A Poll on American Culture and Metric System Adoption

In the year since I conceived this history of the metric system in the United States (June 15th was the first anniversary, by the way) I have been perplexed at the resistance we Americans have had toward its adoption. While I believe I have a better understanding now, you can help my research by answering a couple of questions.

If you could please help spread word of the survey, I would appreciate it since a more robust response is a better response. Thank you!

I’ll let this survey run for a week and I’ll report out along with my other observations once I’ve got the results.

Share this poll please!



15 thoughts on “A Poll on American Culture and Metric System Adoption

  1. I am from Canada. The fact that so many of our construction parts are sourced from the States means that we are not wholly metric. This can be a problem when the beams in one’s house are 24″ apart, and the stuff you are hanging on them are metrically spaced.

    • The same is true in the US. Almost everything bought in the US is from metric China and is designed and manufactured with a metric spacing in mind. Stop sourcing your construction parts in the US. either make them yourself in metric or go elsewhere. The world is not buying American, so why do you have to?

  2. Speaking as a baby-boomer, we were mostly all trained in the metric system in school 50 years ago, but it was never adopted so we all just forgot it. As a scientist, I use the metric system in my work and am very comfortable using metric length, volume, energy, and so forth, but I still have to do the mental arithmetic when discussing the weather in Celsius units.

  3. I remember when I was working at a national laboratory in 1975 that the government mandated that we convert to SI (metric) units. The effort was a miserable failure–in part because (1) there were no incentives to do so, and (2) industry refused to cooperate. Today is a better time for conversion, as a consequence of the emergence of a global economy.

    • #1 The incentive was there but only in connection with large multinational companies wanting to standardise their operations world-wide.

      #2 is not fully true. It was big industry that pushed the government to metricate but small business resisted. Big business did change to the detriment of small business. So instead of big business buying from small business, they import of outsource.

      What you have now in the US is a divided economy where the metric side does not do business from the non-metric side and does not hire locals to do the work for fear of costly errors and rebellion.

  4. Came here from the “International Metrology” group on LinkedIn; I’m curious that the poll seems to take it as read that US adoption of the metric system would be a Good Thing ™. I live in the UK where legally most things (except road signs) are metric, but hardly anybody uses the metric measurements in everyday life. The ‘imperial’ measurements are more physically meaningful, and the fact that they are generally (though admittedly inconsistently) designed in bases other than ten makes taking quarters or thirds of them much simpler with fewer decimal points.

    I use SI units in the office, of course, but wouldn’t dream of using them in real life.

    • Yes, but the UK is economically divided between elite professionals who do use the metric system in their daily lives as opposed to non-elites struggling to survive as metric industries seek workers among the metric proficient or relocate the jobs to metric countries in eastern Europe.

      The “problems” you claim exist when using metric only exist for your type and no one in a metric country or who uses metric daily ever encounters these problems. Care to explain why?

      One of the claims of opponents to metrication is that metric amounts can’t be divided equally into rounded thirds. Upon a closer look at the issue the opposite is actually true.

      Common metric products are often divisible into equal rounded thirds, where USC or imperial are not. Examples:

      A UK pint of 570 mL is divided into equal thirds of 190 mL. A 750 mL bottle of wine into equal thirds of 250 mL each. 1.5 L of wine into 500 mL each, 375 mL also divides equally into thirds of 125 mL each. 330 mL divides equally into thirds of 110 mL each.

      An ounce, pint, quart and gallon can not be divided into 3 equal rounded parts.

      450 mL or 450 g can be divided equally into thirds of 150 mL or 150 g each. A 30 mL or 30 g serving can be divided equally into thirds of 10 mL or g each. A “cup” of 240 mL can be divided into rounded thirds of 80 mL each.

      The one place where a USC/imperial size can be divided into thirds is the length units, but in each case a name change must result. A foot into thirds only works if the result is in inches. In metric though, common rounded sizes are also divisible into rounded thirds without a name change. In building and construction where the 100 mm module is used, 600 mm, 1200 mm, 2400 mm, 4800 mm are all standard sizes and can be divided into rounded thirds.

      A 30 cm Subway sandwich can also be divided into thirds of 100 mm each.

      Can we think of more practical applications where metric sizes are divisible into rounded thirds and where the equivalent USC/imperial can not?

      Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are a perfect example of where metric is used by everybody.

      Click to access Metrication-in-Australia-built-2013-06-24.pdf

  5. Pingback: Why measurement systems (including the metric system) are important | More Than A Mile Behind: America and the Metric System

  6. “American individualism 4.88% (16 votes)

    Americans like to be unique 1.52% (5 votes)”

    What’s the difference between “American individualism” and “Americans like to be unique”? I thought that was practically the same…

  7. You have made some really good points there.
    I looked on the net to find out more about the issue and found
    most individuals will go along with your views on this web site.

  8. We need real legislation, with teeth – a clear, ten year (or less) plan to finally phase out obsolete units and replace them with a real, rational, international system. The fact that ancient Roman empire units (floz, oz, lbs and the like) are still required on US packaging is clear enough evidence that there is, nor will there be any forward movement on metrication in the US anytime soon. I feel for our kids – they are at a clear disadvantage if they want to enter industry, engineering and science as they will have no intuitive knowledge of the SI. That in itself borders on abuse, IMHO.

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