Large Majorities of Americans Agree on Issues Such as Legal Abortion, Gay Equality, Drug Legalization, and More. Why Can't Our Political Discourse Acknowledge That?


The "bulk of the American citizenry," [Stanford Political Scientist Morris P.] Fiorina cheekily suggests, "is somewhat in the position of the unfortunate citizens of some third-world countries who try to stay out of the crossfire while Maoist guerillas and right-wing death squads shoot at each other." That's a pretty good description of channel surfing between Rachel Maddow and Sean Hannity or flipping between a White House presser and a John Boehner speech, isn't it?

That's from a piece I wrote for on Friday. It looks at how Americans agree on a wide variety of social and political issues. For instance, large majorities believe that pot should be legal, that gay and lesbian relationships are moral, that pot should be legal, foreign intervention, and that government is too big and too powerful. Yet our political and media discourse generally refuses to acknowledge that basic fact.

I use Fiorina's invaluable work to explain that disjuncture. Check out the whole column for poll data and the explanation.

NEXT: Why Anchorman 2 is The Most Important Movie of the Year!

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Sometmes man you jsut have to roll with it.

  2. “Why can’t our political discourse acknowledge that?” Kind of a naive question which I am sure you already know the answer to. I can’t believe any thinking person still clings to the notion that this is a workable system that was ever intended to reflect the desires of the populace.

  3. The political class has a very different agenda than the bulk of the American citizenry. It is important to them that we stay as divided as possible.

  4. In case y’all were wondering…

    There are six reasons why the public sector beats the private sector.

    See if you free-market nut jobs can refute even one point!

    1. Only the hype of the free-market media keeps much of America believing that “winner-take-all” is preferable to working together as a community.

      I was not prepared for this level of stupidity this early.

      1. guess I keep missing it, but where in the market manifesto is the part about “winner take all?” That must be the part that explains Coke and Pepsi, Wal-Mart and Macy’s, Toyota and Ford, etc etc.

        1. Contradictions a few paragraphs apart are fun.

          They want our cities. A privatization expert told the Detroit Free Press that the real money is in urban assets with a “revenue stream.” So Detroit’s most valuable resource, its Water & Sewerage Department (DWSD), is the collateral for a loan of $350 million to pay off the banks handling the litigation. Bloomberg estimates a cost of almost half a billion dollars, in a city where homeowners can barely afford the water services.

          It seems like this statement should be enough to establish that Detroit Water and Sewer is a public entity. I’d suggest it’s infrastructure is “crumbling”

          Nor do privatizers have incentive to maintain infrastructure David Cay Johnston describes the deteriorating state of America’s structural foundation, with grids and pipelines neglected by monopolistic industries that cut costs rather than provide maintenance.

          A public agency like DWSD has an incentive to maintain the infrastructure!

      2. Isn’t it actually government that is winner-take-all?

        And I hate the assumption that only government constitutes “working as a community.” Maybe they’re such antisocial freaks that they can’t fathom working with their communities voluntarily to solve common problems, but it’s just not that hard of an idea to me.

        1. THIS^

          By definition government is a monopoly which results in winner take all. The fact that these morons actually believe that “the people” will be the winners in such a monopoly is tiresome. Is there one example where a government monopoly actually results in a “win” for the people? Never. The winners always end up being politicians and associated cronyists, and their win comes at the expense of the people they theoretically serve.

        2. But you can’t vote for Walmart to change its rules! How can you have a community if no one can vote to influence policy? Remember, if we didn’t have the government, there’d be anarchy!

        3. Exactly. Win by one vote, tell the other half of the country how they are going to live.

    2. I said it last night but too late for anyone to read.

      Socialism is to political science what the perpetual motion machine is to physics. They both are based on wishful thinking and require misunderstanding or disregard for fundamental principles. In reality neither ever works, yet they still keep coming around after people forget just how bad they are.

      Two kinds of people believe in perpetual motion machines: the ignorant because they want to and the cynical con artist because he wants to sell to the ignorant. The same is true of socialism.

      The more I think about the analogy the truer it is.

      1. I’m stealing that analogy. Just so you know.

        1. I am hoping a lot of people do. I dont need hat tips, I need to see commie ass kicked.

      2. I too am stealing your comment and posting it on my facebook page.

  5. You asshole, Butt Nekkid. I ws dumb enough to read that. What a heaping helping of steamy hot stupid.

    The lack of private incentive for human betterment is evident throughout the world. The World Hunger Education Service states that “Harmful economic systems are the principal cause of poverty and hunger.”

    The person who wrote that is, indeed, a cunning linguist.

    1. I only read about it because Molyneux has a nearly epic off-the cuff take down of said article.

      You should watch it rather than the mind-numbing shit you usually watch on weekend mornings.

      1. P. Brooks’ morning MSNBC self-harming is important for knowing what they’re up to.

        1. A good libertarian outsources harmful and long-term damaging work to orphans, and if it’s really dangerous and your supply of orphans are employed elsewhere then waifs or urchins are also acceptable.

        2. self-harming is important

          Isn’t that why we come here?

          1. Indeed, need to keep the blood pressure up.

        3. SE Cupp is the only reason to ever suffer through communist drivel on MSNBC.

  6. Because the poll numbers Gillespie cites are superficial and largely meaningless?

    Take abortion for example, Gillespie says “Few issues are as hotly contested and few issues have generated such consistent support, with 78 percent of us thinking abortion should be legal under either all or some circumstances, and just 20 percent thinking it should be illegal in all circumstances.”

    Except the jurisprudence surrounding abortion has pretty much made it legal at all times and only a small percentage agree with that. A large majority believe that there should be restrictions on abortion that are not allowed under Roe and subsequent jurisprudence. It would be just as valid to say that over 70% of the population thinks that abortion should be restricted in some way. Gillespie grouping the numbers in such a way that suggests an overwhelming majority approve of the current abortion regime is simply dishonest. To the extant that there is agreement, it is in a middle position that is likely logically incoherent.

    1. “Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs poll, conducted May 2-7, find 58 percent of Americans want either all or almost all abortions illegal ? with 20% saying it should be illegal in all circumstances and 38% favoring it in only in a few circumstances.

      Just 39 percent of Americans support all or most abortions remaining legal, with only 26% of Americans favoring legalized abortion under any circumstances (the position of Planned Parenthood and President Barack Obama) and 13% favoring legality under most circumstances.”…..abortions/

      The dueling poll numbers indicate more to me that there is nothing that can reasonably characterized as a consensus opinion on this matter except maybe, most would prefer to avoid discussing it openly.

  7. I’d like to suggest some nuance. Majority wants abortion? Does that mean on demand? One day before delivery? That’s only one point. The majority doesn’t want to deal with nuance.

    Also, many of these “majority” positions are found through polls run by major media after spending years promoting their agenda through their media outlets. Isn’t that interesting? Feed people your opinion for long enough and wrapped up in pretty paper for long enough and then poll them and voila – polls say that the “majority” want “x” or “y” which coincidentally is what the media has been promoting all along.

    What is majority today can change on a dime. Is the writer suggesting we just change laws day to day to mirror the “majority” opinion (depending on what poll you read)?

    Also, what about our common law system which is built upon precedent and a Constitution? What if the “majority” is in conflict with the Constitution and precedence? Do we simply warp the “majority” want so that it meets constitutional standards? Or do we simply ignore precedence and live just for today?

    There are many issues here that the “majority” knows nothing about and doesn’t care about and just wants to numb out and have their comfort zone.

  8. polls show nothing more than a snapshot in time. They are rhetorical junk food. Wanna know what people really think about limited govt? Show them the version that takes away their free pony. The ones who say “okay” are the ones who are principled; they will also be a distinct minority.

    1. I’d settle for people voting to take away someone else’s pony.

  9. Wanna know what people really think about limited govt? Show them the version that takes away their free pony. The ones who say “okay” are the ones who are principled; they will also be a distinct minority.

    A “vote” with no consequences doesn’t get us anywhere.

    Saying, “I’d pay a little more for my insurance if it would guarantee poor little ghetto childrunz get health care,” is all well and good, but now the plan is being implemented, the squawking is really only just beginning.

  10. What’s a Molyneaux?

    1. Not Melissa Harris-Perry.

      So you wouldn’t be interested.

  11. Of course, the middle-of-the road voters praised in the article would regard libertarianism as extreme. That doesn’t make them right, but it shows how you can dismiss valid perspectives without discussing them on the merots “free markets? Why do you keep harping on that, you polarizing extremist? Let’s get together and work out consensus policies for regulating the economy!”

    1. I know! we can start a group! make it against the normal political parties!

      Maybe call it “Third Way” or “No Labels”.

      And then use it to peddle warmed over socialism.

      1. Let’s support a moderate like Bloomberg!

  12. Why not the small “r” republican solution? Year in and year out people are forced to chose between the bad to awful candidate from team red and the equally bad to awful candidate from team blue simply because representation in the US is a very scarce commodity and the price has been bid up to the point where one can be sure that one’s member of congress’s first interest is the interests of his or her largest contributors, then the party, then his or her own interests and finally the interests of the constituents.

    In the US each popularly elected representative stands for about 700,000 people. The only country where representation is less scarce is India where each popularly elected representative stands for about 2 million people. The global norm is on the order of 50-100,000 people for each popularly elected representative.

    The answer is not better politicians; throughout history politicians have never become better.

    The answer is more freely elected representatives of those who are being governed.

    1. And term limits.

  13. And also that pot should be legal.

  14. Speaking of Melissa Harris Racetroller and her tearful “heartfelt” apology to the Romneys…

    She routinely presents herself as a snotty, pouty twelve year old. I suspect her tearful “remorse” was actually stunned disbelief that people could be so mean and hurtful as to take her at face value and treat her as such.

    1. You’re so in love with lil’ miss commie-pants you can’t even hide it.

      All this “criticism” of Harris-Perry is a thin veneer failing to conceal your obsession. You need help.

  15. Maybe call it “Third Way” or “No Labels”.

    “Who doesn’t want common sense solutions to America’s most pressing needs?”

  16. A good libertarian outsources harmful and long-term damaging work to orphans

    If you want a job done right….

  17. Meet the Press is on the “legal dope” case.

    Well, not throwing people in jail for smoking marijuana sounds nice in theory, but come on, this is just crazy!

    What’s next, repealing laws against MURDER?

  18. You’re so in love with lil’ miss commie-pants you can’t even hide it.

    Oh, no. BUSTED. Every night, I dream* of a three-way with MHP and Mika Fluffzinski.

    *Not dream. The other one: NIGHTMARE.

    Also, David Gregory is interviewing Janet Napolitano. Lots of questions about “gay and lesbian issues”. Why would he think she has some sort of special insight into that topic? Am I missing xomething?

    1. “David Gregory is interviewing Janet Napolitano. Lots of questions about “gay and lesbian issues”. Why would he think she has some sort of special insight into that topic? Am I missing xomething?”

      I did laugh.

  19. I’m pretty sure that an average group of Americans could work these culture war issues out pretty quickly if it were allowed to be done at the local level, particularly abortion and drug legalization. Unfortunately the nation doesn’t spin on the axis of most people, but rather on the motivated 20%.

  20. Schumer sez, prove you love America Edward Snowden Nathan Hale!

    Come back and let us hang you.

    1. I Schumer doing his “might have to regulate industry x” call for bribes this morning?

  21. The “bulk of the American citizenry,” [Stanford Political Scientist Morris P.] Fiorina

    I stopped reading after that.

  22. “Why can’t our political discourse acknowledge that?”

    Here’s why. When most people answer “yes” to a poll question, they mean “sure, why not, whatever” and forget about the whole issue because they aren’t interested in the matter one way or the other.

    The people who are seriously interested are active in promoting or preventing it and therefore, the ones who provide the discourse.

  23. If someone at GLAAD is upset, they are handed the media microphone to air their views and they make headlines for two weeks, even though 99% of the public disagrees.

  24. … large majorities believe that pot should be legal, that gay and lesbian relationships are moral, that pot should be legal [sic], foreign intervention [sic], and that government is too big and too powerful.

    Hmm, in majorities, where’s the line between medium and large?

    (So, Nick, d’ya think pot should be legal?)

  25. Because no one governs by opinion polls? It’s done by voting, and Reason loves to make a big deal out of never actually voting.

  26. The real answer to most of our problems is that government is too large. But the devil is in the details, and your article falls into the same mind traps.

    Smaller government cannot be achieved if it is big enough to dictate wheat is a “valid” marriage. Both sides of the argument want to use the power of government to say the other side is invalid; removeing that role from government would leave it to the people.

    We acknowledge that the government in part owns our bodies, via the banning drugs or letting the government dictate our healthcare. And there are those who are in love with this concept, as with Healthcare you can use government to ban fatty food or dictate a workout schedule.

    We are at fault for not see the real problem (big government) because we want to control our fellow man.

    1. ‘What is valid’ not ‘wheat is a “valid”‘

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.