And the Winner Is: Results of the American Culture/Metric System Poll

I could write almost endlessly about how to interpret the results of the metric system and our American culture poll but while I’m not a woman of few words, I do like to cut to the chase. To be clear, I knew going in that the results of the poll would be unscientific. However, I did ask questions that could reveal information that might be useful to me moving forward with the project.

I thank all of you who took time to respond and help get the word out on the poll. I greatly appreciate what you had to say.

1) Most of the people who responded to the poll already use the metric system. (66 percent)

Current use

This did not surprise me. Most people in this country have totally lost sight of the metric system so a poll on a subject would most likely interest those who already use it. And, as I’ve observed in the past, this blog has a large international following so that was reflected in the responses. What was heartening to see was that of those who don’t currently use the metric system, a majority thought it would be easy to learn. And right they are—if one is open to learning it. I applaud their adaptability, it’s a quality much needed in today’s world.

This leads the second thing I learned/confirmed with the poll…

2) By a 2 to 1 margin, it was thought resistance to the metric system was more laziness than due to potential problems conversion itself might cause. (26 percent versus 13 percent)

Why don't we use the metric system?

Okay, I’ll admit that the word choice for the most popular suggestion was somewhat loaded. I could have phrased it more gently but I think it somewhat gets to the heart of the matter. (I’m certainly lazy in some ways.)  Plus, if people didn’t like any of the answers I supplied, they were free to write in their own through the “other” category I included with all of the questions. And, in the interest of full disclosure, since it appears readers can’t view the write-ins (first time I’ve used this poll tool), all of them are at the bottom of this post for your inspection.

The answer to the other question in the poll is somewhat more problematic.

3) Almost half who responded to the poll indicated metric adoption would need to be forced, either through federal mandate (24 percent) or removal of U.S. customary units from products sold in this country (23 percent).

What it would take to adopt

Here’s what’s problematic about this: federal mandate is a viable, real-world option but I’m not sure how the second selection could be adopted as a practical matter. Sure, the federal government could require the removal of customary units (but that would be the equivalent of federal mandate) but short of that, removal of non-metric units would have to be voluntary. Some companies would like to go in that direction—but others would likely need to be forced by consumers—to get to the 100 percent mark.  Since the second option excludes government requirement that would take quite a forceful groundswell. Could happen, but unlikely—too much work. Still, I wanted to get a sense of whether people thought that approach could work, and they think it has potential.

Those are the surface findings. You are free to consider the data yourself and comment on it. After you look at the write-ins below (and look at the full responses in my previous post), you’ll have access to all the same information I do.

Speaking of write-ins, I want to highlight one of them that shows what this movement is up against. This is verbatim except for the quotation marks:

why to change it if the old one worked good so far?

I can only hope that was a joke.

Linda

Write-ins

Question on why Americans don’t use the metric system
– American exceptionalism
– Misguided legislative priorities
– It would be really expensive to change it. (Ie. Signs, teaching, books.)
– The advantages aren’t worth upfront cost, in money and inconvenience, to switch
– Fear of change.
– It was promised that we’d be using SI within a decade, but Govt did nothing
– The change is not Something that us required to improve
– non-metric habits
– republicans
– Structure of American Government
– It hasn’t been forced on us
– All of the above
– DON’T LIKE CHANGE
– it works- we have always done it this way.
– There is no “burning platform” to change
– Fear
– US Congress would not agree, because of big business influance and pressure.
– why to change it if the old one worked good so far?
– Arrogance!
– Lack of strong leadership that understands the implications of not changing
– Lack of metric education in the schools, Americans don’t understand it is easy.
– Education was too stuck on teaching conversion factors , not how to use metric.

Question on what it would take for Americans to adopt the metric system
– Complete decimation of the economy at the same time the metric world is growing.
– Repeal all regulations relating to units of measure
– get rid of republicans
– It has to be necassary
– It’s already happening; just look at the selection at Home Depot. No rush!
– nothing I can think ot
– Stop teaching STEM classes in English units
– Economic incentives
– Heavier teaching in grade school
– Convert American football to metric

Question on current use or difficulty to learn
– I already use it (i’m a scientist)
– I’m a physicist. I use it every day. But 14,000′ peaks are better that way.
– I know it well, but it would take a while to feel comfortable.
– I use the metric system at work

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