But don’t despair — Americans are more united than we might seem. Trump is obviously divisive. But Americans still trust some of our most important institutions, are still patriotic and even agree on some big political questions.
Americans may be losing faith in Congress, but they still love the military, the police, small businesses and God. According to Gallup’s long-running survey on confidence in institutions, 73 percent of Americans have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the military. Despite difficult national conversations about police-involved shootings and criminal-justice reform, just over half of Americans have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of faith in the police, and 31 percent have at least “some.” And Americans love small business. We even share a faith in faith: The Pew Research Center found that 80 percent of Americans believe in God or some sort of higher power — though there are significant splits over whether that higher power is the God of the Christian Bible.
Despite the turbulence of our politics, we’re generally still proud to be Americans. In July, Gallup found that 7 in 10 Americans were either “extremely” proud or “very” proud to be Americans. That’s a low level compared to recent years (in 2013, 85 percent were either extremely or very proud to be American), but it’s still high in objective terms. Republicans and Democrats also agree that respecting U.S. laws, believing in freedoms such as freedom of speech and accepting people of different racial and religious backgrounds are all important parts of being “Truly American” — though those shared values haven’t prevented bitter fights over immigration policy, media bias and more.
And there are even some political issues where Americans broadly agree. Over 90 percent believe that marijuana should be legalized for medical use, with a majority supporting legalization for recreation. More than 85 percent of Americans support background checks for gun ownership and “red flag” laws. Eight in 10 Americans think taking birth control is morally acceptable. And on health care, 91 percent of Republicans and 93 percent of Democrats “favor protecting health care coverage for people with pre-existing conditions” according to PRRI.
We shouldn’t be Pollyannaish about the state of the country — our culture is fractured and politics dysfunctional. But if we’re looking for points of agreement we can use to rebuild our broken consensus, we have more to work with than we think. This Thursday, we should give thanks that we’re united by more than just turkey.