Here at ReConsider we like to harp on the idea that behind the mass of negativity and hyperpartisanship that dominates American politics, there are mostly shared values. Nat talks a bit about the disparity in this video.
In Wedged we demonstrated this agreement in case studies. We showed that on even divisive issues such as guns, abortion, and taxes, most people will agree on core values most of the time. We posited that this agreement on values probably extended to other issues.
We eagerly awaited a broader study.
And then we got one!
The American Dream Bipartisan Survey
Our good friends at The Chisel recently teamed up with a number of fancy-pants universities and nonprofits to run a nationwide survey of Americans' core values. They surveyed 34 major issues encompassing the economy, social justice, liberty & regulation, health & education, infrastructure, foreign affairs, and governance. They built the wording with a cross-partisan panel to make sure the questions weren't weighted. This study was funded and supported by the Bridge Alliance, a cross-partisan network of dozens of groups working together to fix US politics (including us).
They found some surprising stuff.
- Of those 34 issues, Americans self-identifying as Left, Right, and Center agreed on the top priority/direction for 18 of them (53%)
- Further, they agree on the top 2 or 3 priorities for 21% of these same issues
I have a copy of their survey as a book, and found the disagreements really interesting as well. It's perhaps not surprising that there are indeed some different priorities deep down. But given how many values are really shared across the political spectrum, this survey solidifies the wedge hypothesis: what we see in political media and national politics simply doesn't reflect what most Americans feel. We let ourselves get caught up in the fighting, but when we take a step back and look at our core values, we frequently have the ability to start at a place of agreement.
What's It Mean for You?
The ReConsider Moment here is this: if you're reading this, you're someone who cares about the direction the US and the world is taking, and you already know that we need to change our patterns of behavior if we're going to fix our problems. And you care about facts.
If your brain is currently operating under the assumption that you share few or no values with someone who identifies differently from you on the political spectrum, your conversations are likely to be dead in the water.
But if you can hold this hidden--but important--reality in your mind when you have these conversations, you're bound to make far more progress. Knowing that we're often coming from the same place can help you forge understanding and agreement where it otherwise seemed elusive.
And that's the work we need to do. One conversation at a time.