By Bill Bradberry
Niagara Gazette — You’ve seen them standing at the podium, politicians taking turns claiming to be speaking for the American people, dividing us by political party, race, religion, philosophy, some even by the food we eat.
But, turns out, we’re not as divided as they think according to a new Esquire-NBC News survey; in fact, despite our obvious differences we’re more alike in the middle than ever before, so they say.
Yeah, I know another survey; this one by Esquire! Aren’t these the folk who used to publish those sometimes risqué “Gentlemen’s magazines” that curious Boy Scouts like me used to squirrel away in our knapsacks during our annual fund raising paper drives back in the day?
Apparently they are one and the same, still offering flattering glimpses of the feminine mystique while also honoring their time tested tradition of exploring other less pictorially attractive, though graphically persuasive serious food for thought likewise available in a wide array of media at esquire.com where you can interact with the very survey that they used to arrive at some very interesting conclusions about whom we are and how we think we think.
Not surprising…with the prolific growth of all sorts of new mass media sprouting up all over the place from your smart phone, to your smart television and tablets, much of it tailored to match your very own specific political persuasion or “agenda”, it’s almost impossible to avoid being bombarded with messages that attempt to squeeze us into convenient little Pigeon-holes whether we like it or not.
The survey challenges the conventional Washington wisdom that we are hopelessly divided, torn apart by irreversible political conflict causing a near total collapse as evidenced by the almost civil war like governmental shutdown-showdown and what some claim could result in an otherwise, totally avoidable global economic meltdown.
Contradicting the conclusion of the 1968 Kerner Commission Report on Civil Disorders which warned in part that, “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white, separate and unequal”, Esquire seems to suggest that we’ve overcome that hurdle.
Generally refuted by some who rejected the premise that racism was the chief cause of the riots forty-five years ago, most agreed with the conclusion; that we were moving toward two societies with class, not race as the primary cause for the growing separation.
The Esquire Report seems to suggest that the gap has been steadily shrinking since the Kerner Commission’s dire forecast as our more racially diverse, but more culturally homogenous middle, 51 percent find comfort in common ground, closer to each other in the vast center, not defined by the extreme positions taken by the few who prefer to reside on the fringes.
According to Robert Blizzard, a partner at Public Opinion Strategies, the lead pollster for Mitt Romney in 2012, whose firm co-created the survey with the Benenson Strategy Group, pollsters for President Obama, “Just because Washington is polarized doesn’t mean America is.”
The survey (The Benenson Strategy Group and Public Opinion Strategies conducted a nationwide survey from August 5-11, 2013, with 2,410 registered voters) breaks the country down into eight distinct segments: “two on the far right “The Righteous Right” and “The Talk Radio Heads”, two on the far left “The Bleeding Hearts” and “The Gospel Left”, and four in the middle that represent nothing less than a new American center “Minivan Moderates,” “The MBA Middle,” “The Pick-up Populists, and “The Whatever Man.”
It characterizes the people in the center as “patriotic and proud” highlighting these little gems:
• 66 percent brag that America is “still the greatest country in the world.”
• 54 percent see America as a model that other countries should want to be like.
• 81 percent agree that we cannot continue to spend money on foreign aid.
• 49 percent believe that the political system is broken.
• 50 percent believe the economy is bad.
• 41 percent believe the economy won’t get much better any time soon.
• 70 percent fear another 9/11 or Boston-style bombing is likely.
• 62 percent fear their children’s lives will be more difficult than their own.
• 70 percent believe the rich keep getting richer at the expense of everyone else.
The survey also discovered that America supports gender neutral marriage, 64 percent, paid maternity leave, 70 percent, tax subsidized childcare to help women return to work, 57 percent, abortion rights for any reason within the first trimester, 63 percent, equal pay for equal work among women, 62 percent, a federal minimum wage hike to no less than $10 per hour, 67 percent, and the legalization of marijuana, 52 percent.
Meanwhile, the center tends to be more conservative on some other issues such as on the environment, capital punishment, and diversity programs. NBC News Senior Staff writer, Tony Dokoupil reports, “Majorities support offshore drilling (81 percent) and the death penalty (90 percent), and the end of affirmative action in hiring and education (57 percent). Most people in the center believe respect for minority rights has gone overboard, in general, harming the majority in the process (63 percent). And just one in four support immigration reforms that would provide a path to citizenship for those who came here illegally.”
While Dokoupil notes that the center is mostly white (78 percent), “so is most of the American voting public (72 percent) — and the center is changing. Already it contains a fifth of African-American voters, one in two Latino voters, and half the women in America. The center is roomy, or in other words, welcoming.”
The bottom line, says Dokoupil, “The center is real, passionate and persuadable. It leans Democratic but a majority of those in the center agree with a mix of Republican and Democratic ideas, and about the same percentage self-describe as neither liberal nor conservative making the political days ahead look like a, “nimble political platform” more likely to swing either way, based more on class than anything else.
Read the full report and take the interactive test to discover your own place on the spectrum at esquire.com/blogs/politics/new-american-center.
Voters and politicians at EVERY level should take heed; it’s a new day!
Contact Bill Bradberry at firstname.lastname@example.orgContact Bill at email@example.com