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An American flag and Utah state flag fly at half-staff at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. Gov. Spencer Cox ordered the flags be flown at half-staff through in memory of the 500,000 American lives lost to COVID-19.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

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Do Americans still believe in freedom, equality and self-government?

Just 30% of voters say we’re doing well in living up to these ideals

My initial column series for the Deseret News focused on applying the wisdom of our Founding Fathers to the issues of the 21st century. Then, just a few months later, that series was interrupted by the coronavirus and everything that has transpired over the past year. Now, as the end of the pandemic is in sight, I have been thinking again about how that amazing 18th century wisdom can help point our nation to an even brighter future.

I recognize, of course, that the founders of our government were far from perfect. They were men, not angels — fallible men with some horrific blind spots. But they were also thoughtful men who gave serious thought to the age-old problem of creating a government that could work despite the realities of human nature.

Alexander Hamilton, for example, recognized that politicians on both sides of any question might be motivated by “ambition, avarice, personal animosity, party opposition, and many other motives not more laudable than these.” I find it somewhat reassuring to know that the ugliness of politics today would not have surprised Hamilton or his colleagues. All Americans should be grateful that our founders devised a brilliant system of checks and balances rather than dreaming of an idyllic system ruled by angelic leaders.

With that in mind, I conducted a survey last week and found that 83% of voters share my belief that America’s founding ideals are worth fighting for. Just 7% disagree.

Given the times that we live in, it’s unfortunately necessary to point out that the idea of fighting for the founding ideals is not a call for violence. It means fighting in ways that honor those ideals and working through constitutional means. Violent defiance makes a mockery of the founding ideals and has no place in this battle.

After asking if those ideals were worth fighting for, I asked 1,000 registered voters how they would describe them. Many cited freedom, equality and related themes. In a follow-up question, 85% agreed that it would be accurate to describe America’s founding ideals as freedom, equality and self-governance.

Freedom, equality and self-governance are seen as an accurate description of America’s founding ideals by at least 70% of every measured demographic group. That includes 90% of Republicans, 86% of Democrats and 78% of independents. Eighty-eight percent of white voters hold that view. So do 79% of Hispanic voters and 74% of Black voters. Among voters with two parents born in the United States, 86% agree with that description. So do 77% of those whose parents were both born in some other nation.

Forty-six percent of voters believe all three items are equally important. Thirty-two percent cite freedom as the most important, while 18% say the same about equality.

However, while there is agreement on the ideals, the results show we’ve got a lot of work to do as a nation. Just 30% of voters say our nation is doing a good or an excellent job of living up to them. Thirty-nine percent rate the current performance as poor. Just 33% believe we will draw closer to living out those ideals over the next generation. Thirty-two percent disagree, and 36% are not sure.

Seventy-three percent of voters believe freedom, equality and self-governance provide a good foundation for bringing people together and unifying the nation. From my perspective, moving our nation closer to living out these noble ideals is also the only way we can ensure a bright future for our children and grandchildren.

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.”

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