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America isn’t the angry and divided nation politics would have you believe

Community members gather for peaceful nonviolent rally at Washington Square in Salt Lake City on Saturday, June 6, 2020. Organizers hope to shed light on current events, as well as the African American struggle, and to show support for local law enforcement.
Community members gather for peaceful nonviolent rally at Washington Square in Salt Lake City on Saturday, June 6, 2020. Organizers hope to shed light on current events, as well as the African American struggle, and to show support for local law enforcement.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

The news these days shows an angry and painfully divided nation. But, even in these difficult times, that’s not an accurate portrayal of America. Yes, there are plenty of angry people and there are plenty of things to be angry about.

But, as is almost always the case, the nation’s political system is more divided than the nation itself.

The divisive political debate suggests that everyone has to choose a side — you’re either with the cops which means you’re a bigot or you’re for racial justice which means you hate the police. There is no middle ground in the heated rhetoric flowing on social media and partisan posturing. There is no room for compromise because both political teams consider the other side to be evil.

Fortunately, America’s voters are wiser than that. Consider the responses to some polling questions I asked this past weekend.

First, I asked 1,200 voters if they agreed or disagreed with the following statement:

· Following the killing of George Floyd, most protesters wanted to peacefully express their legitimate grievances. Unfortunately, a small number of troublemakers and looters led to violence.

It turns out that 79% of voters agree with that perspective. Only 15% do not.

That positive view of the protesters is shared by 84% of black voters, 79% of white voters, and 76% of Hispanic voters. It’s shared by men and women, rich and poor, by those with a college degree and those without. It doesn’t matter whether you live in the suburbs, an urban area, or rural America.

That makes sense given our nation’s long and troubled history of race relations. As I noted in last week’s column, the vast majority of us believe that black and white voters do not receive equal treatment in America today.

But, for most, recognizing that inequality exists does not mean hating the police.

For example, in the political realm, a “defund the police” movement is trying to seize the moment. It calls for cutting police, law enforcement, and prison budgets and using the money for social services instead. But this moment is not for them. Just 29% of voters are even somewhat in favor of defunding the police.

That makes sense when you consider the results of another polling question from my weekend survey. I asked the same 1,200 voters if they agreed or disagreed with this statement:

· Most police officers are good people trying to do a difficult and dangerous job. Unfortunately, a small number of troublemakers and racists lead to racial injustice.

Eighty-four percent (84%) agree with that view. Just 15% do not.

Once again, support for that statement is found across all demographic groups. Eighty-seven percent (87%) of white voters agree with it. So do 78% of black and 75% of Hispanic voters. Support is found among young and old, men and women, and in every part of the country.

In other words, the overwhelming majority of voters believe most protesters want to peacefully express legitimate grievances. And, at the very same time, they also believe most police officers are good people in a difficult position. About two-thirds of Americans agree with both views. Yes, there are bad people involved — on both sides. But there is also a lot of decency and a desire to create a better world — on both sides.

More than anything else, this suggests that voters have a solid handle on the reality that life is complicated and messy. It also suggests that most voters are still able to see the best in others while recognizing that none of us are perfect.

Those are things worth celebrating. They provide a firm foundation that wise leaders could use to both address underlying problems and unify the nation.

Scott Rasmussen is an American political analyst and digital media entrepreneur. He is the author of “The Sun is Still Rising: Politics Has Failed But America Will Not.”