Survey Shows Voters Want Political Civility and Cooperation
Deep political divisions in America are readily apparent. Less obvious, a majority of registered voters think political division is bad for America.
“Pick up the newspaper, watch the news on television or scroll through Twitter or Facebook, and you might reasonably conclude that as a country, we are in quicksand – standing still, incapable of finding common, stable ground and, worse, sinking fast,” says Ron Howard, CEO of D.C.-based Mercury Analytics.
“As the midterm elections demonstrated, it appears that we are hopelessly divided as a nation and seemingly nothing can be done about it,” Howard adds. “But what if you’re wrong? What if we’re all wrong?”
in a blog posted by PR Week, Howard shares findings from a survey his firm conducted during the 2022 midterm elections that quizzed voters about collaboration between political parties and a proposed Unity Pledge commitment to political civility and bipartisanship. The research showed 73 percent of registered voters believe political divisiveness is harmful and cooperation between parties is necessary. More than 85 percent of respondents say they want politicians to act respectfully and work together.
This isn’t the face of voters projected through campaign ads, political speeches or news coverage. Survey respondents (58 percent of Republicans, 61 percent of Democrats) place the blame for political division on congressional members and, to a greater degree (77 percent Republicans and 62 percent Democrats), on partisan news coverage – even more so than social media.
“The truth is, everyone – Democrats, Republicans and independents – wants to work together because they know that only by finding common ground can we build a launch pad to a better future,” Howard wrote. “They just don’t know they all want the same thing. But it is the one thing we agree on, and, as it happens, the thing that if the media focused on, and if acted on by those who represent us, would make the greatest difference of all.“
One of the survey takeaways is that party members blame their own elected representatives for not cooperating with or acting respectfully toward their political opposites. They also think their political opposites rarely or infrequently show respect or agree to cooperate.
The Unity Pledge
Unity pledges have been most common in partisan primary elections in which rival candidates pledge to support the winner. Howard’s survey suggested such a pledge to commit a political candidate to clear communication, collaboration and a willingness to compromise with their counterparts across the aisle. The pledge drew overwhelming support from Democratic, Republican and independent survey respondents.
“We’re not naïve. We know people disagree, and disagree vehemently, about a lot of issues. Years of mistrust won’t be easily forgotten. Behaviors previously unheard of have been normalized. And no matter what happens, not everyone will always be satisfied with every outcome,” Howard writes.
“But if we believe that by working together and finding compromise we can move forward as a nation, most people will be satisfied, and that’s the point,” he adds. “That’s what compromise is. That’s how progress is made. Sometimes incrementally, sometimes in great leaps. But always together.”
The chaotic 15-round election of Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and blustery rhetoric that followed suggests political civility and respectful compromise may not be on the incoming House majority’s agenda.
A more hopeful note was struck by second-term Oregon House Speaker Dan Rayfield, who said: “We alone can’t fix the polarization and trust issues in our country. But we can accept responsibility for our actions within these walls and make Oregon an example of how things can be done.”
86% of Democratic, Republican or independent voters say it is important elected officials act respectfully toward one another and work cooperatively to solve challenges. Yet 62% of voters don’t believe Congress is delivering on this ideal, and 58% of Republicans and 61% of Democrats think the very people elected to represent us are fueling the divide.