INSIDE AMERICA by Louis Harris


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Drawing on his own Harris Surveys as well as polls by Gallup, CBS News, Roper, the New York Times, and others, the dean of pollsters plumbs and comments on the mood of contemporary America. Harris divides his chosen polls into three broad sections--""Home and Family,"" ""Community,"" and ""Nation and World,"" with each in turn split into about 20 sub-surveys. The polls cover both the trivial and the critical. The section on ""Community,"" for example, reports in its ""Sports"" survey that ""men edge out women as tennis fans by a narrow 51% to 49%,"" while that section's ""Birth Control and Abortion"" survey informs that ""by 55% to 37%, a solid majority opposes a constitutional ban on abortion."" Thus with a storm of facts and figures, Harris checks up on a spectrum of American concerns, from stress, weight, shyness, and pets, to genetic engineering, AIDS, the disabled, and health care, to Iranscam, tax reform, the space program, and the political legacy of Ronald Reagan. Harris winds up each survey with a useful ""Observation"" that weighs the preceding statistics, and concludes each broad section with a long, insightful essay pointing up significant trends. The findings rarely startle (one exception is the report on the length of the average work week: 48.8 hours, as opposed to 1973's 40.6; another is that ""almost 90% of all marriages survive""). Harris' trend-spotting, however, holds one big surprise, pleasing to those who, like him, are not enamored of the ""veneer of vanity and materialism that appears to be the hallmark of the 1980s."" Beneath this veneer, he reports, ""a return to conscience appears to be growing across the US, and with it a greater self-respect. . ."" Thorough, and with Harris' interpretations that so well animate the impressive array of statistics, intriguing too.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1987
Publisher: Vintage/Random House