Metric Progress

March 18, 1977

Report Outline
Converting to the Metric System
Development of U.S. Measurements
Status of the Move to Metrics
Special Focus

Converting to the Metric System

Slow Pace of Changeover in United States

The metrication of america officially is under way. But progress toward changing from yards and pounds to meters and liters has been slow and sporadic. President Ford signed the Metric Conversion Act on Dec. 23, 1975. That legislation declared conversion to the metric system a national policy and authorized creation of a 17-member U.S. Metric Board to coordinate and plan the changeover. In the 15 months since the Metric Conversion Act was made law, the U.S. Metric Board has yet to be set up. Progress toward conversion from the traditional British system of weights and measures to the metric system has been undertaken primarily by the major American corporations—with minimal help from the federal government. America's official conversion to the metric system has failed to touch the everyday lives of the vast majority of Americans.

According to a Gallup Poll taken in January 1977, three in four Americans know what the metric system is. But only 29 per cent of those who are aware of the metric system favor its adoption in the United States. Thirty-nine per cent oppose U.S. adoption. The poll also shows widespread ignorance of how the metric system works. Of the total sample, only 13 per cent knew how many inches are in a meter. Only one per cent knew the number of liters in a gallon or how many miles equal 100 kilometers.

Until the Metric Conversion Act was made law, the United States stood with Brunei, Burma, Liberia and Yemen as the only countries that had not officially begun to switch to the metric system. The last industrialized nations to undertake the conversion to metrics were Britain in 1965, New Zealand in 1969, Australia in 1970, Canada in 1971 and South Africa in 1974. The first country to adopt the metric system was France, which did so in 1790 during the French Revolution.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Science and Mathematics Education
Weights and Measures