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February 13, 1978

Metric Mystique

JAMA. 1978;239(7):644. doi:10.1001/jama.1978.03280340064026

A recent poll by the Gallup organization (released Nov 24, 1977) stated that "the metric system is failing to make its way into the everyday thinking of the average American." This conclusion was founded on a survey demonstrating that though approximately three Americans in four (74%) have heard of the metric system, fewer than one in four (24%) would like to see it adopted. This reluctance probably is not based as much on the metric system's undeniable advantages in science, technology, and international trade as it is on resistance to change, the very human aversion to departing from the comfortable rut, and the misgivings over conversion arithmetic.

Despite increasing (though seldom highly visible) efforts by government agencies and educational institutions, the survey points out that more than 75% of the persons interviewed could not, or would not, even guess how many liters were the equivalent of a gallon, how many