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Do Americans Really Want Political Compromise?

  • brendagiven
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Do Americans want our politicians to compromise and build consensus to get things done? The answer depends… on the study, on the topic and on the Americans surveyed. While Americans are likely to favor compromise hypothetically, those same people will prefer politicians stick to their principles when asked about a specific issue important to them.

  • Gallup reports that Americans have favored politicians compromising for years.
    • 50% believe political compromise is important to get things done.
    • Only 22% believe politicians should stick to their principles.
  • A Pew Research study reports that 58% of Americans favor political compromise.
  • A January NPR/PBS NewsHour poll similarly shows that 63% of Americans like elected officials who compromise (70% of Democrats, 66% of Independents and 58% of Republicans).
  • Finally, a study by More In Common shows two-thirds of us are supportive of political compromise, ideologically flexible and fatigued by all the polarization and angry rhetoric.

Research consistently shows a majority of Americans hypothetically believe in political compromise. However, as one would expect, political engagement and ideology affect compromise preference.  Less ideological, less engaged voters are the ones more likely to want compromise. Predictably, the very engaged party extremes, esp. those in the majority in power, are less likely to want politicians to compromise. 

  • Only 29% of very conservative and 43% of conservative voters prefer compromise.
  • 55% of very liberal voters claim to prefer compromise, although that number is likely to drop now that Democrats control the House.
  • 60% of Moderates and 63% of Liberals claim to prefer compromise.


Just as importantly, belief in compromise changes dramatically when people are asked about specific conflicts. This January, CNN reported on Pew Research that found…

  • A supermajority of both those who favor a border wall and those who oppose a wall said ending the government shutdown with a compromise funding bill was unacceptable.
  • Americans showed the same unwillingness to compromise on Planned Parenthood funding when the government almost shut down in 2015.
  • In 2013 Americans did not want to compromise on Healthcare legislation, despite a long shutdown.

In all three instances, nearly 2/3 of Americans on both sides of the issue felt compromise was unacceptable. And each and every time, the public did not reward compromise– the side that gave in was the side blamed for the shutdown crisis.


Do Americans really want political compromise? Not bad enough.

  • The moderate American majority often avoids debate and sits out elections. Although they are less ideological and more open to consensus building, moderate voters are increasingly disengaged in politics and inadequately informed.
  • The far left and right have gained outsized influence and essentially control, and are unlikely to want compromise. The party extremes get most of the attention by protesting, nagging representatives, and electing primary winners – the squeaky wheel gets oiled!

What will it take for more Americans to demand better from our politicians? Can we afford growing dissatisfaction with our government?

  • Congressional approval is 19%(31% is the average found in Gallup polls since 1974).
  • The Federal Government rating is lower than all 24 industry sectors tested by Gallup.
  • Americans believe dysfunctional government is the number one problem in the Nation.

American government should be a reflection of the American people who elect our representatives. Changing our politics requires participation. Everyone matters! And we all must show leadership by putting Country over party! You are the change!

  • Join wethepeople.org. Get in on the ground floor of our crowdsourced democracy movement to bring together Democrats, Independents and Republicans to represent the common interest of all citizens. Your contribution helps empower Americans to propose, refine and vote on common-sense political solutions and compete with special interests for political influence.

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Author: brendagiven

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