America’s Hidden Common Ground on Creating Good Jobs

March 6, 2020

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America’s Hidden Common Ground on Creating Good Jobs: Results from a Public Agenda/USA TODAY/Ipsos Snapshot Poll

A new Public Agenda/USA TODAY/Ipsos Hidden Common Ground Poll finds that just over half of Americans are worried about being able to maintain their standard of living over the next few years (53%). Split by party affiliation, Democrats are the most worried (60%), followed by Independents (56%) and Republicans (43%). Less than half of respondents would describe national economic conditions in the country today as excellent or good (46%). Nearly three-quarters of Republicans describe the economy this way (72%) compared to 30% of Democrats and 42% of Independents.

Of a list of nine potential actions that federal and state governments could take to create more good quality jobs, there is strong cross-partisan support on creating retraining programs through community colleges and trade schools that give adults the skills to compete for good quality jobs in emerging industries (84% overall). This is closely followed by creating incentives that encourage American businesses to bring good quality jobs that they moved overseas back to the United States and upgrading public infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, to create good jobs and make the economy more productive (82% for both).

Other measures receiving significant cross-partisan support are: Decreasing the cost of colleges and universities, funding research in technology, science and green energy, and providing tax breaks to businesses that create good quality jobs. All of these measures receive significant support from Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike.

Three other measures not only received less support overall, but also reveal significant partisan differences of opinion about how to create good jobs. Raising the minimum wage received 66% support overall but with significant differences by partisan affiliation (Democrats: 80%; Republicans: 48%; Independents: 54%). Similarly, making it easier for workers to unionize received 61% support overall, with 76% from Democrats, 46% from Republicans, and 52% from Independents. Finally, decreasing regulation of businesses that create good quality jobs won 53% support overall, but only 42% from Democrats, while 69% of Republicans and 51% of Independents supported the idea.

In sum, when it comes to measures to increase the number of good jobs in America, there is considerable cross-partisan common ground on investments in training and education, on research in emerging “good jobs industries,” and on providing tax breaks and other incentives to businesses that create good jobs or “onshore” ones that were sent overseas. These are areas where the public is ready to move forward on the project of creating more good jobs in America. There is also significant cross-partisan disagreement on several other measures, including increasing the minimum wage, unionization and deregulation. These are areas where more dialogue will be required to determine if and how they might be employed to create the kind of jobs Americans want to see in their economy.

While there is considerable common ground across partisan affiliations in support of various government actions aimed at creating good quality jobs in the United States, Republicans still show less comfort than Democrats with assigning responsibility to government for solutions: Only a third of Republicans say that the government is responsible for making sure there are enough good quality jobs in the United States (35%), compared to 60% of Democrats and 47% of Independents. Meanwhile, there is majority agreement across partisan affiliations that individual responsibility is important, as eight in ten Republicans and three-quarters of Independents (74%) believe that it is the individual’s responsibility to find and negotiate for a good quality job, along with a smaller majority (about 66%) of Democrats.

How do Americans see their own jobs at present? A third of employed Americans describe their job as having a lot of what they want and need in a job (34%) and another third say their job has some of  what they want and need in a job (33%). They are most satisfied with flexibility such as hours and work-life balance (83%), overall job (80%), pay/salary (70%), and management (68%). Across party lines, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents are all most satisfied with the flexibility of their jobs (86%, 80%, and 90% respectively).

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Public Agenda’s Hidden Common Ground® initiative challenges the narrative that Americans are hopelessly divided and incapable of working together. Through research, journalism, and public engagement, Hidden Common Ground helps Americans identify and strengthen their common ground, productively navigate their differences, and create fair and effective solutions to the challenges of our time.

Hidden Common Ground explores issues including overcoming divisiveness, responses to the coronavirus, health care, economic opportunity, racism and police reform, and immigration.

The Kettering Foundation is a research partner of the Hidden Common Ground initiative. Hidden Common Ground is supported by a diverse group of foundations including Carnegie Corporation of New York, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Charles Koch Institute, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Civic Health Project and through the generosity of individual donors.