The American Dream – A Look at What Americans Really Want in the 21st Century
At this time of year, children and adults the world over are making lists of the gifts they would like to receive for the holidays. So let’s look at what American say they REALLY want for America, relevant to some controversial issues today.
- Gun Violence: Survey results released by National Research in 2022 showed that 62 percent of Americans believe that not enough has been done to address these issues, and nearly three in five Americans want stronger gun laws. According to the New York Times, more than 90 percent of the American public support universal background checks for guns.
- Abortion: A majority (6 out of 10) of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all, or most, cases. A study conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2019 found that 59% of Americans believe that states are making it too difficult to receive an abortion. As recently as February of 2022, 69% of adults in the U.S. are dissatisfied with abortion laws, including 46% who believe that abortion laws should be made less strict. This response marks a 16-percentage-point jump since January of 2022. Meanwhile, 26% of Americans are satisfied with current abortion policies.
- LGBTQ+ Rights: A majority of U.S. adults across age groups express support for laws and policies that would protect transgender individuals and their rights. According to the Pew Research Center, an average of 70% of adults aged 18 – 49, and an average of 60% of adults aged 50+, have expressed support for laws that would protect these individuals from discrimination in jobs, housing, and public spaces such as restaurants and stores.
Results of a recent poll conducted by The Human Rights Campaign released in September of 2022 show that “nearly two-thirds (64%) of likely voters in battleground states want same-sex marriage protections to be law of the land.” These states include Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
- Critical Race Theory and Book Bans in Schools: Two topics that have been at the forefront of the conversation about public education are critical race theory, and the banning of “controversial” books. While a slight majority of Americans (51%) that participated in a national poll hold negative views about critical race theory (a way of understanding how American racism has shaped public policy), three-quarters of them believe that public schools should “be allowed to teach about ideas and historical events that might make some students uncomfortable”.
In an analysis of six high-quality voter-facing polls from 2022, Every Library Institute found that 8% of voters think that “there are many books that are inappropriate and should be banned”, while a majority (91%) strongly or somewhat agree with the statement “if you don’t like a book at the library, don’t check it out”.
- Climate Change: According to a survey conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, 72% of Americans surveyed think that global warming is happening, compared to the 12% who do not. This finding corroborates results from a national survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2020 which found that a majority (65%) of U.S. adults not only want the government to play a larger role in fighting climate change, but they believe that the federal government is doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change.
- Healthcare: A majority of Americans – 55% – support Medicare for All, while 58% of voters support the idea of increasing taxes on households making over $400,000 yearly to pay for Medicare.
Hmmmm… Based on the reality of what is happening in America, it seems that what the majority of Americans want to see occurring, is not happening. As much as we would like to believe in the magic of the season, it’s unlikely that appeals to Santa Claus and other generous gift-givers will change matters.
Lest we lose heart, there are four reasons why what the majority wants, they are not getting, over which we have some control.
- Many people who hold these values do not vote. In the U.S. only 62% of the voting-age population cast ballots in the 2020 U.S. national elections. The percentage voting in state and local elections is lower.
- Every 10 years, states redraw their legislative and congressional district lines following the census. Some election districts are structured with the intention of influencing who gets elected by distributing people who are likely to vote a certain way among the districts so that voters of other persuasions are favored to win – this is known as gerrymandering. As of July 2023, 22 cases have been filed challenging congressional and legislative maps in 17 states as partisan gerrymandering, and litigation has resulted in redrawn maps in Alaska, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and South Carolina.
- Stricter voter ID laws, changes in access to voting booths, and purging of the voter rolls for various reasons raise questions about the effect of these actions in suppressing voter turnout.
- Concentrated disinformation campaigns target voters’ fears and incentivize them to vote for unpopular positions and the candidates who push them. Many of these disinformation campaigns push people to vote for things they don’t really want or understand. The ultimate goal is to totally confuse or alienate people so that they simply tune out, become apathetic, and don’t vote at all.
So how do we move more toward a country in which the wishes of the majority actually become reality? We take our opinions and beliefs where they really matter – to the ballot box. We vote, and we make our voices heard. Not only can we let our leaders and elected officials know what values truly matter to us, but we can hold those accountable who refuse to listen. In short, we make the American Dream a reality.
Here’s the playbook:
- Help others to vote.
- Counteract disinformation with truth.
- Be an active citizen and proponent for democracy, the right to vote, and the right to have access to voting.
Wishing all our readers the most peaceful and inspiring holiday season.
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