For many Americans, it's tempting to conclude that Congressional action on every issue will fall victim to partisan gridlock and dysfunction.
Today a record high of 77% of Americans perceive the nation as divided, but a recent Pew Research Center survey shows there are at least some priorities the American people view as equally important, regardless of party affiliation.
The survey sampled over 1,500 adults and asked them to report which issues they would like to see as top priorities for the President and Congress. Historically, Americans have tended to share similar priorities: topics such as the economy, terrorism, and education are usually viewed as the most pressing. Beyond that, some issues remain as polarized as ever. According to Pew, poverty and the environment are much higher priorities for Democrats while Republicans see national defense and the military as today’s top issues.
Healthcare, Social Security, and Terrorism are High Priorities Across the Board
While members of both parties assign similar importance to healthcare, Social Security and combatting terrorism, differences remains in how best to tackle them. Americans have generally viewed these as high priority issues, and Pew's latest findings continue that trend.
Proposals to revamp entitlement programs are currently being considered by the GOP-led Congress and most Americans seem to agree that reform is warranted. According to Pew, 62% of Democrats and 57% of Republicans rate taking steps to make the Medicare system "financially sound" as a top priority. Nearly identical majorities of respondents in both parties (60% of Democrats, 59% of Republicans) also say taking steps to make Social Security financially sound should be a top priority.
With the increased threat of terrorist attacks around the world, many Americans deem defending the nation to be of heightened importance. The majority of respondents, across the board, agreed that combating terrorism should be a high national priority - 72% of Democrats and 82% of Republicans.
Immigration: Still Divisive, but Importance Declines
Immigration appears to be one issue where the two-parties share the least common ground. The Pew survey shows that only 31% of Democrats say immigration should be a top goal of the President and Congress, whereas 59% of Republicans feel otherwise.
Somewhat surprisingly, the overall share of Americans who view immigration as a top priority has declined from 51% to 43% since January 2016 (survey conducted Jan. 4-9, 2017). This seems to be in contrast to the importance the issue of immigration played during the Trump campaign, and now, his presidency. However, it is possible the trend will reverse with the inclusion of polls taken after President Trump's temporary immigration ban.
More than ever, regardless of partisanship, Americans are divided. The current Administration and many of its policies have garnished protests and dissatisfaction around the nation. Increasingly, gridlock in Congress has resulted in unqualified and unjustified candidates to be nominated to chief positions in public agencies. Politics will always be politics but, statesmanship should always overcome the will of politics.
Editor's note: This article was updated on February, 14 2017 at 10:15am.