A Peek at American Pride Before Independence Day

As Americans prepare to celebrate Independence Day, a new Gallup poll reveals a continuing decline in national pride that reflects polarized political views, discontent with US welfare and health care systems and deep disappointment in the US political system.

As Americans prepare to celebrate Independence Day, a new Gallup poll reveals a continuing decline in national pride that reflects polarized political views, discontent with US welfare and health care systems and deep disappointment in the US political system.

American overall pride in their country has dipped to the lowest point since Gallup started asking the poll question in 2001. Democrats are mostly responsible for the decline in pride.

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“Record-low American patriotism is the latest casualty of the sharply polarized political climate in the U.S. today,” Gallup said of its poll conducted in June. “For the second time in 19 years, fewer than half of U.S. adults say they are extremely proud to be Americans. The decline reflects plummeting pride among Democrats since Trump took office, even as Republican pride has edged higher.” 

Before jumping to a conclusion about who is and isn’t patriotic, Gallup asked revealing questions that help to pinpoint the decline in pride:

  • 91% of Americans take pride in American scientific achievements.

  • 89% are proud of the US military.

  • 85% are proud of American culture and arts.

  • 75% are proud of American economic achievements.

  • 73% are proud of American sporting achievements.

  • 72% are proud of US diversity in race, ethnic background and religion.

America is off track on its health, welfare and political systems.

  • Only 37% of Americans take pride in US health and welfare system.

  • Only 32% take pride in the American political system.

There is an unmistakable division between Republicans, Democrats and Independents and a noticeable difference between older and younger adults.

  • 76% of Republicans are extremely proud of America contrasted to only 41% of Independents and 22% of Democrats.

  • 63% of adults 65 or older are extremely proud of America compared to 24% of adults between the ages of 18-29.

Gallup said the highest expressions of pride in country occurred immediately after the 9/11 terror attack in New York.

One-on-One Interviews Create Partners in Decision-Making

One-on-one interviews share the same concept as management by walking around – turning interviewees, employees and stakeholders into partners in critical decision-making.

One-on-one interviews share the same concept as management by walking around – turning interviewees, employees and stakeholders into partners in critical decision-making.

Management by walking around and talking to front-line workers was made famous by Tom Peters. The concept boils down to making employees – or any stakeholders – a partner in the decision-making process.

That same inclusionary concept is embedded in the research techniques of one-on-one interviews and community roundtables. Stakeholders are interviewed or participate in a group discussion to inform decision-making, whether it’s for a business, project or major initiative. 

Too often, research is dismissed as interesting, but not imperative. Just as Peters demonstrated the power of management engagement with workers, one-on-one interviews and roundtables perform the same role by giving decision-makers relevant, timely findings to inform their decisions.

In our world, we say no communications plan is strategic unless it is based on solid research. The same holds true for business plans, policy initiatives, marketing and messaging.

CEOs and managers would be wise to take time to meet with the employees they oversee to learn what they know and apply to inform management decision-making.

CEOs and managers would be wise to take time to meet with the employees they oversee to learn what they know and apply to inform management decision-making.

You may know what you want to say, but you should know what people are willing to hear first. That insight can shape how and where you say your piece. It also can influence who says it.

Given how important knowing in advance the attitudes of your target audience, it is surprising how often research is thrown overboard because it is costly, time-consuming and “unlikely to reveal anything new.” That short-sighted, overly self-confidence perspective has come back to bite many executives, marketers and politicians in the bum. It is an unforced error because one-on-one interviews are one of the least costly and most effective types of qualitative research.

Peters counseled his corporate client executives to get “up close and personal” with their subordinates, especially workers who interface with customers, but have no institutional channel to relay what they discover. Peters also recommended top executives work full shifts with the production staff so they could see first-hand working conditions, process snags and wasted motion. His goal: To create horizontal relationships that allow a free-flow of information.

Trained researchers have the skill to coax insight out of people they interview or whom they moderate in a group discussion. Researchers start with a set of questions designed to spark a conversation, which can expand beyond answering a question to provide invaluable context and perspective. Interviews and group discussions also offer visual clues about emotive reactions to certain issues, words or imagery.

Interviewees, especially if assured they won’t be quoted directly, are typically very forthcoming. After all, most people like to be asked their opinions. They appreciate the chance to answer questions and explain their answers.

Reports based on one-on-one interviews or group discussions don’t contain percentages because this is qualitative, not quantitative research. You are getting their views expressed in their words. The actual words interviewees use are just as important to hear as their answers to the questions.

Executives are hired because they are expected to know how to run their respective organizations. However, many decisions stretch the knowledge or experience of top executives. They need fresh, relevant information to inform the choices they must make. One-on-one interviews and group discussions can provide the information and insight executives need for smart, collaborative decision-making.

 

Health Care Concerns Run Deeper Than Politicians Realize

The current national political debate over health care reform may run deeper in the electorate than ensuring universal access to health insurance. Americans with health insurance are concerned about rising costs, surprise hospital bills and long-term care expenses.

The current national political debate over health care reform may run deeper in the electorate than ensuring universal access to health insurance. Americans with health insurance are concerned about rising costs, surprise hospital bills and long-term care expenses.

The national political debate on health care is stalled on access to health insurance. Politicians may be smart to stop and listen to concerns by Americans with health insurance about higher deductibles, rising medical costs, surprise hospital charges and uncovered long-term care expenses.

Americans are feeling the pinch of escalating health insurance premiums and medical costs. This expands the anxious audience to people with health insurance as well as people with no coverage.

The political potency of health care costs was demonstrated in the 2018 mid-term elections as Democrats swept back to control in the House. The issue is expected to loom large again in the 2020 presidential election.

The debate, which rarely descends below the superficial, pits Medicare-for-All against a vague promise from Republicans of something great and affordable. President Trump has pledged, as he has before, to unveil major health care legislation in the next few months. Expectations aren’t high.

Oregonians have learned that discussions about universal access to health insurance must be accompanied by a serious conversation about how to control health care costs. Access to an unaffordable health care system isn’t materially different from no access to health insurance when it comes to paying huge bills.

Former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber provided teachable moments on confronting costs embedded in the health care delivery system – long-term care for low-income older adults, lack of behavioral resources, inefficiency in treating chronic disease and failure to address social determinants that lead to a lifetime of outsized health care costs.

As prescient as Kitzhaber’s perceptions have been, health care costs in Oregon and elsewhere continue to rise. And the health care delivery system remains uncomfortably uncoordinated and sub-optimized, as even health care professionals acknowledge. 

Democratic presidential candidates have jumped on health care as a seminal 2020 campaign issue. However, the political cure Democrats offer may miss the mark.

“The Democrats’ emphasis on Medicare expansion plans is partly a missed opportunity and partly a reflection of the slice of the electorate that participates in Democratic primaries,” according to pollsters and political strategists. The concern of a majority of actual Democratic voters in 2020 may center instead on issues such as the price of drugs like insulin, exploding co-pays, unaffordable health insurance premiums and the uncovered costs of long-term care for older adults.

The efficacy of health care on the campaign stump has prompted President Trump to return to the issue, which previously resulted in an embarrassing loss on the Senate floor when the late Senator John McCain torpedoed a GOP-backed repeal of Obamacare. It remains questionable whether Republicans can identify a center-point on how to move beyond the Affordable Care Act.

Democrats stand on the same political quicksand. Senator Bernie Sanders has pushed his Medicare-for-All legislation, which would cashier private health insurance, expand existing Medicare benefits and require substantial additional revenue. Moderate Democrats have pitched a public option under Obamacare to create competition for private health insurance plans. There are variations, often with vague details, somewhere in between. 

Rising prescription drug prices also have galvanized American political discontent. Trump has flirted with actions to reduce drug prices, but has achieved nothing definitive to brag about, at least so far, heading into the 2020 election. Congress is acting on bipartisan legislation to address prescription drug prices, but it is too complex to translate into news coverage or the national consciousness. Drug pricing has risen to the level of a special work group evaluating the US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.

Tellingly, Senator Elizabeth Warren, easily the most cerebral 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, has a “plan for that” for almost every issue except health care. She has stopped short of embracing Medicare-for-All. Her hesitancy is perhaps the surest indicator that health care reform is a systemic idea requiring a sophisticated response that doesn’t fit on a bumpersticker.

The big idea for health care reform in Congress may remain a puzzle or, if known, a hidden secret. Chances are the ultimate successful idea will need the embrace of significant parts of both political parties. Its revelation is unexpected along the 2020 presidential campaign trail.

However, the 2020 electorate may erase any doubt Americans of all political stripes want a national health care system that is better than the patchwork system now in place. The presidential election may serve as a political sounding board that health care should rise above partisanship. A logical, sustainable response would require the forbearance of both political parties – and partisan apologists.

The American solution to health care may not resemble anything anywhere else. Its test will be whether it delivers affordable and accessible health insurance, health care delivery, prescription medications and new technology. It is a tall order, but the person, political party or organization that conceives of that system may reign supreme in the public’s mind for a generation or more. 

As flawed as Obamacare may be, it stands as a testament that any improvement can be a legend-making milestone.

 

Online Use Continues to Grow, And So Do User Concerns

A United Kingdom annual study shows internet use continues to grow at a steady pace, while concerns by online users about email spam, scams, violent videos, cyber-bullying and hate speech have spiked. The report adds more fuel to the debate over government regulation of the internet.

A United Kingdom annual study shows internet use continues to grow at a steady pace, while concerns by online users about email spam, scams, violent videos, cyber-bullying and hate speech have spiked. The report adds more fuel to the debate over government regulation of the internet.

Internet use continues to increase. So are concerns about the Internet.

A study by Ofcom, the United Kingdom’s communications regulator, shows average UK adult time online has risen to 3 hours and 15 minutes, an increase of 7 percent per year. Its annual report, Online Nation, said user concern over the internet rose from 59 percent to 78 percent last year.

The report indicates 61 percent of adults claimed to have a potentially harmful online experience in the past year. More than three-fourths of young online users between 12 and 15 years old made the same claim.

Government regulation of the internet has become a hot topic, fueled in large part by privacy concerns and abuses linked to Facebook.  The Conversation  published a recent essay headlined, “It’s time for a new way to regulate social media platforms,” which explores various approaches, some of which are advocated by the leaders of high tech firms, to protect our digital town squares.

Government regulation of the internet has become a hot topic, fueled in large part by privacy concerns and abuses linked to Facebook. The Conversation published a recent essay headlined, “It’s time for a new way to regulate social media platforms,” which explores various approaches, some of which are advocated by the leaders of high tech firms, to protect our digital town squares.

Sharply higher rates of concern, especially about harmful content, have caught the attention of regulators, not just in the UK, but also in the United States.

Yih-Choung Teh, group director of strategy and research at Ofcom, said, “As most of us spend more time than ever online, we’re increasingly worried about harmful content – and also more likely to come across it. For most people, those risks are still outweighed by the huge benefits of the internet. And while most internet users favor tighter rules in some areas, people also recognize the importance of protecting free speech, which is one of the internet’s great strengths.” 

Spam emails top the list of potential harms experienced by internet users. Close behind are experiences with fake news, scams, offensive language, violent videos, unwelcome friend requests and offensive videos or pictures. Users also are perturbed by misleading advertising, viruses and hate speech. Social media was cited as the biggest offender.

Almost four in 10 young internet users reported encounters with offensive language, 23 percent said they experienced cyber-bullying and 20 percent had been trolled. 

Despite all that, the study showed nearly 60 percent of UK’s 44 million internet users think benefits outweigh risks. Slightly more young people agree, saying the internet makes their lives better.

Growing internet usage along with growing concerns about what happens online will surely add fuel to the debate over whether and how much the government should regulate online content.

 

What You Can Learn from a Survey about Arabic Numerals

What those Arabic numerals can reveal.

What those Arabic numerals can reveal.

Pittsburgh research firm asked 3,200 Americans whether students should learn Arabic numerals. More than 50 percent said no. 

One interpretation of that finding is half of Americans don’t realize their numbering system of 0 through 9 is based on Arabic numerals – and has been since the 13th century when an Italian mathematician concluded the Arabic decimal system was superior to Roman numerals. Another interpretation is that 56 percent of Americans have a knee-jerk reaction to the word “Arabic,” which apparently is synonymous in their minds with “Muslim.”

It is hard to find much solace in either interpretation – ignorance or prejudice. 

Shame on us for an education system that sells short the contributions of non-Europeans to world civilization. In what we refer to as Dark Ages, a Muslim-led period of discovery and innovation flourished while advancing astronomy, architecture, trade, medicine and, yes, mathematics. Algebra was derived from the Arabic al-jabir. Algorithm is taken from the name of Muslim mathematician Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi.

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The Western Renaissance sparked to life upon rediscovery of classic knowledge – as advanced by a Muslim empire that spilled into Spain and Sicily, where that Italian mathematician made a course-critical decision about Arabic numerals.

The bias against Muslims is also shameful, in part because it is based on ignorance, too. We think western civilization and Judeo-Christian tradition are responsible for the world’s progress. They are, but not exclusively. The arts of plant cultivation, animal domestication, language, writing and metallurgy were achieved in places outside of Europe and long before there was Western civilization or Judeo-Christian tradition. China has been a nation for 4,000 years, racking up its own impressive record of achievements. 

One of the greatest achievements of western civilization is the Enlightenment, which liberated thought from theocratic restraints while preserving freedom of religion. The Enlightenment led to the end of slavery, aspirations of equality and creation of democracies. The founders of the United States based a lot of mold-breaking thoughts about government by the people and inalienable rights for all. 

Which loops back to the survey findings and how it reflects on the legacy of western civilization and the ideals of nation that is a child of that civilization.

Then again, who would have thought the word “tariff” had its roots in Arabic.

 

Survey Doesn’t Confirm Reputed Pacific Northwest Cold Shoulder

By reputation, residents of the Pacific Northwest can be cold, aloof and even uninterested in forging new friendships. A new survey doesn’t exactly confirm that reputation.

By reputation, residents of the Pacific Northwest can be cold, aloof and even uninterested in forging new friendships. A new survey doesn’t exactly confirm that reputation.

A survey of Washington and Oregon respondents drew press attention this week by allegedly confirming the cold shoulder Pacific Northwest residents reputedly give to newcomers. The actual poll results aren’t quite that conclusive or simple.

The headlines blared that Pacific Northwest residents are aloof and unfriendly, but the survey data associated with the claim doesn’t really bear that out, as 59% of respondents think making friends is extremely, very or somewhat important compared to 40% who don’t. The 40% got the headline.

The headlines blared that Pacific Northwest residents are aloof and unfriendly, but the survey data associated with the claim doesn’t really bear that out, as 59% of respondents think making friends is extremely, very or somewhat important compared to 40% who don’t. The 40% got the headline.

The 2019 PEMCO Insurance survey question that produced attention-grabbing headlines asked, “Right now in your life, how important is it to you to make new friends?” Out of 1,235 responses, 40 percent said making new friends was “not important” or “not at all important.” What the headlines didn’t reflect was that 59 percent of respondents said making new friends was “extremely important,” “very important” or “somewhat important.”

Survey results were broken down between Washington (635) and Oregon (600) respondents. Washingtonians were slightly more open to making friends than the overall findings (62%-38%), while Oregonians were less friend-seeking (57%-42%). The 1 percent who didn’t know was from Oregon.

The Seattle Times story describing the survey results carried this headline: “Seattle Freeze: Forget making friends – half of Washington residents don’t even want to talk to you.” That seems quite a leap from the actual survey findings.

When you segment the findings by gender, age and family status, you get a more nuanced picture. Male respondents expressed more importance to making friends than female respondents. So did younger adults over older adults and respondents with children over respondents with no children. The most striking statistic is that Washingtonians appear more open to making friends than Oregonians. 

Another question in the survey was, “Even if it’s not important to you right now, how easy or difficult do you think it is to make friends in the city where you live.” Again, the findings weren’t all that headline-grabbing – 36 percent said making friends is “very easy” or “somewhat easy” compared to 37 percent who said it was “somewhat difficult” or “very difficult.” Twenty-five percent said it was neither easy nor difficult.

There wasn’t much statistically different in the answers of Washington and Oregon respondents. Like the previous question, younger adults and adults with children found making friends easier than older adults and adults without children. Males again said it was easier to make friends than females.

The reputation of Pacific Northwest residents as cold and aloof may be true, but these poll results don’t really confirm that. They certainly don’t back up the suggestion that people in our region don’t want to talk to non-friends or newcomers.

The survey results do substantiate that, for many people, making friends isn’t a high priority and that, for some, entering new friendships isn’t easy. We didn’t really need a headline to tell us that. 

[CFM Research is committed to integrity and objectivity in framing questions, conducting surveys with representative samples and analyzing findings fairly and accurately.]