Assumptions v. realities; common assumptions aren’t always common sense; or factual

Even hard numbers aren’t always accurate or complete, whether it’s our hunches about crime or what many of us believe Americans actually think: real public opinion.

Respected and nonpartisan sources including Pew Research and Gallup polls show that conventional wisdom might be conventional but not always wise.

Or right.

(As Molly from the Peoria-born radio show “Fibber McGee & Molly” – which broadcast nationally for more than 25 years – often said, “T’ain’t so, McGee!”)

For example, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, during August’s saber-rattling by President Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un, conducted a survey about Americans’ opinions on the crisis and threats. It found that a substantial majority back diplomatic responses, not war: 76 percent of us want to impose tighter sanctions on Pyongyang while just 28 percent support sending U.S. troops to the Korean peninsula. (The group did not ask about the United States attacking with nuclear weapons.)

This was especially noteworthy after North Korea last month exploded a hydrogen bomb far more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, provoking a belligerent President Trump but also cooler heads here and there. Besides escalating a long-running crisis that included testing missiles that Kim claims could reach as far as Chicago, the detonation caused a 4.1-magnitude tremor on the Korean peninsula. Trump, who previously warned of U.S. “fire and fury,” has now threatened military action and a halt to trading with nations who trade with North Korea, a difficult move that would harm the economy.

In the western hemisphere, 75 percent of us support re-establishing relations with Cuba.

Globally, Quinnipiac University pollsters reported 66 percent of us oppose the U.S. government relaxing environmental regulations set up to address climate change.

Concerning familiar domestic issues, according to a 2014 Wall Street Journal/NBC poll,
* 66 percent favor raising the minimum wage,
* 66 percent oppose raising Social Security’s retirement age,
* 75 percent support increased spending on the nation’s infrastructure, and
* 82 percent favor lowering the cost of student loans.

Further, more than half the country (51 percent) LIKES the Affordable Care Act (ACA), according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Health Tracking Poll, and Wall Street/NBC said if the number of those who want an expansion of the ACA (“Obamacare”) is included, the percentage goes up to 58 percent, while just 37 percent oppose it.

Elsewhere, 59 percent agree that immigrants “strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents,” compared to just 33 percent who agreed that immigrants “are a burden on our country because they take our jobs, housing and health care.”

Concerning tax policies, 64 percent say they’re “bothered a lot” that corporations “don’t pay their fair share,” and 61 percent are troubled that “wealthy people don’t pay their fair share.”

* 72 percent “strongly” support pay equity for workers regardless of gender,
* 59 percent favor “free (tax supported) universal child care and pre-kindergarten programs,”
* 58 percent support legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, and
* 61 percent support same-sex marriage.

That and other thorny “wedge issues” show a U.S. population much different than the stereotype promoted by Trump, Republicans or partisan broadcasters such as Fox News or Rush Limbaugh.

“The percentages of U.S. adults who believe birth control, divorce, sex between unmarried people, gay or lesbian relations, having a baby outside of marriage, doctor-assisted suicide, pornography and polygamy are morally acceptable practices have tied record highs or set new ones this year,” said Gallup’s Jeffrey M. Jones. “At the same time, record lows say the death penalty and medical testing on animals are morally acceptable.”

Concerning abortion, Americans’ views on its legality show that half the people support its legality “only under certain circumstances,” according to results released in June, 29 percent favor its legality in all circumstances, and 18 percent say it should be illegal in all circumstances.

The 50-percent number is similar to some 40 years of polling. “The dispersion of abortion views today, with the largest segment of Americans favoring the middle position, is broadly similar to what Gallup has found in four decades of measurement,” commented Gallup’s Lydia Saad. “Also, as is the case today, more Americans typically have thought abortion should be completely legal than completely illegal. The proportions have varied from a 20-percentage-point advantage for the always-legal position in 1994 to a virtual tie at several points. This year’s 11-point edge for the always-legal position is similar to its average 9-point lead across the full trend.”

Overall, some public opinions seem to reflect increased social tolerance, while some may be attributable to “generational changes,” said Jones, adding, “It would appear that U.S. opinions will continue on this path, as younger, more liberal generations replace older, more conservative ones in the U.S. population.”

Bill Knight

Leave a Reply