50 Years of American Voices


George H. Gallup

8th annual Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools

“Aside from its historical significance, the year 1976 may well prove to be the turning point in the public's attitudes toward the public schools. Evidence from the present survey indicates a leveling off in the downward trend of recent years in the public's attitudes toward the public schools. The public schools, like other public institutions, reflect the major trends in society. And the year 1976 has witnessed a nationwide shift toward more traditional values in almost every field. Whether we have come to the end of the era of permissiveness is yet to be seen. The fact remains, however, that the public is now demanding stricter rules in dealing with the behavior of the young and higher standards in the public schools.”

What was happening in American education?

Oct. 8, 1976: Congress amends the Education for All Handicapped Children Act to require states to provide services to families of children born with disabilities from the time they are born. Previously, these services were not available until a child was 3 years old.

What else was happening in the United States?

March 31, 1976: The New Jersey Supreme Court rules that Karen Ann Quinlan, who is diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state, can be disconnected from life support. She remains alive but comatose for another nine years.

1976 Apple I Computer

The Apple I computer is at the Smithsonian. (This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.)

April 1976: Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak form the Apple Computer Co.

July 2, 1976: In Gregg v. Georgia, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the death penalty is not cruel or unusual and is a constitutionally acceptable form of punishment.

July 4, 1976: The United States celebrates the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

1976 Loc Bicentennial Dawn Sculpture 02477V

The sculpture Bicentennial Dawn by Louise Nevelson is in the James A. Byrne U.S. Courthouse in Philadelphia. (Photographs in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.)

1976: The Son of Sam attacks terrorize residents of New York City.

July-August 1976: The first outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease kills 29 people at the American Legion convention in Philadelphia.

Nov. 2, 1976: Jimmy Carter is elected president, defeating Gerald Ford.

1976 Jimmy Carter And Walter Mondale At The Democratic National Convention New York City

Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale at the Democratic National Convention in New York City. (U.S. News & World Report collection at the Library of Congress)

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We welcome your conversation about the poll results and the other information we’ve assembled here. What did we forget? What do you remember about this year? How do you think the events of this year influenced the responses to our questions?