Polls are great at showing how much we disagree about nearly everything. Rarely do we ever see Pew, Gallup, or General Social Survey polls discussing how much Americans agree about certain subjects. We rarely find out about the things we do agree upon because one, that's not interesting news and two, pollsters will just stop asking about it if there is a consensus. The AP recently released the results of various surveys concerning topics that Americans actually do agree about.
90% of Americans all agree about the following:
1. Belief in God.
2. Are very patriotic.
3. Consider preventing terrorism a very important foreign policy goal.
4. Admire those who get rich by working hard.
5. Think society should ensure everyone has equal opportunity to succeed.
6. Think it's important to get more than a high school education.
7. Favor teaching sex education in public schools.
8. Find birth control morally acceptable.
9. Believe cloning humans would be morally wrong.
10. Believe it's wrong for married people to have affairs.
11. Are interested in keeping up with national affairs.
12. Believe it's their duty to always vote.
Now, like any good poll, these results are fraught with caveats and exceptions. Consensus doesn't always equate into individuals acting upon these beliefs. For example, despite 9 in 10 Americans agreeing that it is their duty to vote nearly 90 million eligible Americans opted out of participating in the last election. Even as we agree on some of these issues we will often contradict ourselves when asked for further clarification or how to remedy problems.
What these kinds of statistics show you is that, for the most part, Americans agree on the big ideas. We're also hopelessly optimistic about America even as we remain terribly pessimistic about Congress. These kinds of polls likely won't solve any of the intractable issues we do disagree about, like guns or abortion, but it does offer us a look into how the American political and societal landscape has changed over time.