The country is less than three weeks away from Election Day and chances are, no matter where you get your news, you’ve been told how divided our nation is — that there’s very little interest from the powers that be or the sides they lead in discussing commonalities. As we know, when it comes to a majority of media coverage, conflict captures eyeballs and advertising.
But it appears that, when it comes to our rights, the common ground we occupy is greater than we’re led to believe. And that’s not something you hear often (if ever) during the evening news.
A recent survey conducted by the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, a research center of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, uncovered that seldom-reported national harmony. The poll was part of a Carr Center project on “Reimagining Rights and Responsibilities in the United States.” The nationwide survey of nearly 2,100 adults was conducted this summer by the National Opinion Research Center, an independent research institution at the University of Chicago.
The findings: More than 70 percent of Americans from differing backgrounds say they have more in common with one another than our popular national narrative allows us to believe. Broken down, that’s 74 percent of Democrats, 78 percent of Republicans and 66 percent of Independents.
The vast majority of those surveyed — around 80 percent — said America is defined by its freedoms, and a bipartisan majority indicated those freedoms went beyond what is defined by the Constitution.
“The right to clean air and water, for example, was considered important by 93 percent of those surveyed; protection of personal data, by 93 percent; the right to a quality education, by 92 percent; racial equality, by 92 percent; affordable health care, by 89 percent; and the right to a job, by 85 percent,” said a Politico article written about the study.
“Of 16 rights and values polled, a majority considered every single one either very or somewhat important to being American today,” the article said. “Even issues like immigration (66 percent) and protecting a woman’s right to choose and make decisions affecting her body and personal life (72 percent) — typically viewed as highly divisive — garnered bipartisan support, though with more of a partisan divide.”
Americans are also largely united in our displeasure with our elected officials — 69 percent of those surveyed agreed: “…the government doesn’t represent the America that I love.”
Nearly nine out of 10 respondents said government has a responsibility to protect lives and ensure the rights of all Americans but 54 percent said the government is not doing a good job — that’s according to two-thirds of Democrats and one-third of Republicans.
So how did we get to be the America we think we know today? Media of course (and the camps we choose) play a large role in shaping our views. But cable news networks have no interest in bringing a torn country together. The toothpaste that is the us-versus-them political narrative is out of the tube. The contentious model makes money — but to what end?
The idea of America has always been a dangerous social experiment. More than 300 million people made up of vastly different views have been asked to sign on to a social contract that asks us all to get along — not just for the sake of our families and neighbors, but for the country as a whole. During better times, our shores were a beacon of hope to so many not born here. They brought with them the culture, traditions, religion and values of their homelands — and our country quickly became one of the richest and most powerful in the world because of our differences, not in spite of them.
Based on the shared values expressed in this poll, we know we’re not so different.
And America is only great when it is united. Don’t you agree?