America’s Hidden Common Ground on Economic Opportunity and Inequality

September 24, 2020

Economic Opportunity and Inequality: A Public Agenda/USA Today/Ipsos Hidden Common Ground Survey

Americans across the political spectrum support many measures to create good jobs and increase opportunity. These include infrastructure investments, retraining programs, affordable childcare, raising the minimum wage, and incentives for businesses to keep jobs in the U.S.

  • An 80% majority of Americans supports creating more good jobs by upgrading infrastructure, including nearly equal majorities of Republicans (83%), Democrats (82%), and Independents (76%).
  • A strong majority (80%) also supports retraining programs that would give adults the skills to compete for quality jobs, including similar majorities of Republicans (86%), Democrats (82%), and Independents (78%).
  • Three-quarters of Americans (77%) support making affordable, high-quality childcare available to all families, including most Republicans (71%), Democrats (86%), and Independent (75%).
  • Most Americans (72%) support raising the minimum wage, including most Republicans (62%), Democrats (87%) and Independents (69%). In a Hidden Common Ground survey fielded in February 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic struck, 66% of Americans supported raising the minimum wage, including only 48% of Republicans, 80% of Democrats and 54% of Independents.
  • Most Americans (80%) support incentives for businesses to bring overseas jobs back to the U.S., including 88% of Republicans, 82% of Democrats and 70% of Independents.
  • Three-quarters of Americans support funding research in technology, science and green energy, including 71% of Republican, 83% of Democrats and 71% of Independents.
  • Providing tax breaks to businesses that create good quality jobs in communities that need them attracts support from 71% of Americans, including 84% of Republicans, 68% of Democrats and 59% of Independents.
  • There is cross-partisan support for two additional measures to increase economic opportunity and well-being, although that consensus is less robust than for the above:
    • Making it easier to unionize: 62% of Americans overall support making unionization easier, including about three-quarters of Democrats and about half each of Republicans and Independents.
    • Decreasing regulation of businesses that create good jobs: 55% of Americans overall support this, including 71% of Republicans, a 49% plurality of Democrats and a 45% plurality of Independents.

Strong cross-partisan majorities believe that policies to help small businesses would make their communities thrive economically – much more so than help for big businesses would. Cross-partisan majorities also believe that strong social capital, affordable housing, and anti-discrimination policies would help their communities build a strong economy that gives everyone the chance to succeed.

  • Most Americans (78%) say that in their community, policies that help small businesses thrive would make a difference in building a strong economy and giving everyone a chance to succeed. This includes similar majorities of Republicans (83%), Democrats (82%) and Independents (71%). Fewer Americans (44%) say that help for big businesses would make a difference in their community.
  • Most Americans (76%) also believe that residents having strong connections with each other would make a difference in their community’s economy, including comparable majorities of Republicans (78%), Democrats (80%) and Independents (67%).
  • Creating more affordable housing for low-and-middle-income families also would make a difference in their community according to 69% of Americans, including most Democrats (82%) and more modest majorities of Republicans (63%) and Independents (60%).
  • For most Americans (68%), strong anti-discrimination policies would make a difference to their community economically. This includes most Democrats (81%) and modest majorities of Republicans (61%) and Independents (54%). Somewhat more Black Americans (76%) see strong anti-discrimination policies as a way to make their communities thrive economically than white (67%) or Latino (66%) Americans.
  • Two-thirds of Americans (67%) believe that having a population with diverse backgrounds, skills and ideas would have positive economic impacts in their community, including most Republicans (64%) and Democrats (77%) and 58% of Independents. Strong majorities of Black, white and Latino Americans also say this type of diversity would help their communities thrive.
  • Universal basic income is likely a relatively new idea to many Americans. Just over half of Americans (56%) say providing a monthly $1000 payment to each citizen every month, whether they are employed or not, would make a difference in their community economically. Support for a universal basic income is higher among Democrats (72%) than Republicans (46%) or Independents (49%).

Most Americans believe it is okay for wealthy people to get wealthier as long as everyone has opportunities to succeed. But most Americans also believe that the economy is rigged to benefit the rich and powerful – including majorities of Democrats and Independents and a plurality of Republicans.

  • Overall, 59% of Americans somewhat or strongly agree that the economy is rigged to advantage the rich and powerful. While this is a majority sentiment among Democrats (78%) and Independents (60%), among Republicans it is a plurality sentiment with a large number who have no distinct opinion (40% of Republicans agree, 35% disagree and 22% neither agree or disagree). Differences by race in these and other views about economic inequality are less pronounced.
  • A 59% majority of Americans also think that it is okay for wealthy people to get wealthier as long as everyone else also has a good chance to succeed. This is a more widely-held view among Republicans (71%) than Independents (59%) or Democrats (52%).
  • Half of Americans agree somewhat or strongly that if you work hard, you will succeed no matter what. More Republicans (66%) believe this than Democrats (41%) or Independents (47%).
  • Americans are split in their views on how the economy worked before the coronavirus pandemic: 44% say it worked well for most or all Americans while 48% say it worked well for just some or only a few Americans. Most Republicans (71%) say that before the pandemic the economy worked well for all or most Americans, but just 26% of Democrats and 41% of Independents share that assessment.

Democrats are more concerned about racial inequality than Republicans. About a third of Americans support reparations for Black Americans whose ancestors were enslaved, including about half of Democrats and about three-quarters of Black Americans.

  • Americans are divided over whether racial discrimination in their community makes it more difficult for people of color to succeed: 43% of Americans somewhat or strongly agree that racial discrimination makes success more difficult, while 47% somewhat or strongly disagree.
  • Many more Democrats (60%) agree that racial discrimination makes it more difficult for people of color to succeed, compared with Republicans (28%) and Independents (30%). Many more Black Americans (67%) also think racial discrimination is a barrier to success, compared to Latino Americans (56%) and white Americans (35%).
  • Despite those differences of opinion on whether racial discrimination makes it more difficult for people of color to succeed, across lines of partisanship and race most Americans (68%) say strong anti-discrimination policies would make a positive difference to their community economically. This includes majorities of Democrats (81%), Republicans (61%) and Independents (54%), as well as majorities of white Americans (67%), Black Americans (76%), and Latino Americans (66%).
  • While long a topic of discussion among people working toward racial justice, reparations is a relatively new idea for most Americans. Thirty-three percent of Americans say they somewhat or strongly agree that Black Americans whose ancestors were enslaved deserve financial compensation from the federal government. Fifty-seven percent of Americans somewhat or strongly disagree and 10% say they do not know.
  • About half of Democrats (52%) support reparations, compared with only 16% of Republicans and 15% of Independents. Most Black Americans (73%) support reparations, compared with 22% of white Americans and 44% of Latino Americans.

These are the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between August 28-31, 2020 on behalf of Public Agenda and USA Today. For this survey, a sample of 1,114 adults age 18+ from the continental U.S., Alaska, and Hawaii was interviewed online in English. The poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points for all respondents.

The Hidden Common Ground Initiative™ challenges the increasingly dominant narrative of a hopelessly divided America by identifying and elevating the areas where Americans agree on politically polarized issues and by fostering productive dialogue on those areas where we truly disagree.

Hidden Common Ground 2020 is the latest and most exciting iteration of our HCG initiative. Throughout the presidential election season it will involve public opinion research on major issues, innovative journalism and commentary, broad-based public engagement, “Strange Bedfellows” storytelling, and community-based dialogues and events. It is supported by a diverse group of foundations, including the Carnegie Corporation of New Yorkthe John S. and James L. Knight Foundationthe Charles Koch Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, as well as through the generosity of individual donors. In addition, the Kettering Foundation is a research partner of the initiative.

Divisiveness and Collaboration in America is the first research publication of our Hidden Common Ground 2020 partnership.

THE LATEST FROM HIDDEN COMMON GROUND:
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America’s Hidden Common Ground on Race and Police Reform: Results from a Public Agenda/USA Today/Ipsos snapshot survey

Most Americans (58%) say racial bias against Black or African Americans committed by police and law enforcement is a serious problem in their community, including 75% of Democrats and 51% of Independents as well as 40% of Republicans. There is significant common ground across the political spectrum and across racial/ethnic groups on several measures to reduce police use of excessive force against Black Americans, including increasing transparency and data collection, de-escalation and anti-bias training, recruiting more Black officers, and community policing. Americans are split on how to change police departments’ budgets and whether to reduce departments’ responsibilities in the community.

Read the snapshot.

Public Agenda/USA TODAY/Ipsos Hidden Common GroundTM Survey Finds Where Americans Stand on Economic Opportunity and Inequality

Survey Finds Areas of Common Ground on Policies and Investments that Can Help Families and Communities Thrive

New York, NY (September 24, 2020)—As the country looks to recover from the damaging effects of COVID-19, the economy figures prominently in how we rebuild as a nation. A new Public Agenda/USA TODAY/Ipsos Hidden Common Ground report on Economic Opportunity and Inequality asked Americans about how the nation can create widespread opportunity and build an economy that works for everyone.

“Just as the health impacts of the pandemic have hit low-income Americans and people of color the hardest, so has the recession it induced,” said Will Friedman, President of Public Agenda. “Once the pandemic is past, how can we create an economic recovery that opens up opportunity for all Americans? It is not too early to ask that question, and Americans, it turns out, have a lot to say on the subject, much of it in one voice.”

The creation of good jobs is a key factor in increasing opportunity and Americans across the political spectrum support many measures they see as steps to building economic promise for individuals. An 80% majority of Americans support creating more good jobs by upgrading infrastructure, including nearly equal majorities of Republicans (83%), Democrats (82%) and Independents (76%). A strong majority (80%) also support retraining programs that would give adults the skills to compete for quality jobs, including similar majorities of Republicans (86%), Democrats (82%) and Independents (78%). 

On the issue of minimum wage, most Americans (72%) support raising the minimum wage, including most Republicans (62%), Democrats (87%) and Independents (69%). The findings showed an increase in support for raising the minimum wage from our Hidden Common Ground survey fielded in February 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic struck, when 66% of Americans supported raising the minimum wage, including only 48% of Republicans, 80% of Democrats and 54% of Independents. 

Support for small businesses was also seen across party lines in the new Hidden Common Ground report. Majorities of Americans (78%)–including majorities of Republicans (83%), Democrats (82%) and Independents (71%)–believe that policies to help small businesses thrive would make a difference in their communities economically. By contrast, only 44% say that help for big businesses would make a difference in their community. These majorities also carry over when asked about social capital in communities. Seventy-six percent of Americans believe that residents having strong connections with each other would make a difference in their community’s economy, including 78% of Republicans, 80% of Democrats, and 67% of Independents. The survey also found that a majority of Americans (69%) say that creating more affordable housing for low- and middle-income families would have a beneficial economic impact in their communities. 

It’s striking to see how much Republicans, Democrats and Independents agree on when it comes to increasing economic opportunity,” said David Schleifer, Vice President and Director of Research at Public Agenda. “Nearly all the policies for increasing opportunity that we asked about in this survey attracted majority cross-partisan support. The findings show that there is much more agreement than disagreement on how to strengthen our economy.”

One area where Americans disagree concerns whether racial discrimination in their community makes it more difficult for people of color to succeed: 43% of Americans somewhat or strongly agree that racial discrimination makes success more difficult, while 47% somewhat or strongly disagree. Many more Democrats (60%) believe that racial discrimination makes it more difficult for people of color to succeed, while fewer  Republicans (28%) and Independents (30%) think so. More Black Americans (67%) also think racial discrimination is a barrier to success, compared to Latino Americans (56%) and white Americans (35%). Given these differences in perceptions, it is noteworthy that most Americans (68%) also believe strong anti-discrimination policies would have a beneficial economic impact in their communities, including majorities across political affiliations. On the questions of reparations, we found that about a third of Americans think the federal government should financially compensate Black Americans whose ancestors were enslaved. About half of Democrats support reparations, compared with only 16% of Republicans and 15% of Independents.

We also asked Americans about “universal basic income,” and found that just over half (56%) say providing a monthly $1000 payment to each citizen every month, whether they are employed or not, would make a difference in their community economically. Support for a universal basic income is higher among Democrats (72%) than Republicans (46%) or Independents (49%). 

These are the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between August 28-31, 2020 on behalf of Public Agenda and USA Today. For this survey, a sample of 1,114 adults aged 18+ from the continental U.S., Alaska, and Hawaii was interviewed online in English. The poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points for all respondents.

Read the full report: Economic Opportunity and Inequality: A Public Agenda/USA Today/Ipsos Hidden Common Ground Survey

Hidden Common Ground is an initiative spearheaded by Public Agenda and USA Today and whose partners include America Amplified, the National Issues Forums, Ipsos, and Vote.org. It is supported by a diverse group of foundations, including the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Charles Koch Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, as well as by individual donors. The Kettering Foundation serves as a research partner to the initiative. The aim is to explore the possibility that there is more common ground among the public on solutions to today’s issues than is typically acknowledged and leveraged for the common good, and, to the extent this is true, to elevate that common ground in the public discourse during the election year. 

About Public Agenda

Public Agenda is a nonpartisan research and public engagement organization dedicated to a healthy, just, and effective democracy. We support informed citizens, engaged communities, and responsive public institutions. We also elevate diverse voices, build common ground and foster progress on issues of concern to the American public. These include K-12 education, higher education, health care, economic opportunity, and democracy reform. Find Public Agenda online at PublicAgenda.org, and on social media at FB@publicagenda/Twitter@publicagenda/Instagram@publicagenda_.

About USA TODAY

Founded in 1982, USA TODAY reflects the pulse of the nation, serving as host of the American conversation by delivering high-quality, engaging content through unique visual storytelling across all platforms. A media innovator, USA TODAY reaches nearly 100 million unique visitors each month across digital platforms, with more than 125 million downloads of our award-winning app. USA TODAY also remains the nation’s number one newspaper and is owned by Gannett Co., Inc. (NYSE: GCI).

About Ipsos

Ipsos is the world’s third largest market research company, present in 90 markets and employing more than 18,000 people. Our passionately curious research professionals, analysts and scientists have built unique multi-specialist capabilities that provide true understanding and powerful insights into the actions, opinions and motivations of citizens, consumers, patients, customers or employees. We serve more than 5000 clients across the world with 75 business solutions.

Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos has been listed on the Euronext Paris since July 1st, 1999. The company is part of the SBF 120 and the Mid-60 index and is eligible for the Deferred Settlement Service (SRD).

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