“Have you given up?” That’s the question we asked Utne Reader readers almost 30 years ago. The question assumed that Utne Reader readers had lived through and perhaps participated in one or more of the '60s and '70s movements for change: civil rights, anti-war, women’s rights, environmental protection, natural foods, gay rights, and anti-nuke, among others. We wanted to know if the readers still cared about what was going on in the world, whether they believed they could make a difference, and to what extent they acted on their concerns.
With the help of Jay Ogilvy at Stanford Research Institute and Brad Edmondson at American Demographics magazine, we designed the survey to be easy to take and evocative. It’s also highly scientific and statistically rigorous—not. We ran the survey in the Oct./Nov. 1986 issue, and reported the results in an article titled “Boom with a View,” in the May/June 1987 issue.
The results were fascinating. We found that the Utne Reader survey respondents were highly educated, well heeled, and very active on behalf of the issues they cared about. For the most part, their idealism was intact, and they still acted on their ideals. But the readers were skeptical, if not downright cynical, about traditional party politics. And their most burning issues had become more focused, and more local. Some other findings were quite surprising, but we’ll save those for later.
So ... here we are again. We’d like to hear from you. Were you an egalitarian activist on the barricades? A frat house couch potato? A Peace Corps volunteer? A stay-at-home parent? A secret operative changing the system from the inside? Did you march in Selma in the ’60s, or serve with the Special Forces in Vietnam? Did you door-knock for McGovern, or hang out on a hippie commune in the ’70s? Or both? Did you canvas for the PIRGs in the ’80s, Greenpeace in the ’90s, and march against the invasion of Iraq in the ’00s? Or did you spend that time doing mergers and acquisitions, speculating in currency exchange rates, or trading junk bonds on Wall Street? No matter what your age, even if you weren’t a glimmer in your parents’ imagination until the turn of the millennium, if you’re old enough to read this, let us know what you’re thinking about today.
Some things have improved over the last few decades. Now there’s Survey Monkey for instance. It’s a lot easier and faster to do a survey over the internet.
We’re asking the same questions we asked 27 years ago, to see how we’ve changed, or not changed (and for the fun of it). And we’re asking a few new ones.
Are you (still) trying to change the world? Getting anywhere? What are the issues that you care most about? How do you invest your time, energy, and money to make a difference? What issues do you want to learn more about?
We think you’ll enjoy pondering the survey questions, and we know we’ll be grateful for your answers.
And please, share the survey with your friends. It’s not necessary that respondents know the magazine, but we’d especially like to hear from current and former Utne Reader readers. The more the merrier, and the more meaningful the results will be.
We’ll report our findings in a future issue of Utne Reader, online at BoomwithaView.org, and in a book that I’m writing with Jeri Reilly about aging and activism in the 21st century.