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The latest AP-NORC poll shows that there is still some hope for core issues Americans may still agree on. The poll was conducted between March 21-25, 2024 with 1,282 adults participating. Nine out of 10 US adults agreed that core issues of free speech, equal protection under the law, and the right to vote were extremely important or very important to American identity. Eighty-eight percent agreed that the right to privacy was core to American identity and 84 percent agreed on freedom of religion. Peaceful assembly and freedom of the press were over or near 80 percent respectively. The right to keep and bear arms was most split, with 54 percent saying it was extremely or very important while 24 percent called it somewhat important. Variances between Democrats and Republicans were also slight in most of the core issues, except for the right to keep and bear arms.

Michael Albertus, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, said the poll showed that “normal” people had more in common than perceived. “If you get a bunch of normal people at random and put them in a room together and chat about issues, there’s a lot more convergence than you might imagine,” he said. Despite agreement on core issues, most Americans don’t believe America’s democracy is functioning well. The poll also found that Americans want presidential power checked, but mainly when the opposing party is in power. 45 percent of Republicans stated it is a “bad thing” if the next president “takes action on the country’s important policy issues without waiting for Congress or the courts.” However, only 21 percent of Republicans thought it was a bad thing if Trump was the president, while 76 percent thought it was bad when Biden is president. For Democrats, 58 percent stated it was a bad thing for a president to act without Congress, but only 26 percent thought it was bad if Biden acts without Congress while 83 percent said it was bad if Trump did.

Political scientist, Lilliana Mason of John Hopkins University, said that part of the reason Americans feel they are more divided than in reality is due to elected officials. “Part of it is really our leaders are not reflecting the electorate, and they behave in a way that’s much more polarized than what the electorate is,” she said. Congress has essentially come to a stalemate, with stop-gap spending bills having to be passed to keep the government running every few months. About 4 in 10 Americans of both parties stated that Congress has too much power. Six in 10 Democrats believe the Supreme Court has too much power with its 6-3 conservative majority, while nearly half of Republicans believe the White House has too much power. One of the poll participants, Steven Otney, a Republican, said that he opposes unchecked presidential power generally, but that there are some “common sense” measures that need to be acted on immediately. “Some things need to be done immediately, like that border wall being finished,” he said. But that shouldn’t allow a president to do just anything. “If Trump got in there and said ‘I want to bomb Iran,’ no, that’s crazy,” he said. “Within reason, not stupid stuff either way. Something to help the American people, not hurt us.”

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