There is an emerging American consumer, according to pollster John Zogby, and their changing outlook on the world and their place in it will have lasting implications for cattlemen. 

Speaking at a joint meeting of Texas’ two major cattle organizations, Zogby told cattlemen that consumers are going through a fundamental reorientation of the American character, “which is moving away from our traditional definition as a people of plenty and toward a new American consumer who is living in a world of limited resources.” Zogby, CEO of the polling firm Zogby International, spoke to members of the Texas Cattle Feeders Association at their annual convention in Amarillo and the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association attending their fall board and committee meetings. 

Zogby detailed four major consumer groups that emerged from his extensive research of Americans.  “The first group is the new American spiritualists,” he told cattlemen. “They are 46-48% of us.” These people identify the American dream in spiritual rather than material terms. 

However, Zogby told cattlemen not to define “spiritualist” in religious terms, but rather in how this group defines their lives. “They are defining their spiritual lives more in terms of personal fulfillment,” he said. “Interestingly, material acquisition means less and less to this group.” 

Instead, they are defining success more in terms of self-actualization, such as doing volunteer work after retirement, and redefining their priorities more in terms of fulfilling modest goals for themselves and their lives.

The second group Zogby found are those he calls the new investor class, which are 52-54% of Americans who have some form of stock market investment. “That not only includes those who make six figures and beyond, but it also includes those of modest means and modest salaries.”

These people also have modest goals. “Members of this new investor class say I’m not dreaming of the second house, the exotic vacation, the big boat. Rather, I want to be out of debt, I want to be able to put my kids through school and I want to live my live in retirement as comfortably as I’m living my life now.  That is a whole new set of expectations in American life.”

The third group is what he calls frequent Wal-Mart shoppers. He points out that Wal-Mart has risen above a level of just being a retail store. “Wal-Mart is a religion. It is a set of cultural and traditional values.”  Wal-Mart shoppers, he said, are people who live within modest means and who want to have an enjoyable life. Like the new investors, they are generally conservative in their political leanings and have modest expectations and modest goals.

The fourth group he identified is what he calls the working-for-less Americans. “Twenty-seven percent of American adults today work at a job that pays less than a previous job they had,” he said. “That has tremendous implications for Americans in their outlook, tremendous implications for Americans in how they spend, tremendous implications for how Americans define their lives.”

The common thread in all these groups, he told TCFA and TSCRA members, is a tendency away from the big dream and a tendency toward affordable and simple pleasures.

“These are people who are in the process of redefining their lives. These are people who place a special emphasis on the simple pleasures like dining out once or twice a week. And since 9-11, these are people who place a greater value than at any other time in the past two decades on the family meal.”