America is more united than we’re led to believe, a new poll suggests


In August, I had the privilege of listening to an illuminating and inspiring presentation from Harry Nathan Gottlieb, the founder of Unify America, whose organization aims to replace political infighting with a desire to find solutions to the country’s most pressing problems.

I was intrigued by his premise that there is more that unites us than divides us as a country. But I confess, I was skeptical. Could this be true given the constant information we are fed about polarization in our politics that is almost inescapable — if not debilitating?

In the narrative about the creation of Unify America, Gottlieb notes that he interviewed Americans from all walks of life and discovered many of them shared the same goals when it came to moving the country forward around some of the most contentious issues of our time.

90 percent of Republicans, 98 percent of Independents, and 99 percent of Democrats supported Medicare for all, he said. 83 percent of Republicans, 97 percent of Independents, and 97 percent of Democrats supported curbing greenhouse gasses, and similarly, 94 percent of Republicans, 98 percent of Independents, and 98 percent of Democrats supported felons getting the skills needed to survive after leaving prison.

Astounded, I leaned into his presentation. He argued that humans are extraordinary at cooperating given a shared goal. And when focused on that, Americans tend to agree on almost everything.

In the months that followed, I’ve reflected on his message, alternating between optimism and doubt as I watch the dispiriting political theater that constantly reminds us that his optimism might be misplaced.

But along comes a recently released poll that underscores Gottlieb’s argument that we are less farther apart than we are led to believe. The National Collaborative for Health Equity (NCHE), which argues for a transformative approach to racial healing and unity, this week released its Heart of America annual survey that finds Americans have a deep hunger for leaders who can bring the country together on the issues of race and political polarization.

Among the findings:

  • Despite pessimism over disunity, nearly 7 in 10 are hopeful Americans can find common ground in the future.
  • 88% would support a leader who aims to unite our country — and 47% strongly agree with that statement.
  • 8 in 10 respondents, including 3 in 4 Republicans, believe diversity should be promoted in the workplace and that educating our children on the history of race and racism in America is an essential first step to begin the process of racial healing.
  • 3 in 4 Americans (75%) say reducing segregation in housing will improve race relations.
  • A third of Americans believe relationship building is most important to bring us together as a nation.

Dr. Gail Christopher, NCHE executive director, said in a statement: “In unveiling what’s truly in the hearts of Americans, the poll results should motivate us to no longer accept misguided, spiritually bereft, selfish acts that harm millions in the name of ideology to be taken as normal or conflated with public service.”

I can say this: I was heartened by the survey findings. They caused me to reflect on Gottlieb’s closing statement in his presentation back in August. “We are already unified but don’t realize it,” he said. “All of us are smarter than any one of us.”

Here’s hoping Gottlieb and this latest survey have a finger on the true pulse of America.