Public Agenda/USA TODAY/Ipsos Hidden Common GroundTM Survey Finds Where Americans Stand on Economic Opportunity and Inequality

Survey Finds Areas of Common Ground on Policies and Investments that Can Help Families and Communities Thrive

New York, NY (September 24, 2020)—As the country looks to recover from the damaging effects of COVID-19, the economy figures prominently in how we rebuild as a nation. A new Public Agenda/USA TODAY/Ipsos Hidden Common Ground report on Economic Opportunity and Inequality asked Americans about how the nation can create widespread opportunity and build an economy that works for everyone.

“Just as the health impacts of the pandemic have hit low-income Americans and people of color the hardest, so has the recession it induced,” said Will Friedman, President of Public Agenda. “Once the pandemic is past, how can we create an economic recovery that opens up opportunity for all Americans? It is not too early to ask that question, and Americans, it turns out, have a lot to say on the subject, much of it in one voice.”

The creation of good jobs is a key factor in increasing opportunity and Americans across the political spectrum support many measures they see as steps to building economic promise for individuals. An 80% majority of Americans support creating more good jobs by upgrading infrastructure, including nearly equal majorities of Republicans (83%), Democrats (82%) and Independents (76%). A strong majority (80%) also support retraining programs that would give adults the skills to compete for quality jobs, including similar majorities of Republicans (86%), Democrats (82%) and Independents (78%). 

On the issue of minimum wage, most Americans (72%) support raising the minimum wage, including most Republicans (62%), Democrats (87%) and Independents (69%). The findings showed an increase in support for raising the minimum wage from our Hidden Common Ground survey fielded in February 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic struck, when 66% of Americans supported raising the minimum wage, including only 48% of Republicans, 80% of Democrats and 54% of Independents. 

Support for small businesses was also seen across party lines in the new Hidden Common Ground report. Majorities of Americans (78%)–including majorities of Republicans (83%), Democrats (82%) and Independents (71%)–believe that policies to help small businesses thrive would make a difference in their communities economically. By contrast, only 44% say that help for big businesses would make a difference in their community. These majorities also carry over when asked about social capital in communities. Seventy-six percent of Americans believe that residents having strong connections with each other would make a difference in their community’s economy, including 78% of Republicans, 80% of Democrats, and 67% of Independents. The survey also found that a majority of Americans (69%) say that creating more affordable housing for low- and middle-income families would have a beneficial economic impact in their communities. 

“It’s striking to see how much Republicans, Democrats and Independents agree on when it comes to increasing economic opportunity,” said David Schleifer, Vice President and Director of Research at Public Agenda. “Nearly all the policies for increasing opportunity that we asked about in this survey attracted majority cross-partisan support. The findings show that there is much more agreement than disagreement on how to strengthen our economy.”

One area where Americans disagree concerns whether racial discrimination in their community makes it more difficult for people of color to succeed: 43% of Americans somewhat or strongly agree that racial discrimination makes success more difficult, while 47% somewhat or strongly disagree. Many more Democrats (60%) believe that racial discrimination makes it more difficult for people of color to succeed, while fewer  Republicans (28%) and Independents (30%) think so. More Black Americans (67%) also think racial discrimination is a barrier to success, compared to Latino Americans (56%) and white Americans (35%). Given these differences in perceptions, it is noteworthy that most Americans (68%) also believe strong anti-discrimination policies would have a beneficial economic impact in their communities, including majorities across political affiliations. On the questions of reparations, we found that about a third of Americans think the federal government should financially compensate Black Americans whose ancestors were enslaved. About half of Democrats support reparations, compared with only 16% of Republicans and 15% of Independents.

We also asked Americans about “universal basic income,” and found that just over half (56%) say providing a monthly $1000 payment to each citizen every month, whether they are employed or not, would make a difference in their community economically. Support for a universal basic income is higher among Democrats (72%) than Republicans (46%) or Independents (49%). 

These are the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between August 28-31, 2020 on behalf of Public Agenda and USA Today. For this survey, a sample of 1,114 adults aged 18+ from the continental U.S., Alaska, and Hawaii was interviewed online in English. The poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points for all respondents.

Read the full report: Economic Opportunity and Inequality: A Public Agenda/USA Today/Ipsos Hidden Common Ground Survey

Hidden Common Ground is an initiative spearheaded by Public Agenda and USA Today and whose partners include America Amplified, the National Issues ForumsIpsos, and Vote.org. It is supported by a diverse group of foundations, including the John S. and James L. Knight Foundationthe Charles Koch FoundationCarnegie Corporation of New York, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, as well as by individual donors. The Kettering Foundation serves as a research partner to the initiative. The aim is to explore the possibility that there is more common ground among the public on solutions to today’s issues than is typically acknowledged and leveraged for the common good, and, to the extent this is true, to elevate that common ground in the public discourse during the election year. 

About Public Agenda

Public Agenda is a nonpartisan research and public engagement organization dedicated to a healthy, just, and effective democracy. We support informed citizens, engaged communities, and responsive public institutions. We also elevate diverse voices, build common ground and foster progress on issues of concern to the American public. These include K-12 education, higher education, health care, economic opportunity, and democracy reform. Find Public Agenda online at PublicAgenda.org, and on social media at FB@publicagenda/Twitter@publicagenda/Instagram@publicagenda_.


Founded in 1982, USA TODAY reflects the pulse of the nation, serving as host of the American conversation by delivering high-quality, engaging content through unique visual storytelling across all platforms. A media innovator, USA TODAY reaches nearly 100 million unique visitors each month across digital platforms, with more than 125 million downloads of our award-winning app. USA TODAY also remains the nation’s number one newspaper and is owned by Gannett Co., Inc. (NYSE: GCI).

About Ipsos

Ipsos is the world’s third largest market research company, present in 90 markets and employing more than 18,000 people. Our passionately curious research professionals, analysts and scientists have built unique multi-specialist capabilities that provide true understanding and powerful insights into the actions, opinions and motivations of citizens, consumers, patients, customers or employees. We serve more than 5000 clients across the world with 75 business solutions.

Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos has been listed on the Euronext Paris since July 1st, 1999. The company is part of the SBF 120 and the Mid-60 index and is eligible for the Deferred Settlement Service (SRD).

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