Vital Signs: A Poll of the Nation from the Hoover Institution

Vital Signs: A Poll of the Nation from the Hoover Institution takes a non-partisan bi-annual pulse of the American electorate. It explores three major themes: governmental power and liberty; social and environmental justice; and populism. The survey was designed by scholars at the Hoover Institution and the data were collected by YouGov, a global polling firm, between August 24-31, 2020. The sample of 2,005 adults was selected from YouGov’s panel to be representative a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults in terms of age, gender, race, education, and vote in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The margin of error is approximately plus or minus three percentage points.

Government power and liberty addresses the traditional divide between Republicans and Democrats on government intervention in the economy, classical libertarian issues, modern liberalism, and personal freedom. The theme of social and environmental justice explores matters of race relations, immigration, climate change, affirmative action, and iconoclasm. The third theme, populism, concerns attitudes regarding the “people” and their relationship to the “elite” and also their trust in institutions. Vital Signs is an attempt to determine the extent to which polarization and populism hinder constructive policy-making, especially the finding of common ground to make trade-offs on issues such as freedom of speech, health care policy, gun regulation, and how far a government can go in restraining citizen behavior. Ultimately, it is intended to help identify preferred solutions, from market-based proposals to state/federal government interventions.


February 2021 Key Findings

Traditional Views about Government Intervention in the Economy
Beliefs about government power represent traditional divides between Republicans and Democrats. For example, 69% of Democrats favor rent control as opposed to 38% of Republicans. Similarly, while 31% of Democrats favor a carbon tax, an overwhelming 71% of Republicans are against such measures.

Traditional Views about Personal Freedom
Differing views about personal freedom represent traditional divides between Republicans and Democrats. For example, only 11% of Democrats believe that COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders are a detrimental policy compared to 55% of Republicans.

Republican Shift on Tax Issues
The Republican Party’s absorption of less educated voters in the Trump era has resulted in a shift in GOP attitudes about taxation. Roughly half (54%) of Republicans now believe that the tax system is unfair.

Democrats and Republicans Share Populist Views
Both sides of the political spectrum share general populist views. For example, roughly equal proportions of Democrats and Republicans believe that many government officials are corrupt (73% Democrats, 72% Republicans) and dishonest (62% Democrats, 59% Republicans).

Confidence in Institutions
While Democrats and Republicans share general populist views, they differ about the institutions they distrust. For example, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to express “no confidence” in the police (25% Democrats, 4% Republicans) and organized religion (28% Democrats to 8% Republicans). By contrast, Republicans by larger proportions than Democrats express “no confidence” in universities (29% Republicans to 8% Democrats) and the media (64 Republicans, 15% Democrats).

MEDIA COVERAGE

MANAGING FELLOWS

David Brady
Senior Fellow

David Brady is a professor of political science at Stanford University and the Davies Family Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution.

Doug Rivers
Senior Fellow

Douglas Rivers is chief scientist at YouGov, a professor of political science at Stanford University, and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.