With severe polarization dividing America, it has become increasingly difficult to find common ground. But data shows bipartisan support for key justice system policies.
As the American population grows in size and diversity, we are continually affected by those around us. Those closest to us help shape our creation of thought. Perhaps unintentionally, trusted people and information sources in our lives may keep us from seeking out and understanding other perspectives.
Nowhere is this problem more severe than with a political messaging machine that urges its base to see issues only in terms of red or blue, obscuring the fact that Americans do actually agree on many important issues. An ongoing research study by Voice of the People, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing the majority opinion to light, is attempting to bridge this gap by surveying a diverse subset of American voters to inspect similarities in thought and opinion between the right and the left.
Through in-depth surveys in which respondents receive briefings on key policy proposals and evaluate pro and con arguments, the study has to date identified 185 common ground positions on a wide range of policy issues.
And despite how polarized Republicans and Democrats may seem on justice system issues, the following policy proposals show high levels of bipartisan support.
Limiting Negative Consequences of Criminal Records
A national sample of 2,487 registered voters were asked to respond to several proposals on limiting the consequences of criminal records. The data indicates that 60% or more Democrats and Republicans agree:
- Employers and licensing boards should limit the use of certain criminal records as a basis for rejecting an applicant or firing an employee
- To provide protection to employers who knowingly hire individuals with criminal records
- To limit the use of certain criminal records from being used as the basis for rejecting an applicant or evicting a tenant from public housing
- Criminal records can be sealed for a minor cost for arrests that do not result in convictions
- To automatically seal records for nonviolent drug offenses five years after the offender completes their sentence
A national sample of 2,417 registered voters were asked to respond to several provisions on the Next Step Act. The data indicates that 60% or more Democrats and Republicans agree:
- To reduce the mandatory minimum sentences for one-strike drug offenses
- To create a new sentencing category for those who store or transport illegal drugs or drug money, that comes with no mandatory sentence
- Early prisoners, convicted as juveniles and those who have served at least 20 years of their sentence could be given the opportunity to be released early at the discretion of judges
What does this data mean for the American people?
The study shows that, while we live in a time of great division and opposition, it is critical that we not lose sight of the ways in which we can all come together. Findings from this study open the possibility that the right and left may find agreement on other polarizing topics.
Perhaps by parting the red or blue curtain clouding our vision, we can see more clearly just how much common ground we share as Americans. From this shared foundation, we can push forward together to create real change for the next generation.
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