Hidden Common Ground poll: Americans want compromise but think political gridlock will worsen

By Phillip M. Bailey, Sarah Elbeshbishi | USA TODAY

The good news: An overwhelming majority of Americans believe there is more common ground among the American people than is acknowledged.

The bad news? A growing number believe the nation’s divide over a variety of critical issues will widen in the coming years.

Public Agenda and USA TODAY conducted a new round of Hidden Common Ground research in which we asked the American people what they think will help move the country beyond destructive partisan divisiveness, which virtually all Americans agree is a huge problem.

And those are just some of the main findings from the poll, which shows an increasing pessimism in the country in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. 

Seventy-one percent said Americans have more in common than is reflected by political leaders or in the media, but 44% said the country’s ability to deal with major disagreements over the next decade will worsen. That’s up by 5 percentage points compared with the 2019 version of the survey.

“I would say it’s getting worse in my lifetime. I’m seeing it getting worse instead of better,” Carolina Baca, 55, a Republican from Albuquerque, New Mexico, who responded to the survey, told USA TODAY. 

Overall the poll shows a deep pessimism at the country’s ability to handle issues – from the health risks and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to improving tensions between police and people of color.

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