The Ethical Take – The Gallup Edition

Published: September 23, 2016

By Jim Lichtman
Read More

The Gallup organization has been taking the pulse of American’s attitudes regarding social, economic and political issues since 1935.

Compromise, trust and transparency – three issues voters say they care about when it comes to the candidates.


Compromise –

In a poll taken earlier this month (Sept. 7-11) Editor-in-Chief Frank Newport for Gallup Poll writes, “Americans continue to believe that political leaders in Washington should compromise (53 percent), in order to get things done, while less than half, (21 percent) as many say leaders should stick to their beliefs even if little gets done. These attitudes are particularly relevant to the current situation in Washington, where Senate and House members face a Sept. 30 deadline to pass a stopgap budget resolution to avoid a government shutdown. …

“Democrats and Republicans,” Newport says, “continue to look at this philosophic question through somewhat different lenses, although some evidence suggests that both partisan groups are shifting their positions. The current 56 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who favor the compromise position is down from 67 percent in 2014 when Gallup last asked this question.

“Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, by contrast, have become somewhat more likely to favor compromise than in 2014 and less likely to believe leaders should stick to their principles. This means the gap between Republicans’ and Democrats’ preferences for compromise is smaller than it was in either 2013 or 2014.”

The best advice on this issue comes from former Secretary of State Colin Powell:

“… just as they did in Philadelphia when they were writing the constitution, sooner or later, you’ve got to compromise. You’ve got to start making the compromises that arrive at a consensus and move the country forward.”

The Ethical Take: Both candidates agree on consensus. The problem arises when one party wins the White House, the other seems determined to stick to their principles and obstruct.

Доверяй, но проверяй,” Trust but verify –

That popular phrase did not originate with President Ronald Reagan. It was a Russian proverb taught to him by Russian writer Suzanne Massie before Reagan’s meeting with Gorbachev.

“Americans’ trust in their political leaders,” Jeffrey Jones writes, “and in the American people themselves to make political decisions continues to decline. The percentages trusting the American people (56%) and political leaders (42%) are down roughly 20 percentage points since 2004 and are currently at new lows in Gallup’s trends.”

However, in measuring Americans’ confidence in the three branches of government, as they do each September, Gallup found that Congress, not surprisingly, came in at 35 percent, while the Judicial branch topped out at 61 percent, up eight points since last year. Confidence in the Executive branch came in at 51 percent.

“Currently,” Jones adds, “49 percent of Americans are confident in the government to handle international problems, up slightly from 45 percent a year ago and 43 percent in 2014. Confidence in the government to handle domestic problems is now at 44 percent, up from 38 percent in 2015.”

“After several years of Americans’ confidence in the federal government,” Jones says, “particularly in the White House and Congress — wasting away, confidence has rebounded some. This is mainly because Democrats are feeling more positive. Republicans’ views of the executive and legislative branches have not changed much; their confidence in each remains low. But their confidence in the judiciary has rebounded some after dropping sharply a year ago.”

The E.T.: The biggest challenge, for whoever occupies the White House for the next four years, will not come from ISIS or the economy. Their biggest challenge — that will be watched and measured by voters — is how they work with congressional leadership, and get Congress to work for the American people and change the impression that they’re all a bunch of elites so set in their ways that they’ll continue to damage the democratic process.

The Media –

“Americans’ trust and confidence in the mass media,” Art Swift writes, “ ‘to report the news fully, accurately and fairly’ has dropped to its lowest level in Gallup polling history, with 32 percent saying they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media. This is down eight percentage points from last year. …

“While it is clear Americans’ trust in the media has been eroding over time,” Swift continues, “the election campaign may be the reason that it has fallen so sharply this year. With many Republican leaders and conservative pundits saying Hillary Clinton has received overly positive media attention, while Donald Trump has been receiving unfair or negative attention, this may be the prime reason their relatively low trust in the media has evaporated even more. It is also possible that Republicans think less of the media as a result of Trump’s sharp criticisms of the press. Republicans who say they have trust in the media has plummeted to 14 percent from 32 percent a year ago. This is easily the lowest confidence among Republicans in 20 years.”

The E.T.: The Take would like to see people in communities both listening and talking to each other instead of shouting past one another. Pay less attention to the candidates’ surrogates and more attention in researching and developing your own opinion.

John Adams on Transparency –

“Liberty,” John Adams wrote in 1765, “cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right . . . and a desire to know; but besides this, they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean of the character and conduct of their rulers.”

An editorial in The Concord Monitor (What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You, Sept. 22), uses the Adams quote to talk about transparency and the lack thereof.

“In a society that values liberty, of course people should be informed of decisions made on their behalf, but they also have a right – and a divine right at that – to know about the moral qualities and behavior of their leaders. …

“There is much that Hillary Clinton should be telling voters and isn’t. The same goes for Donald Trump. And they are certainly not alone. President Obama promised that his administration would be ‘committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in government.’ But here is Margaret Sullivan, writing in the Washington Post, on that ‘unprecedented openness’: ‘(The Obama administration) has set new records for stonewalling or rejecting Freedom of Information requests.’

“A PolitiFact tally has Obama breaking at least a dozen specific promises related to transparency. And back in 2012, the Atlantic reported that the Obama administration ‘has charged more would-be whistleblowers with violating state secrecy laws than all previous administrations combined.’ …

“As journalists are stonewalled or spoon-fed tidbits, hackers and whistleblowers grow in numbers and importance. Elected leaders and the voters who fail to hold them accountable created the conditions that have led to the actions of Daniel Ellsberg, Mark Felt, Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, Anonymous, WikiLeaks and all the others who risk imprisonment to tear away curtains and veils.

“History will sort out which among them are heroes and which are villains, but it’s wrong to dismiss them all as criminals or unpatriotic troublemakers.”

For America to succeed, we don’t need slogans, autocratic rhetoric, or obfuscation for past actions. We need political leadership that demonstrates the moral integrity to not only be transparent regarding personal records, but a commitment to putting the best interests of the country ahead of party or special interests.


Leave a Comment

Read More Articles
The Latest... And Sometimes Greatest