Research News

Vanderbilt Unity Poll reveals significant approval of legislative compromise despite continued pessimism about national unity

Vanderbilt Project on Unity & American Democracy releases second quarterly poll measuring Americans’ views of national unity and the democratic process 

Americans uniformly support solution-oriented government, including compromise on gun control, but they don’t expect the country to be able to come together to solve urgent problems, according to the Vanderbilt Unity Poll released today. 

A majority of poll respondents (62 percent) believe Americans are incapable of uniting to solve important problems, yet 79 percent wanted their elected officials to work with members of the opposing party—even if that meant compromising on some partisan values. 

Poll respondents also indicated common ground on gun control to prevent school shootings, with 81 percent supporting “red flag” laws, 72 percent supporting gun safe laws and 62 percent supporting bans on assault-style weapons. 

An even larger portion—85 percent—supported the recent debt ceiling deal between U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Joe Biden. More than 80 percent of GOP poll respondents approved of the agreement, and 89 percent of Democrats backed it. 

Even among those identifying as MAGA Republicans, more than 70 percent approved the legislative solutions crafted by House GOP leaders and the White House. 

“Presented with both abstract questions and tangible examples of political compromise, respondents of all political stripes voiced their approval,” said Vanderbilt political scientist John Geer, who oversees the Vanderbilt Project on Unity & American Democracy. 

“These results provide evidence that the loudest voices on cable news or social media do not represent the attitude of most Americans,” Geer said. “To the contrary, this data shows that most citizens want the government to work and understand that compromise is necessary in a functioning democracy.” 

The Unity Poll is an undertaking of the Vanderbilt Project on Unity & American Democracy. It provides quarterly readings on Americans’ opinions about the extent of polarization and the condition of our democratic institutions. 

Some key takeaways from the most recent survey data include: 

  • 73 percent of respondents believe the FDA approval of abortion pill mifepristone should be upheld. 
  • Only 19 percent believed climate change is occurring because of natural changes in the environment. A plurality of respondents (43 percent) believed climate change is occurring equally because of human activities and natural environmental changes, and the remaining (38 percent) believed that climate change is caused primarily by human activity. 
  • The overwhelming majority of Americans (83 percent) believe the nation is divided “when it comes to the most pressing issues facing the country today,” down from 87 percent in March. 
  • When asked to reflect on America’s 250-year history, about half of those polled (52 percent) remain confident that the country can overcome today’s challenges. This is down from 57 percent in March. 
  • Americans remain doubtful that we can unite to solve our country’s problems (38 percent), basically unchanged from 39 percent in March.  
  • 38% of Republicans believe GOP supports Constitution but Democrats don’t
  • 33% of Democrats believe Democrats support the Constitution but Republicans do not

The Vanderbilt Project on Unity & American Democracy also sponsors the Vanderbilt Unity Index 

The Vanderbilt Unity Poll was conducted by SSRS on its Opinion Panel Omnibus Platform. A total of 1,026 respondents, age 18 and older, across several platforms and in Spanish and English, responded between June 16 and June 20, 2023. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. 

The Vanderbilt Project on Unity & American Democracy aims to advance toward a more perfect union by elevating evidence and reason and by supplanting ideology with fact. With its geographic location, enduring commitment to tackling society’s grand challenges and formidable intellectual talent, Vanderbilt is ideally suited to advance this crucial national conversation.  

Future Vanderbilt Unity Polls will ask the same questions, which will allow the Unity Poll to look for change in these indicators. The Unity Poll is committed to the essential task of assessing the thinking of the public over time, which will allow the poll to provide informed context for interpretation of the results.