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The Common Ground of the American People: Policy Positions Supported by Both Democrats and Republicans

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The Federal government is currently failing to address numerous problems. This failure is largely due to increasing partisan polarization resulting in government gridlock. One may well have the impression that there is virtually no common ground between Republicans and Democrats in America today. Some speculate that polarization in the American public is driving the polarization in Congress. However, there are strong reasons to believe that the polarization in Congress primarily comes from other sources. Over the last decades, concurrent with the increase of polarization in Congress there has been an extraordinary increase in the amount of money flowing from special interests into political campaigns as well as a dramatic increase in the number of lobbyists operating in Washington. As many of these special interest have competing objectives their increased efforts at influencing government decisions, and the increased access derived from campaign contributions can exert centrifugal forces on the policymaking process. Still the question stands as to whether there is common ground between Republicans and Democrats in the public—at least more than Congress. If so, the public would have the potential to become an arbiter between the parties, offering a pathway toward convergence. To find out if there is such common ground, a major multi-year study of the American people was conducted by the Program for Public Consultation with the support and participation of Voice of the People, and more recently Common Ground Solutions. Financial support was also provided by the Democracy Fund, the Hewlett Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the MacArthur Foundation and the Circle Foundation.

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