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Bookmarks Issue: 
37-Nov-Dec-2008
By: 
John Zogby
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A-The Way We'll BePollster John Zogby is the president and CEO of the independent polling firm Zogby International.

The Topic: Americans are paying a lot of attention to polls these days because of the presidential race (apparently people would rather carpool with Obama, but those with multiple pets prefer carpooling with McCain). John Zogby, as always, has been in the thick of it. Yet The Way We’ll Be is concerned with more fundamental questions about American politics, spirituality, economy, and culture than who will next occupy the Oval Office. Examining shifts in data over four generations, Zogby foresees an America that is more open and tolerant, yet also accustomed to limits on its denizens’ own prosperity and their nation’s. In the end, he foresees a new vision of the American Dream that is stronger but also more flexible than the old.
Random House. 256 pages. $26. ISBN: 1400064503

Houston Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"Unlike the naysayers who decry the emerging American Gomorrah, Zogby sees [changing social mores] as a postmodern melting pot filled with people who care more about the planet than their own material success and have left the prejudices of the past in the past. … Any political consultant hoping to get a client elected, or any marketing executive hoping to sell a product, should hop on the Internet immediately and place a copy of the Zogby Report in his or her electronic shopping cart." Richard S. Dunham

Washington Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Pollster John Zogby’s voice in The Way We’ll Be is disarming. He anticipates skepticism and answers potential arguments with a combination of intelligent rebuttal, winning modesty and full disclosure about the limits of his methodology." Steve Weinberg

Rocky Mountain News 3 of 5 Stars
"Zogby’s exhaustive data points to heartening trends at work in the U.S. As the cost of living balloons and traditional sources of energy begin to founder, it seems the American populace is willing to innovate, cooperate and sacrifice to find solutions… A fascinating glimpse into how we’ll be." Adam Goldstein

Wall Street Journal 3 of 5 Stars
"John Zogby is … an original thinker and a perceptive observer of the American scene. … The Way We’ll Be is not a precise national roadmap, but it does offer tantalizing clues about where we’re headed." Michael Barone

San Francisco Chronicle 2 of 5 Stars
"[A] confused melange of creaky prognostications, polling numbers and bullet points. Aspiring to simultaneously provide a rough explanation of polling practices, a marketing guide for the advertising class and a neo-Tocquevillian manifesto on the future of the American citizen-consumer, The Way We’ll Be is an ambitious yet questionable composite of American preferences." Michael Washburn

NY Times Book Review 1.5 of 5 Stars
"A rigorously pseudoscientific examination of ‘the new plate tectonics of American society,’ it asserts that a ‘new consensus … is emerging,’ and that the political and cultural divisiveness of the past few decades will soon go the way of the Edsel, the Hula Hoop and young people who notice other people’s races. … Zogby, a Pollyanna if there ever was one, seems to have infinite faith in mankind’s ability to perfect itself. We’ll see." Joe Queenan

Critical Summary

Like the data Zogby studies, reactions to his book were somewhat difficult to gauge. Several critics dismissed him as hopelessly optimistic, but they didn’t seriously attempt to debunk his data. Others offered an unqualified embrace of his vision of the future, but they didn’t provide any qualifications of their own. Perhaps the most reasonable response came from the Wall Street Journal. Michael Barone stressed that readers should keep in mind that Zogby is an unconventional pollster who sometimes pushes the boundaries of the field; at the same time, some of the trends that Zogby identifies are difficult to deny, even if one feels relatively less optimistic about them. Critics also disagreed on whether Zogby’s prose transcends the trends: some found themselves carried along by his occasional anecdotes and concise analysis, while others found themselves bogged down in the numbers. So The Way We’ll Be is a book about one man’s opinions about predicting the future based on many other people’s opinions. Only you can decide if that much irresolvable speculation will make your brain hurt.