So, it seems, most of us hold these truths to be self-evident: We are a polarized people and becoming more so every day. What could be more solid proof than the popularity of Trump’s extreme views and the unrelenting protests of the Bernie-or-busters?
It sure can feel like the only thing on which Americans can agree is that our deep ideological divisions are gridlocking government, so nothing can get done by either side.
Surprisingly, though, despite all the handwringing about dysfunctional division, there is much that unites us — even on contentious topics. A 2014 study comparing red congressional districts and states to blue ones asked 388 questions on hot-topic issues ranging from abortion to gun control. In two-thirds of cases, researchers found “no statistical differences” in the answers between Republican and Democratic strongholds.
That’s the big picture. Now take a look at five issues where polls uncover wide agreement:
Climate change. Americans’ concern about global warming is at an eight-year high, with a record 65 percent of us now blaming human activity for rising temperatures.
Gun control. Eighty-five percent of Americans — including large majorities of both Republicans and Democrats — favor closing gun-sale loopholes by enforcing background checks for private gun sales and at gun shows.
Our federal tax system. Six in 10 of us believe that upper-income Americans do not pay enough in taxes, while 82 percent are bothered — either “some” or “a lot” — that corporations are not paying their fair tax share.
The influence of big business. More than three-quarters of Americans believe that large corporations and a few rich people wield excessive and unfair power in this country. A whopping 71 percent of Americans across the political spectrum believe that the economy is rigged in favor of a few special interests.
Special interests’ influence in our political institutions. Eighty-four percent of Americans think that money has too much influence in elections. Nearly 8 in 10 favor limits on both raising and spending money in congressional campaigns. Meanwhile, 78 percent of Americans, including 80 percent of Republicans, want to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision that further opened the floodgates to corporate campaign spending, including spending from undisclosed sources.
So how can such common ground exist while we still can’t seem to address any of these deep problems?