In the political world, it sometimes seems as if everybody has been labeled and placed in a neatly defined box. There are conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, progressives and libertarians. However, among the general public, there is little common understanding of what these labels represent. Conservatives and liberals both see themselves as committed to individual freedom but others do not.
Other terms such as Socialism, Single-Payer Health Care, and a Universal Basic Income take on specific meanings in official Washington. But, the public sees each very differently.
For example, 40% of US voters have a favorable opinion of Socialism, but what they support is far different from what that ideology has meant historically. In fact, among those with a favorable view of Socialism, just 34% believe it will lead to higher taxes and more government control. Another third (33%) think it would actually reduce taxes and government control.
Perhaps most stunning is that voters with a favorable opinion of Socialism believe it is more likely to lead to lower taxes than Capitalism.
Similar dynamics are found on the topic of Single-Payer Health Care and Universal Basic Income. Those phrases and the desire to share the fruits of our national prosperity with everyone elicits broad support. But the policies attached to those phrases in political circles have extremely limited support.
The enormous gap in support between the emotional content of a phrase and the policies that politicians attach to those phrases is one of the defining features of our political system today. It is hard to imagine how our political process can be fixed without first finding a common language for the public dialogue.