About That Old Gallup Poll


I have alluded many times to the rather astonishing results of an old Gallup poll that I myself commissioned almost half a century ago.

As readers may recall, the question asked was the following:

As a new way to live in America, the idea has been suggested of building factories in rural areas—away from cities—and running them on part-time jobs. Under this arrangement the man and the woman would each work 3 days a week 6 hours a day. People would have enough spare time to build their own houses, to cultivate a garden and for hobbies and other outside interests.

How interested would you be in this way of life?

To my complete surprise, forty percent of those interviewed said they would be either “definitely” or “probably” interested in living this way, with another quarter of the population indicating that they might possibly be interested. Equally surprising, those numbers turned out to be broadly representative of the country as a whole when broken down by gender, age-group, family income, and years of education. Blacks were the only exception, being almost twice as interested in the idea as the rest of the population

But that was a long time ago. The question now is, how many Americans would still be interested in this new way of life? Supposing that poll were repeated, would the numbers be lower, higher, or roughly the same?

Of course there is no way of answering this question without actually repeating the survey, which is something I no longer have the resources to do. Should this project show signs of getting off the ground, re-commissioning that poll will be one of the first orders of business.

In the meantime, let me make the case for why the number of Americans interested in this new way of life is likely to be even higher today than it was nearly half a century ago. The reason is quite simple. In 1976, when that original survey was conducted, this nation was still at the height of its middle-class prosperity. It was a time when the average American family could realistically dream about the possibility of a house in the suburbs, complete with a white picket fence, and a full-time Mom who stayed at home with the kids.

In fact, for those who are old enough to remember, that was the very definition of the American dream back in those days—to the point that, believe it or not, it was often capitalized in the press simply as The American Way of Life. That such a lifestyle was even possible for ordinary people made this country the envy of the world. In no small measure it was responsible for America’s influence all around the globe, furnishing an unforgettable example of human possibility.

Read the rest of this piece at The New Country Town.

Luke Lea is the author of A Part-time Job in the Country: Notes Toward a New Way of Life in America.

Photo: Ontario Ranch suburbs, CC 3.0 License.