Geeks vs. Jocks: How Geeks are Winning the War of Public Opinion

Fifty-seven percent of Americans believe being called a geek is a compliment.

ByABC News
May 25, 2011, 12:10 PM

May 25, 2011 -- It is a rivalry that has stood the test of time, tortured many a high school souls and become an iconic battle in U.S. culture: jocks vs. geeks. Today, on International Geek Pride Day, a new survey reveals that geeks are winning the public opinion war.

Fifty-seven percent of Americans say being called a geek is a compliment and more Americans would prefer to be called a geek rather than a jock, according to a new survey by Modis.

"People have gone from the vision of the movies 'Revenge of the Nerds' and that was what geeks would be associated with being, to Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, considered pretty cool people," said Jack Cullen, president of Modis, a provider of information technology staffing. "I point a lot of it towards the coolness of Apple and what they've done to bring everybody into the forefront of the digital world."

The survey also reveals that Americans closely associate the word "geek" with positive attributes such as intelligence and an expertise in technology.

Despite the good will, however, there is a generational divide. Sixty-six percent of those 18 to 34 consider being identified as a "geek" a compliment, while only 39 percent of those 65 and older agree.

"The association was if you're technically savvy and you're really into technology you're tucked away in a corner somewhere and you're nerdy," Cullen said. "You got the pen protector, the white tape over your glasses and you're a social outcast. Now you're the coolest guy in the room."

The atmosphere for geeks in America is changing overall. The vast majority, 82 percent of people, believe it is more acceptable to be a geek today than it was 15 years ago.

But whatever you do, don't get geeks and nerds confused. The survey showed that people do not see the words synonymously. Self-identified geeks make up 17 percent of Americans and 87 percent of those who self-identified as a geek prefer the term over nerd.

"Being geek signifies intelligence and coolness," Cullen told ABC News. "In the old days it always stood for intelligence, but intelligence wasn't always that important and I think there's also a different level here of intelligence. The expectation isn't that your this Mensa. The expectation is that you understand, embrace and use technology everyday.

Opinion Research Corp. surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults 18 and older May 4 to 8 on behalf of Modis.