“Common Ground of the American People” Report Based on In-Depth Surveys of More than 80,000 Americans
Defying conventional wisdom about a polarized electorate, a report based on in-depth surveys of more than 80,000 Americans shows that majorities from both parties agree on nearly 150 key policy positions across more than a dozen top policy areas. The research suggests that Americans are eager for their elected representatives to cross party lines to start tackling the nation’s toughest problems.
The report, released at an event organized by two nonpartisan organizations, Common Ground Solutions and Voice of the People, is based primarily on more than 30 in-depth surveys conducted by the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland.
In the surveys, respondents were given in-depth information about the policy issues and legislative proposals under consideration in Congress, and evaluated arguments for and against each policy option before coming to their conclusions. The content was reviewed by experts at both ends of the spectrum of opinion on the issues.
“What’s striking is that when citizens think through the issues and hear both sides, they often find common ground–clearly, much more so than Members of Congress,” said Steven Kull, president of Voice of the People and director of the Program for Public Consultation.
The positions on which majorities from both parties agree span a broad swath of America’s most important and contentious issue areas, including police reform, immigration, poverty and jobs, social security, budget and taxes, health care, trade, energy and the environment, nuclear weapons and government reform.
“On issue after issue, Americans agree across party lines and are ready to get things done – all these positions are also supported by majorities from both parties in the reddest and bluest Congressional districts, and by primary voters who are typically more partisan,” said Jillian Youngblood, Executive Director of Common Ground Solutions.
At the nationwide release event, CNN’s Senior Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju discussed the findings with Amy Dacey, Executive Director of American University’s Sine Institute of Policy & Politics, and Kristie De Peña, Vice President for Policy and Director of Immigration at the Niskanen Center.
Financial support for the multi-year study was provided by the Democracy Fund, the Hewlett Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the MacArthur Foundation and the Circle Foundation.
A SELECTION OF COMMON GROUND POSITIONS
- To address the projected Social Security shortfall and head off reductions in benefits, very large bipartisan majorities favor making reductions in benefits (reducing benefits to the top 25% of earners, gradually raising the retirement age to 68) and increasing taxes (raising the payroll tax from 6.2% to at least 6.6%, and raising the cap on income subject to the payroll tax to $215,000 or more). These steps would eliminate two thirds of the shortfall.
- A more modest bipartisan majority would eliminate the cap on income subject to the payroll tax, which, together with the other steps, eliminates the shortfall entirely.
- A large bipartisan majority favors giving immigrants who were illegally brought to the US as children legal status and a path to citizenship.
- A bipartisan majority would go further and provide a visa and path to citizenship to all undocumented workers who have been in the US for an extended period.
- Very large bipartisan majorities favor increasing the number of work visas.
- Bipartisan majorities favor more immigration judges to deal with asylum applications.
- To deter further illegal immigration, there is not majority support for a stronger barrier on the southern border – but a large bipartisan majority favors requiring employers to use the E-Verify system to establish the legal status of all their employees and all new applicants.
- Large bipartisan majorities favor increasing SNAP benefits (aka food stamps), but do not want them to be used for sweetened sodas or candy.
- Bipartisan majorities also favor:
- making pre-kindergarten available to all 4-year-olds in low-income families
- raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour
- expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit
- major federal jobs programs in the event of an economic downturn.
- There is bipartisan opposition to a universal basic income of $1,000 a month, and to providing every child with a bond.
In a survey in which respondents were given the opportunity to make changes to the federal budget:
- bipartisan majorities made few cuts to spending, except some modest cuts to defense spending and sharp cuts to subsidies to agricultural corporations.
- bipartisan majorities favored raising taxes on individuals with incomes over $200,000 by rolling back the cuts they received in the 2017 tax bill and treating their capital gains and dividends as ordinary income, as well as instituting a financial transaction tax.
- large bipartisan majorities favored a 4% surtax on income over $5 million, a 1% surtax on corporate income over $100 million, and a 0.15% fee on the uninsured debt of financial institutions.
Energy and the Environment
- A bipartisan majority favors adopting the goal of reducing US greenhouse gas emissions by 2% a year.
- Larger bipartisan majorities favor providing various tax incentives to promote clean energy and greater efficiency in homes and businesses.
- Bipartisan majorities favor new regulations to require higher fuel efficiency in cars and trucks, and to require electric companies to have a minimum portion of their electricity come from renewable sources.
- Large bipartisan majorities favored current reform proposals requiring body cameras, making it a duty for officers to intervene when another officer is using excessive force and establishing a national registry for police misconduct.
- Bipartisan majorities favor prohibiting chokeholds, requiring police officers to receive training in implicit racial bias, and incentivizing states to hire an independent prosecutor in cases against an officer.
- Four proposals that Democrats favored had support from less than half of Republicans. Still, a large majority of Republicans said they could tolerate these proposals: 1) requiring officers to be trained in de-escalation and to use deadly force only as a last resort, 2) banning no-knock warrants, 3) amending qualified immunity, and 4) putting greater limits on police departments acquiring military equipment.
Very large bipartisan majorities favor:
- a Constitutional amendment to allow governments greater freedom to regulate campaign financing (thus overturning the Citizens United decision),
- numerous requirements for increasing disclosure of campaign financing
- extending the period of time that former government officials must wait before working as a lobbyist
- making it easier for independent and third-party candidates to compete in elections.
Bipartisan majorities favor
- encouraging more small campaign donations by providing matching funds and tax credits
- countering gerrymandering by having Congressional redistricting done by a citizen commission that is representative of the state.
- Very large bipartisan majorities favor extending the New START arms control treaty with Russia and continuing to abide by the moratorium on nuclear testing, while also maintaining at least a minimum nuclear retaliatory capability.
- Bipartisan majorities favor requiring that before any first use of nuclear weapons, the President must first get a declaration of war from Congress.
- Majorities also support, phasing out, rather than replacing land-based missiles, while also developing a low-yield nuclear warhead for submarines.
- Overwhelming bipartisan majorities support continuing to promote international trade through internationally agreed-on rules, with bipartisan majorities specifically favoring continuing U.S. participation in the WTO, having a free trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, and rejoining the TPP.
- To mitigate the negative effects of trade, very large majorities favor including labor and environmental standards in trade agreement to prevent trading partners from undercutting U.S. producers, strengthening the safety net by raising unemployment benefits, and investing greater amounts in training programs that seek to make American workers more competitive in the global market.