George Gallup Jr., President of the Gallup Poll
February 11, 1981
The Mood of America
Thank you very much. Dr. Acker, Dr. Flinchbaugh, Dr. Richter, Mr. Wilson, Dr. Hathaway, Mr. Tosh, ladies and gentlemen.
I'm delighted and honored indeed to be here today. I'd like first of all to report to you on the nation's outlook in 1981, primarily the economic outlook because the economy continues to be the main preoccupation of the American people at this time.
Next I'd like to try to answer the question, "Is there a shift to the right or to a conservative point of view in this nation?" Many observers have maintained this. I'd like to comment briefly on this.
Next I'd like to tell you a little bit about the history of the Gallup Poll and the operation. Then I'd like to deal with the key question of the role of polls in the democracy.
Finally I'd like to touch on certain trends in our society which will affect you in the future whether your role is a student, teacher or businessma or whatever your role may be. I'm going to indicate four trends and I think these are rather worrisome trends. As a matter of fact, I would consider these four trends to be root problems in our society, if you will. But I believe these problems can be dealt with and the public themselves has responded in certain ways of dealing with these particular problems.
Lastly I'd like to make a few comments about the overall mood of the nation as we move to the 1980s. I'll have you out of here by 5:00. I know it doesn't sound like it.
Before we go on our way I'd like to remind myself of a warning Adlai Stevenson once gave when initiating a commencement address. He said, "it's my job as a speaker to talk and your job as an audience to listen. If you get through your job before I do please feel free to get up and leave."
There has been much discussion on the question of whether the president's victory last November 4 represented a shift to the right among the electorate. Examination of political indicators and the view of the voters on key issues indicate that the Reagan landslide was not so much an ideological shift to the right among the electorate as it was dissatisfaction with the leadership of the nation and a desire to change. Our measurements of both the ideological stance of the electorate and public opinion on certain key issues reveal actually surprisingly little change since the presidential election four years ago. For example, when Americans are asked to place themselves on a left-right configuration, the proportion who are right of center are virtually the same today as it was in the presidential year of 1976.
During last year's campaign Reagan was perceived by voters to be not only to the right of President Carter but also to the right of where voters place themselves on this left-right scale. Our polls in previous election years have indicated that the candidate whose perceived ideological stance more closely matches that of the electorate has faired better in the election.
Actually, we need only look at the 1972 presidential race with Sen. George McGovern. He was perceived too far to the left of where voters place themselves. Back in 1964 Sen. Barry Goldwater was perceived too far to the right. So it was actually fairly easy early in those years to indicate that these two candidates would have a very difficult time of winning in November.
But this time that kind of impact was not so pronounced, which does suggest, as I indicated, that factors others than those related to political philosophies were crucial to Reagan's victory. A parallel in these findings on political ideology, which indicate very little change since the 1976 presidential race, also found very little change in terms of how people affiliate in terms of party affiliation. As a matter of fact, the proportion of persons who describe themselves as Republicans is only up very marginally over four years ago. Now not only is there no evidence of a movement a shift in terms of political ideology and in terms of political affiliation but we see very little change on those issues which are usually cited as ones on which liberals and conservatives diverge.
These issues would include abortion, death penalty, the equal rights amendment, gun control, and a balanced federal budget. Actually there is very little change on these key issues over the last four years. The fact is that the prime reason for President Carter's defeat was growing dissatisfaction with his leadership rather than any apparent conservative swing in this country. But that's not saying this won't change, at least to some degree.
As a matter of fact, it can be assumed that with a Republican in the White House that the proportion of Republicans will gradually increase over the next four years. However, I don't think we can expect anything dramatic to happen. I think the Republican Party will continue to be the minority party in American politics for the foreseeable future for a number of reasons actually.
The one party domination of this country nearly totally one party domination is likely to continue for the immediate future. As you know, over the last half-century one party has been pretty much in control of our government, both in terms of the Senate, the House and the White House in many years, of course and also at the state level, too. We've had a one-party domination for virtually all of this half-century.
What place will the president occupy in history? Well, the president, despite his losses in terms of leadership qualities, never lost the public's perception of him as a man with strong leadership qualities and as a man with high moral principles, as a man sympathetic to the problems of the poor and as a religious person. These traits have been ascribed to the president all throughout his four years in the presidency and he has lost little ground in terms of those particular traits. At the same time we find that only 3 percent of the American people who describe President Carter think he will go down in history as an outstanding president, 15 percent actually say poor. It is also true that the lowest popularity rating given a president was recorded for President Carter. His popularity dipped to 21 percent which was even lower than the low points given President Nixon and President Truman.
Again, the president was not the most admired man. Typically in our surveys of the most admired man and admittedly this measurement is something of a name recognition kind of measurement, the president is usually the number one most admired person. He was number two this year which indicates something of his fall from popularity.
However, one could assume that history will treat him more favorably because we must remember that few presidents, if any, have had to deal with so many simultaneous problems as has President Carter. And when economic problems are involved, every chief executive becomes a favorite target of disgruntled citizens.
Now, how is President Reagan fairing in public opinion? Well our early findings, preliminary findings, indicate that public support is running high. I can't give you the final figures because I'm afraid you've caught me between surveys. We have a survey coming up, in a few days the results will be back, but our early evidence indicates that support is running high. But this is not surprising as you know, because a president is usually given a grace period at the start of his presidency.
President Reagan may enjoy a somewhat longer grace period than usual since the public's expectations regarding the economy are so lowered at this particular point and time. As a matter of fact, when we asked people to indicate the rate of inflation at the end of the year, what their best estimate is and what the rate of unemployment may be they are just about what they are today. So the public sees a misery index, if you will, which is a combination of the unemployment rate and the inflation rate up around 20 percent at the end of the year. They look for very little improvement. Therefore, they may be a little more generous with President Reagan's efforts to turn things around.
In contrast, four years ago, at the beginning of the Carter presidency, large majorities of the public felt that the president would be able to reduce both inflation and unemployment. So expectations were high and when they weren't reached the public took it out on their chief executive and not many months after President Carter was in office people started to say that he was losing his ability to lead the nation.
Now despite the public's somewhat bearish outlook well, considerably bearish outlook about the economy, their overall mood is much more optimistic than it was at the start of 1980, at the start of 1979, and in fact at the start of 1978. That seems sort of puzzling in view of the public's bearish economic outlook, but the fact is that twice as many people believe that 1981 will be better than 1980, and this refers to many aspects of life besides the economy, than felt this way a year ago.
Why is that? Well, first of all the public is greeting the new presidency, even though only 27 out of every 100 people actually voted for President Reagan, with a high level of hope and expectation. Incidentally, our outlook is much brighter than the outlook in many other nations in the world. In fact, we are among the most optimistic of all. Most pessimistic, you may be interested to learn, are Belgians; only 7 percent think 1981 will be better than 1980 West Germans, only 8 percent do and Austrians only 10 percent. Those are among the most pessimistic people in this study which was conducted in 28 nations of the world.
Now before dealing with the four trends which I'd like to discuss, actually that I mentioned earlier the four root problems in our society as I see them based on surveys, I would like to talk to you a little about the operation of the Gallup poll. The poll was founded in Princeton, N.J. by my dad, who is still vigorous and active, I'm happy to say.
Actually my dad's experience goes back to the 1920s. He did some polling for my grandfather's race in Iowa. My grandfather ran on the Democratic ticket in Iowa. His name was Alexander Miller, my mother's father. Being a Democrat in Iowa at that time, of course, he didn't have any chance of winning and he didn't. He lost badly. So they put my grandmother on the ticket to run next time as sort of an honor and everybody thought it was a joke, nobody expected her to win but she did. As a matter of fact, she won very handily and swept back into office with FDR's sweep in 1936.
She was, you might be interested to learn, the first female secretary of state in this country. She also started the first state police. So my dad's polling experience really goes back to the '20s and the early '30s. He did some experimenting on the 1934 congregational race and was only a point off the actual result in that election; so in 1935, the Gallup Poll opened its doors.
The first test came in 1936, as certainly Mr. Landon would well remember. Here was a real test of two different kinds of polls; one poll which assumed accuracy would come from enormous numbers of people being interviewed, and the other kind of survey based on much smaller but representative samples such as the Gallup Poll. Here is a real test.
The Literary Digest had had a terrific record right up to 1936. But in 1936, for the first time, political divisions followed economic divisions. And so the Literary Digest in selecting their samples from persons who owned telephones or cars was obviously reaching too high an upscale group in the sample. As you well know, they were way off the base. As a matter of fact, the Digest's final report based on 2,376,523 ballots pointed to a resounding Landon victory; with Republican margins in 32 states and a total of 370 electoral votes, the Literary Digest gave Mr. Landon 57 percent of the major party vote.
As you know in the election, President Roosevelt won a resounding victory, winning 62.5 percent of the major party vote and a colossal majority of 523 votes out of a possible 531 electoral votes.
That hurried the demise of the Literary Digest; that failure wasn't actually totally responsible for it but contributed to it. It was a classic confrontation and I just want to read to you something that my dad wrote in a book called The Pulse of Democracy. My dad had the temerity to indicate how far off the track the Literary Digest would be.
This did not set too well with the editors of the Literary Digest and one of them wrote, I beg your pardon, let me just read this item. On July 12 George Gallup warned the subscribers that the Digest's old fashioned methods would point to the wrong man. Almost as an afterthought he mentioned that the totals would show about 56 percent for Landon and 44 percent for Roosevelt. Inasmuch as the poll was not to begin for six weeks, Wilfred J. Funk he was editor of the Literary Digest, was obviously outraged. "Never before has anyone foretold what a poll was going to show even before it started," he snapped. "Our statistical friends should be advised that the Digest would carry on, quote, with those 'old fashioned methods,' that have produced correct forecasts exactly 100 percent of the time."
One of my dad's most accurate forecasts was the forecast of how far off Literary Digest would be. Because in that election, as I indicated earlier, political divisions followed economic divisions, the Literary Digest's samples clearly skewed towards the upscale groups.
The next big test for the polling industry came in 1948,1 needn't remind you, I'm sure. The basic problem was that we stopped polling too soon. There are lots of factors involved in polling organizations being off the track, but that was the primary one. We were unable to catch the collapse of the third party vote in that particular election.
As you know, traditionally the third party vote collapses in the closing days of the campaign. This has always been the case during this century. But we stopped polling, so we didn't catch that collapse as many of those votes went over to Harry Truman; plus, there was a drop in the farm prices in the Midwest and many normally Republican voters shifted over to the Democratic side in the closing days of the campaign.
Well, we learned our lesson too late. We polled much closer to the election and perhaps as I'll indicate a little later maybe we still haven't quite learned our lesson because we stopped polling a little early this last November 4 and I'll go into that briefly, shortly.
There were many, many stories that made the rounds after the '48 election. One of my favorite stories, and this is a true one, is the one about my dad who was in San Francisco shortly after the 1948 election and he was going down a one way street the wrong way. And a policeman flagged him down, took one look at his license and said "wrong again."
In 1949 we expanded the Gallup Poll to 14 nations and now we operate in 35 nations of the world. I think one of the most interesting studies we have ever undertaken was one in 60 nations. We modestly called it "The Study of Mankind." Actually we did cover 90 percent of the surveyable world, as a matter of fact. We are now engaged in a study on values in 12 nations. This, I think, will prove to be one of the most interesting studies we've ever undertaken.
We've not been able to get behind the Iron Curtain. In fact we've only had very modest success in that department. And that goes back to 1958 when we cabled radio Moscow to see if they wanted to participate in a survey on Premier Khrushchev's visit to the United States. Well, we got back a flood of telegrams and we added up the opinions and they came out 97 percent in favor and 3 percent undecided. We had to work very hard to get the undecided. Well, it's not exactly a scientific breakthrough, but I thought that it might be of some interest.
In the last five years, we started some new organizations. I should point out first of all that most of our work is in the area of market research; 80 or 85 percent of our work is done for private clients, not political clients incidentally. We don't do any private political work, though obviously we poll on the political scene many, many times, frequently, and these releases for the Gallup Poll are reported in 150 newspapers around the country.
We also have an organization called "Gallup Youth Surveys," which is an ongoing survey of teenagers. We started an organization called "The Gallup Organization Economic Service" within the last five years. And I started an organization four years ago called "The Princeton Religion Research Center." This happens to be a particular interest of mine because I've long felt that the most neglected area in terms of surveys is the area of one's religious and spiritual life. We know really very little about how people are putting their religious beliefs into practice, what they know about their faith, we know very little about how people structure their prayer life.
There's only very limited information, most of it in the area of church membership and church attendance. Well we're trying to redress that situation and in the last few years we've undertaken a number of national surveys which I think are giving church leaders and others in society as a whole a good insight as to what's really going on underneath the surface in people's lives.
I won't go into sampling at this point because of the time restrictions but as you well know a sample, in order to be a good sample, must be representative of the entire population. In other words, we must develop a microcosm of the entire adult population or whatever population we are polling. We interview nearly 1,500 in any given national survey. With this size sample and using what we call a modified probability sampling procedure, the figures we obtain can be assumed to be within 2 or 3 percentage points of the results we would get from interviewing everybody in the United States.
As a matter of fact, you can get a very accurate sample with only 300 people if they are carefully selected and if the polling process or procedure rests firmly on the premise that each person should have an equal chance of being selected. Just let me give you a quick example. Let's say the 155 million adult Americans were listed in a giant telephone book in this country and we needed to get 1,500 interviews, that happens to be the unit best suited to our needs. We could divide the 1,500 into that total 155 million people and if we kept the same interval you would have a perfect sample if you were able to reach that person. If you would look at the background characteristics of those 1,500 people they would match up almost exactly with known census data. That's a very simplified version of what we do, but in local telephone service that can be the procedure too.
I don't want to take much time in questionnaire design because I want to move on to some of these major trends we're seeing in society but suffice to say in the area of questionnaire design that we feel that there should be a new emphasis on trying to determine what people know about a given issue. It's terribly important to separate informed from uninformed opinion, of course. Some polling organizations neglect to do this. We sometimes neglect to do this but it's absolutely vital to develop questions which will separate the informed from the uninformed.
Most of our interviewers are women. As a matter of fact, 90 percent are. They have proved over the years to be better in interviewing. Their record for honesty is better too, both here and abroad.
Now as you can imagine there have been some amusing situations in which interviewers have found themselves. Interviews have been conducted in a row boat during a flood. Incredible situations come up and sometimes the definitions or the responses given by survey respondents lighten the load of the interviewer, make his life more interesting. I think you might find these definitions amusing.
One person thought that a plebiscite is a bug. Another thought that nostalgia is a nasal condition. Still another person surveyed thought that cyclamates who live together should get married. And we asked one young homeowner about how she felt concerning the double standard in matters of sex and she replied, "I'm all in favor of it ... standards should be twice as high where sex is concerned."
We've covered an enormous range of topics as you can imagine. We are just doing a study on out-of-body experiences, if you will, if you're familiar with discussion about those. Obviously we poll on the key issues of the day but some of the more unusual topics include a survey on UFOs. We found that 11 percent of the people have seen what they thought was a UFO, including a man who was certain he had seen a UFO because he had seen the letters UFO on the side of the vehicle.
Now regardless of what we poll on we are certain to get static from certain quarters, it doesn't matter what the topic is. Recently I received a letter which came addressed to: George Gallup, American Institute of His Own Opinion and the message was, "Dear Dr. Gallup, on what do you bias your opinion?"
We have a big scrapbook of some very funny items. I think the best of all goes way back and this goes back to the time we did a survey of the people of Louisiana to find out what they thought about Louisiana politics and elections and specifically about Earl Long. This particular survey was not exactly warmly received by the Long supporters and the official newspaper, The American Progress, was eloquent in its condemnation of the poll. I quote from the paper:
"Three months ago, a half dozen post-graduate social science workers from Princeton University, augmented by seven or eight east side New Yorkers who had never in their lives seen a possum, tasted a sweet potato or chewed a plug of tobacco, arrived in New Orleans to conduct a so-called, quote, 'survey of public opinion,' end quote. After taking a few sightseeing trips, getting some fancy grub at the famous restaurants in New Orleans, looking at some swamps and sending picture postcards back home, they then wrote some mystic figures in their little black books and hurried back to their boss, a low-ceilinged guy with bifocal glasses who sits enthroned in his Princeton tower."
Shortly after the presidential election, Johnny Carson announced that there were three polls out of work as a result of the election: Harris, Gallup, and Brzezinski. I'm happy to report that we're still in business. To be sure, the deviation of our final pre-election survey results from the actual vote given the winning candidate was larger than our usual deviation. Actually we've been within one percentage point over the last 12 years, and this particular time it was 3.7 percentage points and this, of course, is larger than the average deviation of 2.3 percentage points for 23 national elections since 1936.
What I should add is that our figures on Reagan were the closest of all to the actual Reagan vote. But the fact that we were so far off in our best estimation is not due to some flaw in the polling mechanism but primarily to the fact that we stopped polling on Saturday in order to prepare our final report and did not catch the continuing trend to Reagan that had been building during the week following the presidential debate.
The presidential debate stopped Carter's momentum cold. And Mr. Reagan started to pick up strength at the rate of about 1.3 million votes per day. All during that week we charted his strength rising very strongly. On the eve of the debate both men were about equal but then Mr. Reagan started to move very quickly on. The hostage situation over the weekend and I should point out that at least one-third of the voters felt that President Carter had timed that for political purposes so there was a lot of cynicism at that particular stage too, plus a lot of dashed hopes and dashed expectations and so this all accrued to Mr. Reagan's benefit.
I think one of the more interesting things is that this election indicates that presidential debatesâ€”for the third time since 1960 have played a very decisive role in the outcome of an election. They certainly did in '60, they did in 1976, as a matter of fact, President Ford's momentum was fatally stalled by that second debate and Mr. Carter moved right on and never lost ground from that point on.
Polling on elections presents enormous problems for us. We have to find out how many people are actually going to get to the polls; we have to find out how the undecided vote's going to go, tremendous problems. So the question is, why do we continue to do it?
First of all, we have done it because election surveys provide the acid test of the poll's methodology. It's the perfect chance for poll skeptics, poll watchers to match up our final election survey figures with the actual election results.
However, we do quite frankly see no great social value in the horse race kind of poll, the trial heat, the test election race. Their great value is that they help us in terms of developing the appropriate methodology, but in the future I think we will concentrate more on defining public opinion on the eve of the election and indeed we have done obviously a great deal of that.
Now, getting to the key question of the role of the polls in a democracy. You've heard many criticisms. People say that polls create a bandwagon effect, they distort opinions, they are misused by politicians and leaders in government. But the fact of the matter is that without polls we really would not have a good gauge of where the public stands on key issues.
We like to think of polls as a sort of ongoing referendum on the key issues of the day. By no other means can people determine from week to week where people stand on given issues and not only how they vote but what they know about an issue, what their top priorities are, how they've reacted to various proposals.
We can look at public opinion in many dimensions and get a very accurate fix on public opinion. I think you would agree that that's possible because of our election survey results over the years. Many people feel that you can read the results in election polls actually. Well it's true in certain elections where referenda, certain referenda elections and that's an increasing trend in this country and I think it's a good trend myself. But other than that you really do not have a way to determine public opinion on issues of the day.
Traditionally elections have been misread as meaning a mandate for this or that. Almost invariably they are misread so I think we perform a very important function of defining public opinion indicating what people are worried about, what they're fearful of, what they're willing to work at and how they respond to various proposals.
I think one of the most valuable uses of polls in the democracy is in the terms of measuring public reaction, public acceptance or rejection, if you will, to proposals. Polls offer an opportunity to trial balloon new ideas. The old trial balloon method of sending out messages in the newspapers and getting sort of an informal response and sometimes not a very direct response back through the media or through group discussions and so forth really did not get an accurate fix on how people reacted to various proposals.
Now, through surveys, we can accurately go to the public in a matter of days and find out how they are reacting to a wide range of proposals, whether they accept or reject it, how they feel about it, what they know about it; so I think that this is probably the most valuable use of polls. And I feel that this will be the big use of polls in the future, testing out public reaction to a wide range of responses, trial ballooning new ideas. I think that this is a rather untapped use of polls and I predict that it will be much more used in the future.
Now hurrying on because I know that I'm running to the end of my time. I'd like to talk about these four root problems very briefly, underlying or root problems, if you will, because I think they will indicate how polls can define the public will, can help us find out what the public knows about certain areas, can find out if the public is willing to work to solve these problems and what they know about these particular problems, too.
So I think that this will indicate how polls can be very useful in a democracy in helping define a particular problem which we may sense and feel but may not have the accurate information which we need on these particular problems.
Certainly looking at today, one can ask is there a basis for being hopeful about the future? At times, we seem to live in a no win decade or era when problems do not yield to solutions. Well I don't have to give you the litany of discouraging findings which we are recording every day in terms of crime and lawlessness and in terms of drug and alcohol use though I will be dealing with these shortly.
But let me get right to these problems, if you will, and I'll do so briefly. First of all, voter apathy I see as one of the major problems facing this country. I think we can predict that the 1980s will likely be a decade in which we maintain our record as the nation with the worst voting record of any major democracy in the world. The fact is that voter apathy is likely to be with us for many years unless certain basic reforms, and these are reforms long sought by the American people, are brought about in our country.
Young people will continue to reject the thought of going into politics because of the staggering costs involved in getting into office and staying there. Politics is the number 34 career choice of teenagers today. It's a very sad situation. Americans are badly out of tune with their political system, I hardly need tell you that.
Only about half of U.S. citizens can name their own congressmen, fewer know still where he or she stands on issues. Well, what can be done? Certainly one step we can consider is instituting basic changes in our electoral process which would make it more feasible and attractive to run for Congress, Senate or the presidency.
Our method of choosing the president really is no more elaborate, in fact is far less elaborate and well-constructed than is our method to select the president of our university or the president of the company; that process is much more sophisticated and well-developed.
If left to the American people, they would completely revamp the entire electoral process, they'd do away with the Electoral College, they'd substitute a nationwide primary for the present system, they'd shorten the campaigns, they'd limit the campaigning to debates, elect the vice president by popular vote, they'd put tighter limits on campaign spending and perhaps most importantly they'd limit the terms of senators and representatives in the belief that politics should be a period of service and not a career.
The last, many feel, is a key reform. When politicians make politics a career they need to do everything they can to stay in office and this, as you well know, can too often mean shady financial dealings, false promises and the rest. Speaking of political involvement, I've always liked President Eisenhower's advice: "Politics should be the part-time profession of every citizen."
Secondly, and moving on quickly, drug dependency. I think this is the number two problem in this country in my estimation from all the evidence I can see through surveys. All surveys on the subject of drink, drinking and drug dependency, point to the inevitable conclusion that alcohol abuse, already our number two health problem, is growing. Unless dramatic and creative steps are taken we can accurately predict that the 1980s will be affected to an even greater degree than the 1970s by this drug.
I'd like to focus on alcohol although our surveys show an alarming increase in other drug use as well. It has been estimated that alcohol may be involved in up to one-third of all suicides, one-fourth of all murders, one-half of all other accidental deaths. The abuse of alcohol is, as you well know, a contributing factor to divorce, broken homes, child abuse as well as a host of other problems. And, as you know, alcohol is reported to be related to one-fourth of all traffic fatalities.
We find that one person in five is willing to admit to driving when they've had too much to drink to drive safely and the percentage is much higher among young males. The trends are not encouraging. Our surveys, for example, reveal that the proportion of Americans who say liquor has been a source of trouble in their homes has doubled in just half a decade. Now that is a very drastic trend. We usually don't record trends of those dimensions.
Moving now quickly onto the third point or problem and I could deal more with the number two problem as I mentioned, if you'd like, in terms of giving you figures during the question and answer period, but I'm running out of time so I'm going to have to move along quickly.
Number three, I think this is probably the biggest problem it seems to me in our society is youth unemployment. As you well know unemployment of our young people is shockingly high. An increased youth unemployment rate brings with it an increased crime rate as well as an increasing burden on every community service, for example, fire protection, health facilities, drug control. These are among the costs for consistently high unemployment rates. The problem is not only unemployment but a pervasive feeling among young people of being a liability to society. What can be done about youth unemployment? Well let's be frank, efforts today have not been very effective in dealing head on with this very basic problem in our society.
One approach that merits close attention is the reinstitution of training camps such as the CCC camps of the 1930s and we might learn from other nations. For example, in certain ones there are what is called continuation school. Instead of going to college a young person learns a vocation two or three days during the week but takes traditional courses the other two or three days to provide a broader background. Grades are given and certificates are given for completion of the work.
In my view it is essential that the nation open a full scale debate on national service. Fortunately there is renewed discussion in Washington over programs of national service. The committee for the study of national service sums up its case with this statement: "until the spirit of service is restored among American citizens the most pressing human problems of our society will not be solved."
The full participation of youth in national service would be a powerful force in meeting the needs of the nation and in strengthening the spirit of service. Today little is asked of young people except that they be consumers of goods and services. A vast industry serves youth with schooling, entertainment and goods at all times but there are limited opportunities for the young themselves to produce goods and serve others.
There are certainly other advantages in national service and proponents of national service feel that such a program should be part of the educational process and every young person should experience the "real world," if you will. Others favor it as a way to provide special training to young men who do not plan to go to college and still others like the concept because they feel it would give young people a better and more realistic view of the social problems of America, offering them an opportunity to do something about them.
And of prime importance, national service would deal head-on with one of the most basic and practical problems of our times youth unemployment.
Now how does the public feel about national service? Well, they overwhelmingly favor voluntary national service but they also overwhelmingly favor a program of mandatory national service requiring every young man to give one year of service to his country either in military or nonmilitary work. Now those who opt for nonmilitary work is a far higher proportion than those who opt for military work. But a high enough percentage would opt for the military to automatically fill the ranks of the military with highly qualified people. That would be one of the fringe benefits, if you will.
As far as the public is concerned, and I'm talking about people of all ages the concept, the idea, the program of national service, of mandatory national service, is an idea whose time is long overdue.
I'd like to discuss briefly, very briefly, what I consider to be the fourth root problem in our society, and I would see this as spiritual neglect and moral lethargy.
We polled the nation's clergy recently and we find that at least half of the clergy see only a vague religiosity in this country without much real substance operating in our lives. I'll be talking briefly about trends among Christians. The proportion of Jews in any given sample, and persons of other non-Christian religious faiths, are not included because the proportions are too small to provide projectable data in our surveys.
I think our religious faith has lost much of its power to impel us to creative action and to provide a solid value system because of three trends which are very worrisome in my view: a decline in spiritual discipline, a decline in religious knowledge, and a misunderstanding of the true meaning of religious experience, which is confused with emotionalism and phenomenology.
Our religious convictions are weak because we are often unclear about what we believe and why we believe; therefore, how can we expect religion to have an important impact on our lives and on society?
I have a host of suggestions that could be made for religious leaders, clergy and other leaders in society on how to pack some of these religious values into the lives of people of all ages, but I simply don't have time to deal with them at this point, but I perhaps could later.
I think you will agree that social engineering alone, unless accompanied by spiritual renewal, is not enough. Ethical humanism or a vague Christian religiosity, many feel, does not have the power to transform society.
I'm afraid I've depressed you somewhat with the trends I've reported. I know I may remind you of the British diplomat who came back from Africa and wrote, "the gravity of the situation is impossible to exaggerate . . . but I'll try."
I've dealt with some depressing trends, but there are some very, very encouraging trends, too, and in conclusion I'd just like to mention these. I don't have to remind you, of course, of the monumental achievements in our society, the fantastic strides in medicine, reduction in poverty, the availability of a college education.
But there have also been remarkable changes in attitudes of Americans over the decades we have been polling. These are changes which haven't made the headlines in the newspapers, necessarily, but they're very profound, nevertheless.
Certainly one of the most encouraging trends in the social history of the last half century as measured in surveys has been the decline in prejudice toward persons of different races and colors.
What about the overall mood of the public? Americans may be apprehensive about the future but they're far from despondent. We continue to have a great deal of confidence in the future of the nation, and we do so for three reasons and these arose in a survey. First, we have survived difficult periods in the past; secondly, we have shown that we have the capacity to change; and thirdly, each of us knows that there is a great deal we can do to bring about change in our communities, and to better society as a whole.
Few of us in America, in fact, would disagree with what Thomas Wolfe has written about the promise of America: "To every man his chance, to every man regardless of his birth, his golden opportunity. To every man the right to live, to work, to be himself, and to become whatever his manhood and his vision can combine to make him. This is the promise of America."