intuitive, almost mystical corporate sense of where we are going--a sense that no one individual possesses.
In writing our book on the future, William Proctor, my co-author, and I have tried to tap the mass intuitive power of the public, although it may be many years, if at all, before we are likely to have sufficient empirical data to support the reliability of such information.
We also examined emerging trends, because pollsters are in the enviable position of being able to spot incipient trends before they become full-blown and apparent to all. We examined the views and predictions of youth as well, because our surveys have repeatedly shown that one's values and attitudes about life--the seeds of future actions--are formed and fixed before a person turns twenty.
And finally, we sought the opinion of a select group of experts of all kinds--lawyers, judges, economists, business executives, artists, scientists, the clergy--to get as sharp a focus on the future as possible.
Why write such a book? For the simple reason that in this day of incredible and accelerating change, we must each of us be a "futurist". Certainly we can expect amazing changes in the years ahead, changes that will make our world today seem as outdated as the horse and buggy--for example, household appliances that talk back, cars that can spot their own parking places, factories in orbit, just to name a few. But these and other technological advances could be swept away or be of little value if we do not prepare for, and try to get on top of, other possible developments in the future--economic crises, overpopulation, ecological damage, food and energy shortages, and, of course, nuclear warfare.
We appear to be rushing blindly toward the future, without sorting out our top priorities--both in personal lives and in the life of a given nation. We are woefully unprepared for the future. I do not have figures for Canadians, but in the United States as many as onethird of the public admits to being inadequately prepared for their present marriages and for parenting. And half of Americans say they would go into another line of work if they had it to do over.
Furthermore, in view of the fact that we are to a considerable extent at the mercy of economic forces over which we have little control, it would appear that the primary force to counter most economic problems will be the ability of individuals to recognize and plan for the future. And, in this respect, it behooves individuals to educate themselves to become more sophisticated managers of their money; to base their job decisions on whether a given job will be viable in the future; to accept automation as the wave of the future; to think in terms of alternate employment; and finally, to minimize their vulnerability by giving themselves some sort of financial cushion to fall back upon.
... We are guilty as individuals and as nations of not identifying those "future forces" that will shape our lives ...
We are guilty as individuals and as nations of not identifying those "future forces" that will shape our I Ives, and of planning accordingly. In fact, Godfrey Sperling, Jr., Washington columnist for The Christian Science Mon itor, recently made what I regard to be a compelling case for President Reagan to set up a national goals commission to "enlist the best thinkers of the United States to come up with answers to where the country should be, and--with specifics--what it should be doing 10, 20 and even 50 years from now."
For the fact is, just beneath the surface of our society, a great historical wave is on the move--a set of monumental political, social and economic impulses that are carrying us relentlessly toward a rendezvous with the future. And it is imperative, I believe, that we make the attempt to identify these forces because if swift, forceful steps are not taken to defuse the political and social time bombs facing us, we may well find ourselves on a track that could lead to the possible destruction of civilization as we now know it.
Societies today all over the world are afflicted with a bewildering array of social problems that threaten to undermine the stability of nations. Let us look at the situation in the United States:
1. Crime is endemic. One of every five U.S. citizens has been mugged, robbed, assaulted, or has had his or her house broken into at least once during the past year. Our system of justice seems hardly able to cope. For every 500 crimes, only about twenty adults and five juveniles are sent to jail. 2. Drug and alcohol abuse is common. One person in five reports that drinking is a problem in his or her home. Alcohol abuse leads to thousands of domestic disputes, homicides, suicides, and traffic fatalities. The death toll is estimated to run between 50,000 and 200,000 a year. The dollar cost--in medical bills, property damage, lost wages and productivity-reaches $100 billion annually. 3. One person in five says he know of at least one case of child abuse in his neighbourhood; and a like number know of at least one case of spouse abuse. Nearly half of America's marriages end in divorce, and one in every six births is illegitimate. The cost to the taxpayer is put at around $6 billion a year. 4. An estimated twenty per cent of the U.S. population is functionally illiterate--lacking the basic skills in reading, writing, arithmetic needed for day-today living--and about fifty per cent are just getting by. The National Commission on Excellence in Education concluded, "The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation and a people." 5. Cheating is "epidemic and big business" across the United States, Hattye Liston of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University told the annual convention of the American Psychological Association. "Cheating," he said, "has become an American pastime".
... "Cheating, "he said, "has become an American pastime"...
Liston cites these findings:
- About $100 billion a year is lost through tax cheating;
- Extramarital affairs are at "epidemic proportions";
- Fraudulent telephone charges cost millions annually;
- Department stores lose more than $4 billion a year from pilferage;
- Fourteen per cent of students have defaulted on federal education loans;
- About sixty per cent of employees improperly use company postage meters.
Surveys suggest that the U.S. public and publics in other nations have become disillusioned by the inability of governments and other social institutions to solve these pressing problems. So in the face of what the public perceives to be the ineffectual response of governments, they have begun to take matters into their own hands through a wide variety of citizen-involvement programs. Here are some of the examples of how the U.S. public is fighting back.
Citizens groups have formed in the inner cities to rescue neighbourhoods from blight;
Communities have started programs to aid the fight against crime. In fact, citizen involvement is credited as an important factor in the recent drop in the crime rate;
Organizations like MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) have galvanized public awareness and spurred tougher action, with the result that the number of traffic accidents and motor-vehicle-related deaths has declined, a trend that experts attribute in part to more stringent enforcement of penalties against drunken driving;
As many as twenty million Americans are now members of special-interest organizations, and another twenty million have contributed money to such groups during a recent twelve-month period;
Parents are joining with teachers in new efforts to deal with problems facing young people, such as alcohol and drug abuse;
Self-help groups for people who share a particular medical, emotional, or social problem are springing up everywhere. One estimate puts the total at more than 500,000 and the number of participants in the millions.
The activity of volunteer groups such as these suggests that social change in the years ahead may come from the bottom up rather than the top down. This impetus from the grass-roots will increasingly take the form of referenda and initiatives forcing government action.
An observer of the American scene might easily conclude from the multitude of serious problems afflicting the nation that our values are collapsing and we are becoming a disenchanted people. But neither proposition is true. Though we are probably more uncertain about our values today than in the past, surveys find that the American people still consider the personal aspects of their lives--their family, health, and selfrespect--to be far more important than the possession of material goods.
... American people still consider the personal aspects of their lives ... far more important than the possession of material goods ...
Furthermore, Americans continue to believe in the traditional values. As many as ninety per cent, for example, say they would welcome "more emphasis on family ties", and a similar proportion favours "more respect for authority". Only one in four would like to see "more acceptance of sexual freedom", and only one in eight would welcome "more acceptance of marijuana usage". While it may be true that the population is less spiritually committed than in the past, the vast majority say they wish their personal religious faith were stronger and that they want religion to play a greater role in society.
A remarkably high percentage of Americans express satisfaction with the way things are going in their own lives. This is particularly true with regard to the most important dimensions-family life, relations with other people, health and the quality of the communities in which they live. But at the same time there is a tragically wide gap in satisfaction levels between the top and bottom groups on the socioeconomic ladder. Tose a the top need to find ways to reach down-in a loving, caring manner-and not only to help those at the bottom but give them fresh hope.
What is called for is a kind of crisis intervention on a broad scale, and international in scope, with high self-esteem people meeting and working directly with low self-esteem people. As columnist Andy Rooney put it, "If you have your health, some happiness, some money in the bank, you don't need help. The chances are you ought to be helping someone who does need help." The first step is caring in a deep way. If we truly care about the plight of others, we will do something--we will be impelled to action.
It is very difficult, however, to really care unless one comes face to face with people in need. We have to do more than spend money. Thoreau once said, "If you give money, spend yourself with it." If those who serve on boards or committees dealing with human needs, for example, matched every hour spent sitting in the boardroom with an hour of direct, face-to-face involvement with the less fortunate, society would feel the impact and our committee work would be given new life.
Nearly one person in three today in the United States is involved in direct person-to-person work with the underprivileged, the infirm, the handicapped and the elderly. And despite the high mobility of Americans, the rise in the number of women in the job market, and claims by some social observers that Americans are becoming increasingly alienated from one another, the level of volunteerism has actually been increasing. This massive volunteer effort is, of course, absolutely essential to our social well-being. And I agree with those observers who believe that volunteerism is our best hope for the future--for the United States and for other nations, as well. And I believe the day is not far off when the United States will institute a program of mandatory national service requiring every young man and woman to give one year of service, either military or non-military, in the service of their nation.
There are many advantages that could come from such a program. It would bring people of diverse backgrounds together; provide on-the-job experience; give young people time to plan their careers and their lives. It would meet certain of the social ills of our society head on, with young people, for example, working and cleaning up slum areas, working in hospitals, doing many other kinds of desperately needed jobs in our society.
Finally, such a program would meet the problems of youth unemployment head on. Now such a program would cost a great deal of money, but when you think of the enormous cost of problems related to unemployment problems in our country, the cost is very small indeed.
Despite their awareness of the many problems confronting our nation, the American people are far from despondent. Surveys show that they continue to have confidence in the future. There is a strong feeling that we are learning to adjust to the rapid rate of change that we have experienced in recent decades. And there is an abiding conviction that each of us as individuals can do much to turn things around.
And, despite the bleak trends we note in our nation, and in other nations, there are some profoundly encouraging ones that have been building over the last half-century. None is more encouraging than the growth in tolerance toward persons of different races, religions, and other background characteristics, a growth in tolerance that parallels the increase in the level of formal education.
... Forecast 2000 ... organized ... responses into nine "future forces": the nuclear threat, overpopulation, economic pressures, technological progress, the "environmental emergency", crime and violence, the "faltering family", personal health, and political issues ...
As a case in point, in 1937 we found that only thirtyone per cent of Americans would vote for a woman for president of the United States. The figure today is eighty per cent. And around the world--we discovered in a Gallup international survey covering sixty per cent of the Free World--large majorities in each nation thought women were making headway in their efforts to gain an equal footing with men in business and in education; and in virtually every nation it was the strong desire, of both women and men, that women continue to make gains.
For the book, Forecast 2000, we interviewed 1,346 opinion leaders and asked about the state of the United States and the world in the year 2000. We organized their responses into nine "future forces": the nuclear threat, overpopulation, economic pressures, technological progress, the "environmental emergency", crime and violence, the "faltering family", personal health, and political issues. We asked our survey respondents to comment on the current significance of each "force" and on its probable significance in 2000.
In seven of the nine areas, these leaders admit to large measures of optimism. They see the number one problem--the nuclear threat--diminishing in importance by 2000. But in two areas the future looks particularly bleak. While only sixteen per cent see overpopulation as one of the top problems today, thirty-eight per cent see it as such by 2000. And environmental pollution jumps from thirty-nine per cent to fifty-five per cent.
In regard to the number one problem-nuclear threat--nearly eighty per cent of the opinion leaders not only favour a United States-Soviet Union agreement to stop building nuclear weapons, but urge the destruction of all existing stockpiles. And fifty per cent of those polled suggest there be a global referendum to allow the citizens of each nation to vote on nuclear disarmament. Many favour limiting the sale of arms to other nations. A major concern is the capability of a growing number of nations to produce nuclear weapons.
Overpopulation in the future is another major problem in the view of these opinion leaders. Steps that could be taken include an improvement in food distribution; and more movement of the populations from the larger urban centres is desirable, but on a voluntary basis.
What do these visionaries see as an ideal society? It is a society with universal education, zero population growth, shared technology worldwide, and wealth equitably distributed. Even with the spectre of the mushroom cloud, those who are optimistic about the future outnumber the pessimists by about three to one. They base their optimism on human ingenuity, the basic good sense of people, the vital contributions of volunteers in our societies, and the expected bounties of technology.
Many see education playing a key role. Indeed, Americans and Canadians place a great deal of faith in education. In a Gallup Poll in the United States, for example, we discovered that eighty-two per cent believe that our educational system will be very important to the future strength of the United States.
And one must not, I believe, overlook the power of deep spiritual commitment to change society. In recent years we have begun to explore what might be regarded as the final frontier for survey research--the spiritual life of mankind: how vital is the religious faith of people around the globe--what are the signs of an active faith, and the like? In all of our surveying of the spiritual life, no findings are more exciting to me than those dealing with the spiritual dynamic of Americans' life, a dynamic that often has more to do with how we think and behave in society than do the more traditional background characteristics such as age, level of education, political affiliation and the like. Indeed, those in our surveys who fit the category of "highly spiritually committed" appear to be a "breed apart" from the rest of the populace in at least four key respects: they are far more involved in charitable activities than their counterparts; they tend to be more tolerant of persons of different races and relations than the less spiritually committed; they place greater importance on family life, and they are far happier than those who are less committed in their spiritual lives. Although few in numbers, these persons clearly are having a disproportionately powerful impact on society.
But the key is deep spiritual commitment, not mere religious involvement. For as Jonathan Swift once observed: "We have just enough religion to make us hate. But not enough to make us love one another."
One thing is certain as the world spins toward the year 2000. Nations must increasingly depend upon each other. And no two nations are so allied in mutual interests and in friendship as are Canada and the United States. In this respect I am happy to report that a recent report by the Canadian Institute of Public Opinion shows a growing number of Canadians holding the view that Canada and the United States are growing closer together. A majority of fifty-seven per cent now hold this belief--by far the highest proportion recorded during the fifteen years that this question has been asked.
Are Americans and Canadians facing a grim future as the world moves toward the year 2000? From my perspective as a pollster, I would have to say we are not. The positive forces of moral and spiritual values, broad public education and volunteerism run deep. They make me optimistic in the long run about our prospects. The year 2000 will likely be a watershed for our nations and could be the gateway to a new millenium that holds the promise of great progress and advancement.
Let us seize this promise and make the future forces work--for our greatest good and that of our posterity!
The appreciation of the audience was expressed by Ronald Goodall, a Director of the Club.