ISSUE #5 – December 2021
The Public Can Be a Stabilizing Force Across Administrations
The executive branch has decision-making power over many important issues, such as foreign policy and regulations put in place by federal agencies. A problem facing the American democratic system is that these policies tend to regularly swing back and forth depending on the party of the President. International agreements and policy programs are implemented then abandoned. Foreign governments and domestic industries have made clear that, independent of the policy, they would, at the very least, prefer them to be stable over time. Stability could be achieved if the public had more power over decision-making, as their policy preferences are usually stable over time.
For example, in 2018 former President Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal — known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — which was originally negotiated by President Obama’s Administration. Currently, President Biden seeks to re-enter the deal, but Iran’s newly appointed chief nuclear negotiator insists that any deal must guarantee that no future President could unilaterally abandon the agreement. In the Program for Public Consultation’s (PPC) 2015 survey, 55% favor joining the nuclear agreement with Iran. Unlike in the White House, public support for a deal has remained consistent over time: in Stanford’s Center for Deliberative Democracy’s 2019 survey fielded after the U.S. had left the agreement, 67% of voters favor re-committing.
In addition, this week the Biden administration raised vehicle mileage standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reversing a Trump-era ruling. The new standard is 25% higher, with a target of 55 miles per gallon by 2026. Automakers have called for consistency, writing to then President Trump that “a broadly supported final rule would provide regulatory certainty and enhance our ability to invest and innovate by avoiding an extended period of litigation and instability.” While administrations go back and forth, the American people consistently support raising vehicle mileage standards. In a 2016 PPC survey, 73% favor raising fuel-efficiency standards. A 2020 Yale and George Mason survey indicates that this level of public support is stable over time, finding that 78% of respondents favor standard increases.
If the public had greater influence over policymaking, it could stabilize executive action and federal regulations over time, creating a better environment for the economy and American democracy to succeed across administrations.
Nuclear Weapons Policy
Policymaking Simulation: Put yourself in the shoes of policymakers by trying our policymaking simulation on nuclear weapons policy. In this simulation, you’ll get a briefing on the issue, learn the arguments for and against altering the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and determine your policy recommendations. Once you finish the simulation, you’ll have a chance to send your recommendation to your Congresspeople.
Public Agenda & USA Today Release New Common Ground Report
Public Agenda & USA TODAY released their new Hidden Common Ground Report, focused on determining the level of polarization in America. Fielded nationally with a large representative sample, the survey found nearly three of every four Americans said it would be good for the country if Americans “reject political hostility and divisiveness and focus more on their common ground.” Both Democrat (75%) and Republican (80%) voters agree. Americans’ broad support for increased civility stands in sharp contrast to the narrative coming out of Congress, where lawmakers often demonize one another for personal gain.
Despite only 9% of Americans thinking that political animus between ordinary Americans will decrease in the next 10 years, about three-quarters of Americans say they value different political perspectives and nearly half (45%) say that, in the last 12 months, they have often or sometimes had a constructive conversation about politics with someone holding opposite views. A majority of Americans, including a substantial majority of Democrats, think that organized community dialogue would bring the country together.
World’s First Global Citizens Assembly
In the run-up to the United Nation’s 26th conference on climate change this past month, the world’s first ever global citizens assembly was initiated in order to give ordinary citizens from across the planet a voice the discussion. One hundred citizens, selected to be globally representative, deliberated online about the priorities and policies that should be taken up by the UN and national governments. They were given briefing material and heard testimonies from experts on the causes, nature and impact of climate change, and on the various ways to address it.
On November 1st, the assembly presented their declaration to the UN conference. The nine-page declaration was prepared and approved by the assembly, and its recommendations include:
- putting equity at the core of all policy proposals
- adding the right to a clean environment to the UN Human Rights Declaration
- making “ecocide”, or the destruction of whole ecosystems, a crime
- the inclusion of climate change in public education curriculum
- adding warning labels to products with high environmental impacts
- making wealthier nations most responsible provide funds to poorer nations
- including citizens in policy discussions, particularly through representative and deliberative processes.
The host and organizer, Susan Nakyung Lee, stated, “our long-term vision for the global assembly project is we have over 10 million people participating annually, becoming a permanent infrastructure of global governance.”