As part of the Hidden Common Ground initiative with the National Issues Forums (NIF) network, Public Agenda, USA TODAY and Ipsos released a new survey on economic opportunity and inequality today showing that Americans strongly favor a broad range of measures, including upgrading infrastructure, creating more job retraining programs, making affordable childcare more widely available, and creating incentives to bring overseas jobs back to the U.S.
These findings reflect a phenomenon often observed in the NIF network when Americans gather in forums on a wide spectrum of issues. Confronted by an urgent problem, people often support a range of possible remedies. Yet, in many cases, it is impossible for policymakers to pursue all of them at once. Public deliberation can help communities and the country as a whole make decisions about priorities.
“Given the chance to weigh different proposals— ranging from more wellness programs to a higher minimum wage to more help with college costs—people in forums repeatedly asked tough, sensible questions about how each of them might work out in real life and how much they would do to solve the most critical problems,” the Kettering Foundation reported in “Citizens at Work,” a report on more than 250 forums in 2016. “People in the forums continually delved into the nuances, weighing different ideas based on their experiences and what they see in their communities.”
In their poll, Public Agenda and Ipsos found, “While most Americans think the economy is rigged to benefit the rich and powerful, most also think it is okay for the rich to get richer as long as everyone has a chance to succeed.”
Other major findings of the poll, conducted in late August, included:
- Partisan identification affects how people feel racial discrimination affects opportunity – 60 percent of Democrats agreed that racial discrimination makes it more difficult for people of color to succeed, but only 28 percent of Republicans and 30 percent of Independents thought so.
- However, most Americans (68 percent) feel strong anti-discrimination policies would help their community economically, and two-thirds believe having a population with diverse backgrounds, skills and ideas would have a positive economic impact.
- A solid majority (76 percent) of Americans believe that strengthening connections with each other would make a difference to their community’s economy.
- Most Americans (72 percent) support raising the minimum wage. The survey found a higher level of support than just six months earlier, before the coronavirus pandemic.
- Creating more affordable housing for low- and middle-income families would improve their community, 69 percent of Americans felt.
The survey is being covered in full by USA TODAY and other Hidden Common Ground partners. It is available at https://www.publicagenda.org/reports/americas-hidden-common-ground-on-economic-opportunity-and-inequality/
NIF and the Economy
A new NIF issue guide, “Back to Work: How Should We Rebuild Our Economy?”, is being released in conjunction with the Public Agenda/USA TODAY report. Downloads are available for free from www.nifi.org.
“Back to Work” focuses on how to rebuild the US economy after the pandemic, taking into account some of the lessons learned during the lockdown. It explores three options: Jumpstart the Economy, Move to a Sustainable Economy, and Put Domestic and Local Needs First.
The latest in a long line of NIF guides on the economy, “Back to Work” follows up from “Making Ends Meet,” the guide used in the forums in 2016.