Horowitz: Americans Beliefs in Democratic Values are Holding Up

Tuesday, May 01, 2018
Rob Horowitz, GoLocalProv MINDSETTERâ„¢

Rob Horowitz
Americans still believe in the values that undergird our democracy, according to an in-depth national poll, recently released by Pew Research Center.  These bedrock beliefs are holding up, despite many years of what most people perceive of as at least somewhat dysfunctional national government, and the more than a year of daily frontal assaults on our democratic institutions and norms, emanating from President Trump and his enablers in Congress and the media.

“The public places great importance on a broad range of democratic ideals and principles in the United States today,” states the written poll report. “Across 16 democratic values asked about in the survey – including respecting the rights of all, having a balance of power across government branches and having officials face serious consequences for misconduct – large majorities say these are very important for the country.”   For each of these critical values, more than 9-in-10 Americans say that that they are at least somewhat important for the country.

I found it particularly encouraging that 6-out-of-10 Americans say that it is very important that people agree on basic facts, even if they disagree on policies and that this opinion cut across party lines.  People recognize that our current politics and government fall far short of living up to this value. Only 1-in-3 votes say that ‘people agreeing on basic facts, even if they disagree on politics’ describes this country well today. 

As Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s famously said, “you are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.” Without an agreement on basic facts, reaching the common ground required for principled compromise will remain elusive.   

More fundamentally, democratic decision-making relies on the recognition of reality, the use of reason and the search for truth.  When that is no longer at least the standard to which we aspire, an environment is created where autocrats and demagogues can thrive. The undermining of this objective standard of truth is part of what is behind President Trump’s reckless falsehoods and sustained effort to create an alternative reality.  When people become unsure of the difference between what is true and what is false, a politics based on fear and division has a much greater chance to succeed.

In keeping with these results, Pew finds that “fewer than half of Americans (45%) say Donald Trump has a great deal or fair amount of respect for the country’s democratic institutions and traditions, while 54% say he has not too much respect or no respect.”  Not surprisingly, this result is marked by a fairly large partisan divide with a much higher percentage of Democrats than Republicans believing the president has little or no respect for democratic institutions and traditions.

The hopeful takeaway, however, is that there is fertile soil for elected officials, candidates, activists and regular citizens who come forward and speak up for democratic values.  A receptive audience awaits. In a nation that is defined by shared ideals--not any specific nationality, race of religion-- this remains our most crucial task; especially at this crucial time.

Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.

  • Sponsor: GoLocalProv

    Sample: N=403

    Rhode Island General Election Voters Margin of Error: +/- 4.9% at 95% Confidence Level

    Interviewing Period: October 9-11, 2017

    Mode: Landline (61%) and Mobile (39%)

    Telephone Directed by: John Della Volpe, SocialSphere, Inc.

     
  • Are you registered to vote at this address?

    Yes: 100%

     
  • When it comes to voting, do you consider yourself to be affiliated with the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, Moderate, or Unaffiliated with a major party?

    Unaffiliated: 49%

    Democrat: 32%

    Republican: 15%

    Moderate: .4%

     
  • Next year, in November of 2018, there will be a statewide general election for Governor and many other state offices. How likely is it that you will vote in this election?

    Will you definitely be voting, will you probably be voting, are you 50-50...

    Definitely be voting: 78%

    Probably be voting: 13%

    50-50: 9%

     
  • In general, would you say things in Rhode Island are headed in the right direction or are they off on the wrong track?

    Right track: 39%

    Wrong track: 45%

    Mixed: 10%

    Don't know/Refused: .6%

     
  • What would you say is the number one problem facing Rhode Island that you would like the Governor to address?

    Jobs and economy:  21%

    Education: 12%

    Taxes: 12%

    Roads: 12%

    State budget: 9%

    Corruption/Public integrity: .8%

    Healthcare: 3%

    Governor: 3%

    Homelessness: 2%

    Immigration: 2%

    Other: 7%

    Don’t know: .9%

     
  • Over the past three years or so, would you say the economy in Rhode Island has improved, gotten worse, or not changed at all?

    Changed for the better: 35%

    Changed for the worse: 16%

    Not changed at all: 43%

    Don't know/Refused: 5%

     
  • Over the same time, has your family's financial situation improved, gotten worse, or not changed at all?

    Changed for the better: 26%

    Changed for the worse: 19%

    Not changed at all: 54%

    Don't know/Refused: 1%

     
  • Recently, a proposal has been made to permit the issuance of $81 million in bonds by the State to build a new stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox. If there was an election today on this issue, would you vote to approve or reject issuing $81 million in financing supported moral obligation bonds to build the stadium?

    Net: Approve: 28%

    Definitely approve: 15%

    Probably approve: 14%

    Net: Reject: 67%

    Probably reject: 19%

    Definitely reject: 48%

    Don't know: 4%

     
  • Could you please tell me your age?

    18-24: 7%

    25-34: 15%

    35-44: 15%

    45-54: 20%

    55-64: 17%

    65+: 25%

    Don't know/refused: 1%

     
  • What was the last grade you completed in school?

    0-11: 2%

    High school grad: 16%

    Technical/Vocational school: 1%

    Some college: 23%

    College grad: 34%

    Graduate degree: 24%

    Don't know/refused: 1%

     
  • The next question is about the total income of YOUR HOUSEHOLD for the PAST 12 MONTHS. Please include your income PLUS the income of all members living in your household (including cohabiting partners and armed forces members living at home).

    $50,000 or less: 27%

    More $50,000 but less than $75,000: 13%

    More $75,000 but less than $100,000: 13%

    More $100,000 but less than $150,000: 17%

    $150,000 or more: 13%

    Don't know/refused: 17%

     
  • What particular ethnic group or nationality - such as English, French, Italian, Irish, Latino, Jewish, African American, and so forth - do you consider yourself a part of or feel closest to?

    American/None: 21%

    English: 13%

    Italian: 13%

    Irish: 12%

    Black or African American: 6%

    Latino/Hispanic: 6%

    French: 6%

    Portuguese: 3%

    Jewish: 3%

    German: 1%

     
  • Would you say that Donald Trump has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as President?


    Excellent: 13%
    Good: 12%
    Fair: 14%
    Poor: 57%
    Never heard of:  0%
    Cannot rate: 3%

     
  • Would you say that Jack Reed has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a United States Senator?

    Excellent: 22%
    Good: 29%
    Fair: 23%
    Poor: 15%
    Never heard of: 6%
    Cannot rate: 6%

     
  • Would you say that Sheldon Whitehouse has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a United States Senator?

    Excellent: 17%
    Good: 22%
    Fair: 21%
    Poor: 28%
    Never heard of: 6%
    Cannot rate: 7%

     
  • Would you say that David Cicilline has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a Member of Congress?

    Excellent: 9%
    Good: 29%
    Fair: 21%
    Poor: 27%
    Never heard of: 6%
    Cannot rate:  8%

     
  • Would you say that James Langevin has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a Member of Congress?

    Excellent: 7%
    Good: 30%
    Fair: 20%
    Poor: 18%
    Never heard of: 13%
    Cannot rate: 11%

     
  • Would you say that Gina Raimondo has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Governor?

    Excellent: 6%
    Good: 28%
    Fair: 30%
    Poor: 31%
    Never heard of: 1%
    Cannot rate: 3%

     
  • Would you say that Daniel McKee has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Lieutenant Governor?


    Excellent: 3%
    Good: 16%
    Fair: 21%
    Poor: 8%
    Never heard of: 26%
    Cannot rate: 25%

     
  • Would you say that Peter Kilmartin has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Attorney General?


    Excellent: 3%
    Good: 20%
    Fair: 28%
    Poor: 17%
    Never heard of: 13%
    Cannot rate: 19%

     
  • Would you say that Seth Magaziner has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as General Treasurer?

    Excellent: 4%
    Good: 18%
    Fair: 24%
    Poor: 13%
    Never heard of: 21%
    Cannot rate: 21%

     
  • Would you say that Nellie Gorbea has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Secretary of State?

    Excellent: 5%
    Good: 21%
    Fair: 21%
    Poor: 10%
    Never heard of: 20%
    Cannot rate: 23%

     

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