Harvard Poll Shows Voters Overwhelmingly United On Many Issues, But View Many Rights As Under Threat


Americans largely agree on rights and values that they deem fundamental to the United States, a Harvard University Carr Center poll shows, despite all-time high political polarization.

The survey shows that over 70% of Americans “have more in common with each other than people think” and that they favor an expansive view of rights beyond those in the Constitution. The poll also shows that most Americans believe those rights are under threat.

“Overall, I think Americans want not to be as divided as politics are forcing it to be, and that’s probably the biggest message of this poll,” John Shattuck, the director of the Carr Center team that commissioned the poll, told Politico.

“Division is not what most Americans are seeking,” he said.

Over 80% of those surveyed said they believed that “America is nothing” without the freedoms that the nation grants, and indicated that those freedoms extend to issues including health care, the environment, privacy and more.

Ninety-four percent of Democrats and 95% of Republicans said that they believed access to clean air and water to be an “essential” right, while 94% of Democrats and 91% of Republicans said the same regarding access to a quality education, the survey shows. (RELATED: San Francisco Sky Appears Bright Orange Due To ‘Snowing’ Ash, Wildfire Smoke)

A ship passes beneath the Bay Bridge as smoke from various wildfires burning across Northern California mixes with the marine layer, blanketing San Francisco in darkness and an orange glow on September 9, 2020 in San Francisco, California. Over 2 million acres have burned this year as wildfires continue to burn across the state. (Philip Pacheco/Getty Images)

Those surveyed also said they believed that access to “protection of personal data,” “affordable health care” and “a job” qualified as essential rights as well, with 93%, 89% and 85% of respondents saying so, respectively.

Over 90% of the adults surveyed said that voting, equal protection under the law, free speech, equal opportunity and racial equality were “essential rights important to being an American” as well, 90% said the same for religious liberty, 73% said the same regarding the right to bear arms and 71% said the same for LGBTQ rights.

A poll worker (L) cleans a voting booth between voters during Tuesdays primary election on June 23, 2020 in Louisville, Kentucky. The Kentucky Exposition Center is the only polling location for Tuesday’s Kentucky primary in Jefferson County, home to Louisville and 767,000 residents. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

Despite widespread agreement over what qualified as a right, a majority of those surveyed believe that their rights are “not very secure,” according to the poll, with over half of voters considering either “government” or “politicians” to be the greatest threat to voting, equal protection, free speech, equal opportunity, privacy and racial equality.

Additionally, while 87% of those surveyed said that the “government has a responsibility to protect the lives, livelihoods and rights of all Americans,” less than half agreed that the government was doing an acceptable job in doing so. (RELATED: Negotiators Give Up On Coronavirus Stimulus Talks)

“There’s a strong belief that rights are under threat and that the principal dangers are coming from government and politicians,” Shattuck said. “I guess my concern here is that democracy is really at risk when the very values that Americans believe they have in common are under attack.”

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