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Good InfoOptimist Pollster Finds Americans Are Far More Alike Than Different, With Shared...

Optimist Pollster Finds Americans Are Far More Alike Than Different, With Shared Values Bridging Political Divides

By David Colarusso (cropped) – CC BY-NC 2.0

After listening to the media, you might think America has sunk into a political civil war, with neighbors fighting neighbors—and each side convinced the other will ruin the country.

Political debate has indeed become rancorous, but dig into the thoughts and feelings of everyday Americans and you will discover that things are better than you think.

Dubbed the most optimistic pollster in the country, The Harris Poll’s chief executive Will Johnson says the supposed divides disappear when you consider values, points of view, and experiences beyond politics.

“It turns out that we’re more alike than different,” says Johnson. People on the Left, Right, and Middle “all want to make a difference in the world, value learning and growing, and, most of all, crave love and caring. To put it plainly, our hearts are in sync.”

Of course, political views matter, but they are notoriously changeable and they can neglect to capture the complexity of the attitudes of individuals—and the results often challenge conventional wisdom.

In a Harris poll commissioned by Time, for instance, respondents were asked to select adjectives to describe their own life. They picked “hopeful” and “happy” as the top two. Only in third place was negative feeling, “frustrated”.

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Johnson insists that his Harris Poll data shows that Americans share many more values than they disagree on. Many enjoy having friends who hold different perspectives than theirs, and understand that they want the same things for themselves and their families. (And this is based on respondents who’ve been selected to reflect the U.S. population by gender, age, region, political affiliation, and economic status.)

Americans are more cheerful than headlines would suggest, when asked about their relationships with each other:

• 76% see the good in those they disagree with

• 71% have a friend who doesn’t share their views

• 57% think the “culture wars” are overblown in terms of how important the issues of those debates are to daily life

• 57% think most Americans get along with one another

• 56% believe that opportunities exist for nearly all to attain the American dream.

The rise in the number of Independents with no party affiliation likely reflects the shared values of people who occupy the vast middle of the political spectrum.

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While other pollsters may look for black-and-white conclusions, Johnson always looks for the values beneath the surface.

“The idea that people can be put in a political box, which will then reflect the mood of the country, is outdated,” says Johnson. “Our goal is to find the nuance in U.S. public opinion since so much of our world is gray.”

One final word from Johnson on the truth about a so-called divided America. “The country has problems, for sure,” he says. “But most people remain hopeful and can see the big picture.”

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