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Powell's Q&A

John Zogby

Describe your latest project.
The book I have written is the result of a lifetime of observations, a decade of polling and finding distinct trends, and two years of writing. My overall concern has been to move away from the myriad of offerings that seek to explain the differences, the divides and clashes, the minute forcing into microclusters of a few — and to identify the broader trends that unite us, put us into leagues of tens of millions, and point a way to a consensus of hope. Doing public opinion polling is a great tool for this, thus I begin my book providing an explanation of what we pollsters actually do, why we ask what we ask, why it is important, and how we look at seemingly trivial data to draw much larger lessons. I love — and try to walk the reader through the process of— just riffing, i.e. taking some data and thinking it through.

In The Way We'll Be, I identify four meta-movements that are helping to create a new kind of consumer and voter: the Investor Next Door, America's First Global Generation, the Secular Spiritualists, and the Demand for Authenticity. In short, Americans (with little help from their leadership) are learning to live with limits, are embracing diversity and beginning to define ourselves not by nationality but as world citizens, are rejecting materialism and looking more and more inward, and are responding more to what is real, not fantasy, in advertising, in what is on the shelves, and in candidates.

It is these new groupings and attitudes that are helping to foster paradigm shifts in how we get our news, who we believe, how we attend college, and how we choose to buy products.

  1. The Way We
    $8.95 Used Hardcover add to wishlist
    "[P]rovocative and heartening....[Zogby's] intriguing claims will likely stimulate hope and continued debate." Publishers Weekly

    "[A]n excellent book with a valuable perspective on current American thought and important information for marketers as they seek to understand consumers' buying behavior." Booklist

What's the strangest or most interesting job you've ever had?
I was a produce clerk at a large supermarket when I was in high school and for a time in college. I saw people take 30 minutes to choose one tomato, put my arms around an elderly woman to console her when her tomato fell off the scale and was bruised, reduced the number of strawberries per carton and placed a layer of crumpled crepe paper on the bottom of the cartons to make them look full, washed day-old mushrooms with corn starch to whiten them, unloaded trucks of 600 watermelons at a time and stacked them into pyramids very carefully, and removed rotting watermelons (of course, always somewhere on the bottom). Who could not love this job?

Introduce one other author you think people should read, and suggest a good book with which to start.
Bestselling author Richard North Patterson needs no introduction but all of his work is so deep and his characters full. I especially love his political novels and think that Dark Lady is the best place to start. I am partial to local politics and this one is set in a steel city featuring backroom deals, tough union bosses, a crusading prosecutor, and lots of old-fashioned urban corruption. Thomas Jefferson must be rotissing in his grave 7 and 24.

Offer a favorite sentence or passage from another writer.
Okay, here are two completely different ones I use all the time.

Leo Tolstoy: "I sit on a man's back, choking him, while assuring myself and others that I wish to lighten his load by every means possible — except by getting off his back."

Langston Hughes: "I play it cool, I dig all jive, that's the reason I stay alive. My motto as I live and learn, is dig and be dug in return."

How did the last good book you read end up in your hands and why did you read it?
A good friend, Richard Florida, sent his latest work, Who's Your City. I have read his previous works and we have shared ideas many times. He is the best when it comes to understanding how communities grow, how best to nurture those groups who can move a community forward, and in defining the very progressive creative class.

Describe the best breakfast of your life.
Bacon and eggs deep-fried in bacon fat. That was, of course, before my quadruple bypass surgery. Now it is fruit and granola. Arggh!

Name the best television series of all time.
I will be a little offbeat here and make a case for The Name of the Game, starring Gene Barry and Tony Franciosa, which aired in the early 1970s. They were editor and reporter for a muckraking magazine that pursued all sorts of corruption and scandal. In the very best show, the narrator read passages from Thomas Wolfe's You Can't Go Home Again as Franciosa traveled back to his childhood home to investigate an old crime.

Who are your favorite characters in history? Have any of them influenced your writing?
How is this for a seemingly eclectic group? Camillo di Cavour, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson. In the immortal words of Larry the Cable Guy, "They got 'er done". I certainly admire great ideas and the men and women who shaped them, but these four took a great idea, understood how to mobilize people and resources, how to neutralize opposition, and got the job done: Unifying Italy. Saving the Union and abolishing slavery. Restoring hope in the middle of the Great Depression. Passing civil and voting rights along with addressing urban and rural poverty. Tremendous achievements.

Recommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise.

Believe it or not, there is a common denominator among these titles. They are all about people past, present, and future. Who we are. Why we do what we do. How we grow as individuals. What links us. A deeper understanding of what separates us and causes conflict. And how we move forward together rather than atomize. I get so tired about what divides and fragments.

Robert Fogel, The Fourth Great Awakening

Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class, The Flight of the Creative Class, and Who's Your City?

Alvin and Heidi Toffler, Revolutionary Wealth

Jim Wallis, The Great Awakening

Amy Chua, World on Fire

Keshore Mahbubani, Can Asians Think?

Theodore Zeldin, An Intimate History of Humanity

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John Zogby is the president and CEO of Zogby International, whose many media and business clients include Reuters, NBC News, MSNBC, the New York Post, C-SPAN, Gannett News Service, IBM, MetLife, and Microsoft. He is a regular contributor to network television news broadcasts and has been a frequent guest on Today, Hardball with Chris Matthews, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. His writing has appeared in many publications, including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. A frequent lecturer and panelist, he is married to Kathleen Zogby, a retired special education teacher, and has three sons, Jonathan, Benjamin, and Jeremy. He lives in Utica, New York.


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