Boomer, Meet Millennial: Examining the News Through a Multigenerational Lens ⋆ Dc Gazette

Boomer, Meet Millennial: Examining the News Through a Multigenerational Lens

It’s no secret that different generations view current events with different perspectives. Sometimes these differences lead to strife, but pollster John Zogby and his son, Jeremy, have chosen to take advantage of their generational perspective gap. 

With their podcast, “The Zogby Report,” they discuss the news through the lens of a baby boomer and a millennial. In today’s episode of The Daily Signal Podcast, the Zogbys share why they decided to start the show and some of today’s most pressing topics, including America’s growing fascination with socialism. Listen to the podcast or read the lightly edited transcript below. 

Robert Bluey: We are joined on The Daily Signal Podcast today by John Zogby and Jeremy Zogby. John is the founder and senior partner at John Zogby Strategies and Jeremy is a partner there as well. Gentlemen, welcome to the show.

John Zogby: Great to be with you, a fellow Upstate New Yorker.

Bluey: That’s right and I do want to get to that in just a few moments.

You are the co-hosts of a new podcast, “The Zogby Report.” I have enjoyed listening to it and I want to delve in a little bit later to understand why you started it and share with our listeners.

But first, I think it’s really important for us, given the work that you do, to start our conversation today [by talking] about the dramatically changing world in which we live.

We have a president who took an unorthodox path to the White House and has upended the way business is done. The economy is strong, maybe despite some of these fluctuations in the stock market. And yet half of America says we’re headed down the wrong track.

Given your vast experience in polling, what do you make of this moment we’re in?

John Zogby: Well, it’s tech-driven and you know what we have is not only constantly changing technologies that are changing the way we think, react, behave, but they’re more and more being introduced by, for, and among younger people. People particularly under 35-40 years of age.

The younger you get, the more tech savvy, and they think differently. They behave differently and they have to do so in real time, and at the same time—I’m obviously not part of that age cohort—have to carry most of us into that same world.

It’s disruptive. The most dangerous words in our language, we’re going to continue to do things the way we’ve always done them.

So we’re in the midst of this huge global change and we’re all in it together and I would only end and pass the torch to Jeremy by saying that renders a lot of our institutions that are locked into some of the old ways of doing things as, if not obsolete, then in dire need of disruption.

Jer, you want to pick that up?

Jeremy Zogby: Yeah, I mean, you look at 2020—and by the way, the overview of the technological aspect of it all is spot on. But here we are in 2020 and I’m looking, we’re closely tracking this, and America in so many regards—maybe the world too, not just America, but we’ll stick to the United States—is at a crossroads.

We’re at a crossroads and in the sense of, can we go more of the route of nationalists? You see this playing out—look at Brexit. Or do we remain in a system that’s more of international order or cooperation with international order? So we’re at that crossroads.

We’re at another crossroads in terms of age where we’re still ruled by baby boomers, but probably not for much longer.

So who’s going to pick up the torch? Is it going to be millennials, is it going to be Gen X? When is that going to happen? What are the changes that are going to come from that? And then we could go on with other ways that we’re at a crossroads.

And another one I would say, the most obvious is, do we maintain as to what level a capitalist economy or do we go down the road of democratic socialist? So it is unbelievably fascinating.

Bluey: Jeremy, I’m glad you brought that up because in listening to the podcast and seeing some of the things that you’ve written, I know that socialism has come up and certainly in polls we’ve seen, particularly, I think, among young people, more of a desire to move in that direction. What do you make of American support for socialism?

Jeremy Zogby: … My dad can attest to this more so because he’s been a historian for much longer than I have. But starting in the late 1800s when German immigrants were coming over, that’s when the seed started to get planted in this country.

Then after the turn of the century, we had a bonafide Socialist Party. Eugene Debs actually got a million votes while he was in prison. And then socialism kind of weaved itself into the progressive movement.

So we’ve always had that, I shouldn’t say always, we’ve long had that backdrop.

I think with millennials who more and more were traveling abroad and probably a popular destination among them was going to Western Europe, they started to say, “Hey, look at Denmark, look at Sweden. Look at the aspects that they have. Look at large swaths of Western Europe that have it. Maybe we should have it too.”

So I think to them, too many of them, I should say, it’s a logical extension.

Bluey: When I think of socialism, it’s countries like Venezuela, Cuba, the Soviet Union, which, of course, is the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Those are the things that come to mind.

You mentioned some of those Scandinavian countries. It’s interesting, The Heritage Foundation publishes annually an Index of Economic Freedom and some of those countries actually enjoy more economic freedom than the United States.

So, you know, quite different perspective from a Cuba vs. a Denmark, let’s say.

But John, just to get you in here, just supporters of socialism or democratic socialism make a different connection with it, and what are they viewing when we hear the term socialism?

John Zogby: We’re attracting, basically, people who are under 30. Just remember that people under 30, for that matter, people under 40 have no recollection of the wall coming down or the fall of the Soviet Union. Those are in the realm of ancient history, really, to them. So very less likely to associate socialism with something that was historic.

On a positive side, I think what they’re doing is they’re saying, “Capitalism we get, we get entrepreneurship, we get opportunity.” But these are now young people who had lived, at least much of their adult lives, after the Great Recession.

When student debt was compiling, when we began to talk in earnest about a gig economy, meaning something less than permanent, each job they moved into, of not meeting expectations for high goals, and then income inequality, very important.

That steady growth of income inequality, even if it’s just the perception of income inequality, that’s what drives young people to say, “Hey, look, what we have isn’t working. Let’s try something different.”

And then I think you add to that that hard to use … word “charisma” and “Bernie Sanders” in the same sentence.

But Bernie has a very direct message, a message that is unchanged and very authentic in many ways, whether you like him or not. What you see is what you get. And I think that’s kind of the perfect storm for why socialism is back in the debate here.

Bluey: As you both noted, we find ourselves in a situation where we are deeply polarized—to the point that some families have stopped talking about politics or maybe … have stopped talking all together.

Is this a temporary phase that you see us going through or is this maybe how we’re going to live the rest of our lives?

John Zogby: Well, let me take a crack at that and then I want to hear what Jeremy has to say. I do believe it’s temporary.

This is a rough period that we’re going through. It’s a period of creative destruction for reasons that we talked about earlier, but the replacement takes a little time and we live in a world that doesn’t understand taking a little time. We live in a world where if there is a crisis at 9 o’clock in the morning on CNN, if it’s not resolved by lunchtime, it’s a global crisis and unresolvable.

So, yeah, I think the lag between the disruption or even falling apart of traditional institutions and finding replacements is probably a very short-term thing except that we’re also very impatient.

Jeremy Zogby: I guess I would add to that dynamic that … it’s been so contentious, right? Especially since 2016. And certain forms of media have exacerbated the problem by pushing an ideological agenda.

So I think that you can only go so far before the people just tune out because we had that ability just to take that remote control and hit the power button and tune into something else.

What I see happening is—look at the medium of podcasts that’s exploding. I mean, your everyday person is doing a podcast, is doing a YouTube channel, and they’re huge and there’s just so much.

The thing that’s amazing about podcasts is there’s so much depth and space to explore with it, as opposed to a radio program and television where you have only a limited amount of time and, at this point, there’s still regulations. … In the podcast world … it’s a Wild West aspect.

What I’m getting at is that if this boils over and continues to have all of this tension and all of this loud barking, I just see more and more people in droves going to another medium where they can explore new ideas, and they’re actually doing it right now.

Bluey: I’ve listened to your weekly podcast, which debuted in January, and I have enjoyed it for that reason. I think you both do an excellent job of analyzing the current political trends and provide more substance than you get from other sources, as you indicated, Jeremy.

So tell us more about the podcast and why you started “The Zogby Report” and why our audience should listen.

Jeremy Zogby: I’ll go first and then, dad, obviously, your take on it too. We had talked about it when we formed Zogby Strategies. And by the way, my brother Ben, our middle brother, is a partner from the get-go.

We were getting calls from people, and some pretty interesting people. They were saying, “You guys got to do a podcast,” and we just didn’t know how to do it. Then, it wasn’t a New Year’s resolution, but it kind of turned out to be one because we started seriously talking about it after the new year.

It really just came down to, “All right, let’s stop talking about doing it and let’s finally do it.”

So Ryan Miller, our producer and your former schoolmate, we reached out to him because we knew he had all the capabilities. He said, “Come on down.” And we did. We did one test run. We all looked at each other and we said, “We’ve got to get that out.”

So the backdrop to it though was, obviously, I’m the millennial, my dad’s the boomer, two different generations, two different worldviews, but we’re tired of all the animosity. We’re tired of the ideological animosity. And now there’s an ageism thing, “OK, boomer.”

So we wanted to to show people, look, we don’t agree on things, we have different views, but at the end of the day, we work together and we respect each other and this is how you do it. This is how you talk about controversial things, contentious things. But at the end of the day, there’s still love and respect and we hope that radiates and that’s why people should listen to it.

John Zogby: I totally agree and I would only add to that that here’s an opportunity for us to do what we do best and to showcase it.

We do analysis, but ours is based on data, a lot of it data that we generate ourselves or watch other data and … make that data digestible. At the same time, as Jeremy points out, you can make it digestible without yelling about it, which is, I think, very important. Way, way, way too much noise that’s out there.

We like the reviews that we’re getting from people because what it is, basically, is a discourse between father and son that, honestly, is totally unscripted and unrehearsed.

We have normally been in different cities and when we’re home we’re in different places and just before the podcast begins, I may say to Jeremy, “What are we talking about today?” And we just start talking about it and that’s it. And I like the spontaneity of it as well.

Bluey: You both have a deep knowledge of polling and have been quite successful at it. John, in your case, for 35 years. What is your advice to Americans? What are you trying to convey to them through the podcast as they read and hear about polling? What do they need to know?

John Zogby: They need to know that polling is really deep, that it’s so much more than who’s ahead today or a prediction who’s going to win in November. In fact, those are the least intriguing aspects of polling.

Polling reveals to us not only fleeting opinions and attitudes, I think more importantly, what are the values that Americans have. What do they associate with candidates? What do they associate with policies? What pushes their buttons? What makes them vote the way they do or behave the way they do?

I think that that is so much more revealing and something that is unique for us to provide than, say, the usual talking heads on television who will just say, “Oh, I don’t think the American people will ever put up with it,” without understanding that they ought to just ask the American people and let them find out.

Let them [tell] you whether they’ll put up with it rather than sitting at the Mayflower, having breakfast with a few of your colleagues, and just speculating on what the American people think without actually polling real people.

Bluey: I couldn’t miss an opportunity to ask you about our mutual connection, which is Utica, New York. I was born there and raised there. You decided to run your business from this special place in Upstate New York. Tell our listeners why and what it is that you most love about Utica.

John Zogby: OK. I’m going to do the “OK, boomer” part first and then Jeremy can pick up from there.

First of all, the ethnic tradition is wonderful. You know, that means, mainly, Europe; north, south, east, and west of Europe; but also a strong tradition from the Middle East as well.

We all have restaurants and institutions. But then of late, say in the last 30 years or so, a strong welcoming tradition and some good institutions have brought in about 20,000-22,000 refugees and their children who are mainly born here. So this beautiful city now is colored by the presence of Bosnians and Ukrainians, Libyans, Iraqis, Bhutanese, Karen from Burma, refugees really from everywhere.

All of the [refugees] now are employed, are in the public school district that speaks 46 languages, and have their own unique stores and restaurants. They’ve saved a city, basically, and provided a wonderful opportunity for the native-born to see a rebirth in a city that had undergone some difficult times.

Jeremy Zogby: I would add to that—and I can’t claim the original coining of this phrase, this comes from my dad—I used to ask my dad, “Hey, our cousins are in D.C. Why didn’t we move to New York City? Why didn’t we move there? Why didn’t I grow up in D.C.?”

I learned later on that, not only did my dad love his community and wanted to stay there and be close to family, but my dad used it to his advantage in terms of his perspective.

He said, “This is real America.” D.C. is a wonderful place [and] San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, New York are classic cities, but you get a real perspective of what real America is like when you live in a small town or a small city. And here’s a small city of 60,000 people with almost every nation … living here.”

That’s what I love about it.

I would add one other thing [about] the old neighborhood. I grew up at the tail end of the Old World and a lot of places have just transitioned fully … going into the 21st century. Come to Utica, and you still have the remnants of the old neighborhood, of families occupying a two-family household with grandparents upstairs, kids downstairs, and then aunts and uncles next door, and I love that.

Bluey: And politically it truly is one of those rare battleground districts. President [Donald] Trump won in 2016, a Democratic member of Congress took the congressional seat in 2018, there aren’t many places like that left in America today.

So a big shout out to Utica, New York, and my hometown and school, New York Mills, where Ryan Miller, as you mentioned earlier, is from. It’s truly great to visit every year.

Having lived half my life there and half my life in D.C., I truly do miss it. I enjoy coming back for the Boilermaker every summer and running it with my father and really appreciate you making sure that you represent Utica so well.

John Zogby: Thanks for this opportunity. And your listeners ought to know that New York Mills is famous [because] every fourth house has a famous golf pro that comes from there. There are actual PGA [winners] over the years who had been from New York Mills. So that little tiny community of, what, a couple of thousand people? There are some mean golfers there.

Bluey: It is truly special. John and Jeremy, I want to thank you for taking the time to speak to The Daily Signal. I wish you the best with “The Zogby Report” [and I] encourage our audience to check it out on Apple Podcasts or wherever you may listen to your podcast. Thanks so much.

John Zogby: Hey, thank you. Good to talk to you, Rob.

Jeremy Zogby: Thank you.

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