After 25 years of surveying American public opinion, pollster John Zogby, of is shaped by an adult population with no memory of World War II, the Cold War, or increasingly, the turbulence of the 1960s.
Zogby says today's 18- to 29-year-old Americans are the backbone of a rising wave of tolerance, global conscientiousness and environmental friendliness.
"I call them America's first global citizens. Fifty-six percent of our young people have passports and have traveled abroad and have a much more planetary view of the world," he says. "I may also add that young people are the most likely to favor balance in terms of American foreign policy in the Middle East and the least likely to want to get to war against Iran and more likely to embrace the cultures of other people."
Zogby argues that such a generation will contribute greatly to improving America's image around the world and changing the course of unilateralism in U.S. foreign policy.
Political, cultural divisiveness waning
Across the board, Zogby found, adults younger than 40 years old are consistently on the more progressive side of controversial issues. They're more likely to be tolerant of stem cell research, more in favor of net neutrality, more concerned with carbon emissions, and more open to multinational negotiations in the Middle East.
In The Way We'll Be, Zogby also addresses the current state of America. He says a new consensus is emerging and predicts that the political and cultural divisiveness of the past few decades will soon fade away.
"The last election, which in many ways was defined by young people, reflected more of a desire for centrism and bipartisanship and a resolution to the nation's problems than it did having Americans broken into two separate cultural buckets. We are also starting to see among young Christian conservatives; young men and women who are conservatives on social issues but do not want to focus on those issues which have divided us like gay marriage and abortion."
Zogby says he has discovered that the political influence of evangelical and born-again Christians has waned.
"The results of my polling tell me that the coalition of angry Christians is in sharp retreat," he reports.
Global citizenship valued
The pollster also sees a fundamental reorientation of the American character away from materialistic consumption and toward a new sense of global citizenship. Americans of the near future will be deeply concerned about places like Darfur, he says - even if they cannot find it on a map. And he adds that new communication technologies will help turn Americans into better citizens.
"Individuals are relying more on not only the Internet, but also new technologies that will deliver news to them and allow them to pick and choose their news and information as well as their capacities to communicate with each other."
Americans confident they can overcome hard times
The bad news in the numbers behind The Way We'll Be is that Americans appear to have lost faith in institutions they once trusted, like the government. But Zogby sees good news, too, in the resilience of the American people, who can adjust when bad times strike. So, he concludes, the future looks bright for America.
"What I saw, essentially, was a pretty upbeat, optimistic view of Americans saying, 'Look, we have to survive even if we are stuck in a worse job than we had before. We still have to make good with what we have.' And so I saw that they'd changed their priorities and changed their definition of the 'dream' and changed how they spend their money."
Zogby says that, as a pollster, he has been looking forward to the opportunity to draw a comprehensive picture of what America would look like, based on a quarter-century of data analysis. That is what prompted him to write The Way We'll Be. He says he hopes to reassure American readers that in spite of being caught up in a serious recession, the national resilience will overcome the bad times and take America and the world into a better future.