92% of Americans think their basic rights are being threatened, new poll shows
Americans are most concerned that their freedom of speech (48%), right to bear arms (47%) and right to equal justice (41%) are at risk, says the Harris Poll/Purple Project, which surveyed 2,002 people nationwide.
“When you frame something as a threat, it creates a bit of a political response, and it creates division and encampments of special interest,” said John Gerzema, CEO of the Harris Poll. That’s why political parties and lobbying groups warn supporters with strident language, he said: It’s easier to drum up backing for a political cause by talking about an issue in terms of “threats.”
But when you start to consider which rights and freedoms really matter, Gerzema said, poll responses changed – and Americans re-prioritized which values they cared about most.
When asked what rights and freedoms Americans would miss if they were taken away – rather than which ones are threatened – poll respondents’ concerns generally ticked upward.
Sixty-three percent said they would miss freedom of speech if that right was taken away, while nearly half would miss freedom of expression (46%) and the right to equal justice (45%).
“When you look at the things we really value, what makes America so special is these core tenets of our Constitution,” Gerzema said. “I just find it interesting to note how much Americans really value this.”
The poll results come at a juncture in American politics where friction and division are more apparent – and Americans are overwhelmingly frustrated by the discourse. In fact, another recent survey, a Public Agenda/USA TODAY/Ipsos poll, shows that the divisive national debate over just about everything has convinced many that the country is heading in the wrong direction. More than nine of 10 in that poll said it’s crucial for the U.S. to try to reduce that divisiveness.
Even among Americans with opposing political views, a majority surveyed in the Harris Poll/Purple Project – 55% – want more meaningful conversations.
How can this be done? Talking about issues in a way that de-escalates tensions from a threat and helps Americans find common ground, Gerzema said. So does finding common ground on shared values and freedoms, both at the dinner table and between the political aisle, he said.
Even if Americans don’t agree on a contentious, politically charged topic, they can find shared values in the things that Americans tend to take for granted, he said.
After all, only 16% of Americans thought their right to own property was under threat, but 44% would miss that right. Same goes for free speech, which 63% said they would miss if it was gone – 15% more than felt free speech was at risk of being taken away.
Gerzema’s advice to the folks in Washington? Focus on the things that are fundamental to the American way of life.
“There is something wonderful going on underneath the surface, and that’s what I wish our leaders in Washington would pay attention to,” he said. “You start to see the true, softer side of America’s rough-and-tumble political reality.”
DT’s dictator-like administration is attacking the values America holds dear
“We’re up against a crisis I never thought I’d see in my lifetime: a dictator-like attack by President Donald Trump on everything this country stands for. As last week’s impeachment hearings made clear, our shared tolerance and respect for the truth, our sacred rule of law, our essential freedom of the press and our precious freedoms of speech — all have been threatened by a single man.
Our shared tolerance and respect for the truth, our sacred rule of law, our essential freedom of the press and our precious freedoms of speech — all have been threatened by a single man.
It’s time for Trump to go — along with those in Congress who have chosen party loyaltyover their oath to “solemnly affirm” their support for the Constitution of the United States. And it’s up to us to make that happen, through the power of our votes.
When Trump was elected, though he was not my choice, I honestly thought it only fair to give the guy a chance. And like many others, I did. But almost instantly he began to disappoint and then alarm me. I don’t think I’m alone.
Tonight it pains me to watch what is happening to our country. Growing up as a child during World War II, I watched a united America defend itself against the threat of fascism. I watched this again, during the Watergate crisis, when our democracy was threatened. And again, when terrorists turned our world upside down.
During those times of crises, Congress came together, and our leaders came together. Politicians from both sides rose to defend our founding principles and the values that make us a global leader and a philosophical beacon of hope for all those seeking their own freedoms.
What is happening, right now, is so deeply disturbing that instead of the United States of America, we are now defined as the Divided States of America. Leaders on both sides lack the fundamental courage to cross political aisles on behalf of what is good for the American people.
We’re at a point in time where I reluctantly believe that we have much to lose — it is a critical and unforgiving moment.
We’re at a point in time where I reluctantly believe that we have much to lose — it is a critical and unforgiving moment. This monarchy in disguise has been so exhausting and chaotic, it’s not in the least bit surprising so many citizens are disillusioned.
The vast majority of Americans are busy with real life; trying to make ends meet and deeply frustrated by how hard Washington makes it to do just that.
But this is it. There are only 11 months left before the presidential election; 11 months before we get our one real chance to right this ship and change the course of disaster that lies before us.
Let’s rededicate ourselves to voting for truth, character and integrity in our representatives (no matter which side we’re on). Let’s go back to being the leader the world so desperately needs. Let’s return, quickly, to being simply … Americans.”
Modeled after FDR’s historic 1941 speech to Congress, laureates receive honors in the following categories: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear, and the freedom medal.
“Today’s political moment calls for a regrounding in Rooseveltian values, which each of this year’s laureates embodies. As FDR told our nation almost 80 years ago, we must never give up our fight for democracy.”
Roosevelt Institute Presents 2019 Four Freedoms Awards to Champions of Democracy
Ceremony highlights the importance of democratic values in a challenging political landscape
‘Today, the Roosevelt Institute celebrated the Four Freedoms Awards, honoring Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt’s legacies and those who exemplify core freedoms that uphold our democracy. The Four Freedoms Awards are presented in alternating years by the Roosevelt Institute in the US and Roosevelt Stichting in the Netherlands, FDR’s ancestral home. For the first time since 2011, the New York event has returned to Hyde Park and was attended by 265 people, including Han Polman, King’s Commissioner in the Province of Zeeland & Chair of the Roosevelt Foundation and a delegation of over 30 from the Netherlands.
This year’s recipients are:
- Freedom Medal: Lonnie Bunch for his significant contributions to American culture and society as a historian and storyteller. Bunch is the founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture and is currently secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. He is the first African American to hold this position.
- Freedom of Speech and Expression: The Boston Globe for its call to news organizations to publish editorials in support of a free press and their critical role in democracy.
- Freedom of Worship: Krista Tippett for her honest pursuit of ancient and enduring human questions about our spiritual traditions.
- Freedom from Want: Franklin Thomas for dedicating his life to public service, community development, and philanthropy. Thomas was the first African American president of the Ford Foundation, where he focused on issues relating to urban poverty, human rights, and anti-apartheid initiatives.
- Freedom from Fear: Sandy Hook Promise for recognizing the need to build community and engage in powerful advocacy around gun violence following an unthinkable tragedy.
“The Four Freedoms Awards represent a continuing dedication to the values my grandparents, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, so embodied—beliefs around human freedoms and security, shared well-being, and the importance and strength of the democratic process,” said Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, Board Chair of the Roosevelt Institute. “I am so pleased that this event has returned home to Hyde Park. It’s not only the birthplace and home of my grandfather, but it’s especially important as the site of his Presidential Library and Museum.”
“The Four Freedoms and those who champion them are more important now than ever,” said Felicia Wong, President and CEO of the Roosevelt Institute.“Today’s political moment calls for a regrounding in Rooseveltian values, which each of this year’s laureates embodies. As FDR told our nation almost 80 years ago, we must never give up our fight for democracy.”
Past recipients of the Four Freedoms Awards include Presidents Truman, Kennedy, Carter, and Clinton; international luminaries, such as Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama; and treasured Americans, including Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, journalist Dan Rather, civil rights leader Coretta Scott King, and Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson. You can learn more about the Four Freedoms Awards here.
About the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum
The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum is America’s first presidential library—and the only one used by a sitting president. Conceived and built under President Roosevelt’s direction and opened to the public in 1941, the Library is administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. Members and donors form a vital base of support for many of the Library’s key initiatives and help keep our doors open to visitors and students from around the world.
About the Roosevelt Institute
Until economic and social rules work for all Americans, they’re not working. Inspired by the legacy of Franklin and Eleanor, the Roosevelt Institute reimagines the rules to create a nation where everyone enjoys a fair share of our collective prosperity. We are a 21st-century think tank, bringing together multiple generations of thinkers and leaders to help drive key economic and social debates and have local and national impact. The Roosevelt Institute is also the nonprofit partner to the FDR Presidential Library and Museum.
To keep up to date with the Roosevelt Institute, please visit us on Twitter or follow our work at #RewriteTheRules.