Q&A of the Day – Is there really more that unites us than divides us?
Each day I’ll feature a listener question that’s been submitted by one of these methods.
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Today’s entry: Hi Brian. You said today that you would like to believe the two political sides have more in common than not. Would love to hear from you, on the air, what some of those things are.
Bottom Line: Like just about all thoughts I share, when I made the statement last week that as much as it doesn’t feel like it, there’s still more that unites us than divides us, it was based on research. As much as it seems as though there is very little Democrats and Republicans have in common, get beyond the political characterization of issues and there’s a different story which emerges. While organizations like the Pew Research Center and Gallup have surveyed on related topics of the years, the most comprehensive study of its kind was just released in August. Entitled: The Common Ground of the American People, the five-year study went in-depth on issues with nearly 86,000 people of all backgrounds and political persuasions. The key to the study was that issues weren’t presented to participants through a partisan lens or based on what party or politician might be behind advocacy on them. And what did they find?
- Most Americans agree on 148 issues regardless of political preferences
In other words, more than 50% of all Democrats and Republicans agree on 148 issues. More issues than we could probably list on our own without being prompted. This includes solid agreement on key issues like reforms for Social Security, Medicare, federal spending, taxes, health care, immigration, government assistance programs, environmental issues, campaign financing laws, lobbying, policing, trade, etc. Surprised? It seems like there's very little agreement between partisans on any of these issues, how is it possible most Americans could agree on all of them?
Reading through the results, here’s my perception of what happens. If we’re just asked questions about issues and answer honestly about what we think, we end up in the same place, or pretty close, most of the time. The moment a political party or specific well-known politician is attached to the question, our opinion about the issue is based on our level of trust for the party or politician behind the issue, rather than the issue itself. With partisans having little trust for the opposing party to their views, it overshadows the issues themselves. Additionally, policy and reforms presented are often more rigid than most Americans prefer. This is likely due to an effort from both parties to play specifically to their bases. As this happens, we’re forced to choose lanes on the issues because there’s little room for pragmatism in policy proposals. This further reinforces the political divides along partisan lines.
In this year, with all the stress and negativity, including a political cycle that still hasn’t ended and won’t until January 5th at the earliest – it’s easy to assume we all just kind of hate everyone who sits on the opposite side of our political preferences. It’s also really easy to get caught up in a monkey feces fight in the process if you engage. In reality though, most of us do the same things daily, regardless of politics. We wake up, we go to work, we’re driven to provide well for our families and ourselves...wash and repeat. Given that most of us are doing similar things hoping for similar results, it shouldn’t be surprising there’s extensive evidence of general agreement on most issues. It just doesn’t feel that play or usually play out that way once politics enters the equation. With Thanksgiving around the corner, this is something we can all be mindful of in addition to being thankful for the many great blessings we have as Americans and even more so as South Floridians.
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