IN THIS AGE of raw partisanship and polarized social discourse, is there anything on which Americans see eye to eye?
Yes, as a matter of fact. According to a new report from More in Common, a nonprofit organization dedicated to understanding and countering the forces driving Americans apart, 94 percent of adults believe that the United States is "very divided politically" and 92 percent say that they are "worried for the future of America." Those are depressing numbers, but also, in a sense, hopeful ones: Whatever else may pit us against each other, we are united in concern about where the country is headed. That "strong consensus sweeps across gender, racial, regional, generational, partisan, and educational groups," write researchers Stephen Hawkins and Taran Raghuram. By itself, such near-unanimous agreement doesn't change anything. But it suggests that there is at least an inchoate national yearning to lessen our divisions.
More in Common's new study is titled "American Fabric: Identity and Belonging." It builds on data gathered in three national surveys of more than 8,000 Americans, and extends the findings of its much-discussed 2018 report, "Hidden Tribes." That earlier study sorted contemporary Americans into seven groups, each representing a distinct political/ideological orientation. From left to right, those groups were Progressive Activists (who account for 8 percent of the population), Traditional Liberals (11 percent), Passive Liberals (15 percent), Politically Disengaged (26 percent), Moderates (15 percent), Traditional Conservatives (19 percent), and Devoted Conservatives (6 percent).
As the 2018 survey documented, the small but intransigent "tribes" at the far ends of the bell curve — the left-wing Progressive Activists and the right-wing Traditional and Devoted Conservatives — tend to be the most hardline. Those are also the groups that dominate party politics and make so much noise on social media. They are the least flexible ideologically, and the most likely to say that "people I agree with politically need to stick to their beliefs and fight." The other groups — which More in Common dubs the "Exhausted Majority" — are more likely to believe that "people I agree with politically need to be willing to listen to others and compromise."
In its new report, More in Common explores how people in the United States feel about their country and their place in it. It sorts its findings both by "tribe" and by traditional demographic markers — race, gender, age, etc. What emerges is a nation with plenty of disagreement when it comes to issues of race, history, and America's role in the world, yet remarkably united in love of country. . . .