If you look at American media you can see a sharp ideological divide. Television networks show notorious political biases, and book-buying habits show a schism between what those on the left read vs those on the right. If you looked only at media, you’d think that we lived in two countries, red and blue, with hardly anything shared between the two sides.
Wayne Baker‘s new book United America looks at survey data from citizens across the country and comes to a different conclusions: that there are core American values that are common across the entirety of the political spectrum. He has identified 10 beliefs that are widely held across political boundaries and uses this survey information to tell a story of how an shared American identity emerges from this study.
I talked with Dr. Baker the other day after having read the book. We discussed in more depth some of the survey techniques as well as our shared surprise at the results. What was most interesting was a discussion of which shared values did not make the cut. For example, he identifies “symbolic patriotism”, an emotional connection to the country triggered by the flag or the national anthem, as a shared value. What didn’t make the cut was “blind patriotism”, an “our country right or wrong” point of view. That type of patriotic fervor showed a wide variety of responses across the American spectrum, whereas the symbolic and emotional response to national icons was much more uniform and common.
The book is based on survey results that are in the publication process. More information about the survey and its surprising results are at www.OurValues.org.