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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Ninety Percent Agreement

The Pew Research Center reports:
These days there appears to be almost nothing that all, or nearly all, Americans can agree on. But this week, fully 90% of the public said that they were hearing mostly bad news about gas prices.

That might seem like a no-brainer given the recent surge in gas prices. But reaching the 90% threshold is a rare occurrence in public opinion surveys. In part, this reflects the tendency of polling organizations to focus on current issues about which there are often considerable differences of opinion. Nonetheless, even on issues where one would expect to find near-total agreement, the public's views are far from unanimous.


It is highly unusual when even 80% support (or oppose) a politician or a policy. George W. Bush's job approval briefly passed 80% in the months after 9/11. So too did Bush's father's shortly after the first Iraq war. Bill Clinton's ratings never broke 80% (they reached 71% twice in 1998) while Barack Obama's have never reached 70%.

Yet there are some opinions that 90% of the public, or close to it, shares -- including a belief that citizens have a duty to vote, an admiration for those who get rich through hard work, a strong sense of patriotism and a belief that society should give everyone an equal opportunity to succeed. Pew Research's political values surveys have shown that these attitudes have remained remarkably consistent over time. (Pew Research has been tracking political values for more than two decades; for the most recent political values survey in 2009, click here.)