A "fair and decent society" in America?

I’m getting ready to head out on vacation for a while and get in some fishing (please don’t all cry out in anguish at once) and I thought maybe I could finish things up on a high note. There’s a lot of doom and gloom in the air these days as you all know, what with racial unrest, pandemics, Murder Hornets and everything else, so it seemed like a worthwhile effort to dip a toe into the more sunny side of the pool. That’s why I was pleased to see that Scott Rassmussen had written a new article for Desert News about some recent polling he’s done on the subject of America as a “fair and decent society.” Isn’t that the sort of attitude we could all use right about now?

Well… remember what I said about finding a way to finish on a high note? You can forget that. According to Scott’s polling, most of the country no longer thinks of America as “fair and decent.” In fact, increasing numbers see it as just the opposite.

Back in the 1990s, I began asking a simple polling question that highlights a massive change in the way Americans view their country: Generally speaking, is American society fair and decent or is it unfair and discriminatory? In those long-ago days, voters overwhelmingly responded fair and decent, typically by a 2-to-1 margin.

Things are much different today. Polling I conducted this past weekend found that just 38% of voters nationwide believe our society is generally fair and decent. Nearly half (47%) believe our society is unfair and discriminatory. That’s consistent with data I cited a few weeks back showing that just 31% believe most Americans treat white and Black voters equally.

On this question, there is naturally a partisan divide. Sixty-two percent (62%) of Republicans say our society is fair and decent while 69% of Democrats take the opposite view. By a 45% to 31% margin, independent voters agree with the Democrats.

I suppose there’s some consolation to be taken in the fact that Republicans and GOP-leaners are significantly more likely to see our country as fair and decent. But even there, 62% still isn’t a very impressive number. That split along party lines does, however, feed into the impression I’ve gotten from social media about the current state of unrest. I frequently hear variations of the same phrase invoked, suggesting that Democrats are spurring on all of this rioting and destruction because they’re trying to destroy the country. I’m not sure how literally true that is, but when nearly 70 percent of them describe America as unfair and discriminatory it’s not hard to believe.

The numbers in this survey, when broken down along the racial divide are equally depressing. While roughly half of all white voters find America to be mostly fair and decent, 77% of Black voters feel the opposite way and 49% of Hispanic voters agree with them. And this result comes in despite the fact that at least until the novel coronavirus lockdowns hit, both Black and Hispanic unemployment were at historic lows while wages were growing. While I fully understand that there is more to life (and equality) than just having a job and earning a living, those things are still the most powerful tool in ensuring equality and personal freedom.

The news from the survey wasn’t entirely bad, by the way. A hopeful 76% of voters said they believe that most Americans “want to live in a society where white and Black Americans are treated equally.” Sadly, even that optimistic sliver of results wasn’t entirely without a downside. Almost one-quarter of Black voters (24%) disagreed with that statement and believe that most Americans don’t want racial equality.

I’m apparently out of the mainstream by a wide margin. Perhaps it’s a result of my environment growing up and where I live now. On my block, I live next door to a gay couple, across the street from a retired Black couple and next door (on the other side) to a guy who is on the autistic spectrum a fair ways, but still manages to care for himself. It’s a pretty diverse neighborhood but in nearly 25 years at this address, I’ve never seen an instance of racial animus, homophobia, or anything else among the people living here. Perhaps I’m just lucky? Or maybe the people answering these surveys have been so inundated with the gloom and doomporn coming out of CNN and MSNBC on a 24/7 basis that they simply believe that everything is awful.

Anyway, as I said, I’m getting ready to go make a fool of myself while hundreds of fish totally elude me. I’m going to find something to help me look on the bright side and I hope you all do as well. See you in a week or so.

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