Purple states can swing either way and often end up deciding our elections. So, it’s worth asking what people in those states think about the issues dominating politics. Heritage Action for America, the sister organization of The Heritage Foundation, recently carried out a wide survey of Americans in five purple states, asking them about immigration, health care, political correctness, and much more. In this episode, our Editor-in-Chief Kate Trinko sits down with Nate Rogers from Heritage Action to unpack it all.

We also cover the following stories:

  • President Donald Trump ramps up his war of words with Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings.
  • California shooting leaves three dead, including a 6-year-old.
  • 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund gets extended to 2092.

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Kate Trinko: Joining us today is Nate Rogers, who is a senior adviser for political affairs at Heritage Action for America. Nate, thanks for joining us.

Nate Rogers: Thank you.

Trinko: Heritage Action just did a series of polls in the United States, sometimes focusing on purple states, sometimes looking nationally, sometimes looking at people of a certain ideological persuasion. They talked about health care, socialism, capitalism, and much more.

Nate, what were some of your biggest takeaways?

Rogers: This was a really interesting exercise. We entered it not looking to reach any conclusions that we had going in, we wanted to be very open in the polling process.

The purple state poll is actually the fourth poll of a series of four, so it was actually the last poll that we conducted.

The first poll we conducted was a Republican-only poll so we wanted to see where conservatives and people who identify as Republican agree.

We know in the past there’s been a lot of divergence of opinions so we wanted to see exactly where opinion kind of combines from a policy perspective. So that was the first poll.

Then we did kind of a purple congressional district poll where we looked at the kind of places that could go either way and have a lot of diverse folks in those districts, [and we asked] them a similar set of questions.

Then we did a national survey, and then the swing state, and then the purple state survey.

We wanted to get into a place where we could see what policies in the year 2020 really cut through the noise and cut through the personalities of politics.

A lot of the personalities and sort of tact of different characters in politics really kind of take over the agenda. We wanted to see what policies really bring Americans together and different groups of Americans. That was the endeavor and we have some interesting insights.

Trinko: Your poll also got into what Americans think about capitalism and socialism. Tell me about that.

Rogers: We wanted to really get into the meat of where the sentiment is. There’s been a lot of talk about “Well, we shouldn’t call it capitalism anymore, we should call it freedom, we should call it just like liberty and free markets.”

We wanted to get beyond any of the semantic aspects of it, so we just put two statements to our survey respondents and we asked them, “Thinking about different forms of government, which of the following statements do you agree with most?”

The first statement we put out was, “Some people say that free-market capitalism is the best form of government because it gives people the freedom to work and achieve their potential. They say it’s not the government’s job to pick winners and losers and that government intervention only leads to inefficiency and abusive power.” That was one statement we put forward.

Then the other statement to choose from was, “Other people say that socialism is a more free and compassionate form of government. They say that corporations have too much control and that the capitalist system is set up to favor the rich and powerful. They say that the only way to police corporations and protect the citizens is for the government to take a larger role in managing the economy.”

We wanted to be as fair as possible in those two statements and really when describing socialism, we wanted to describe it in the glowing terms that the extreme left uses all the time.

Asking that, 60% of our respondents agreed with the capitalism statement, 60% agreed with the statement describing capitalism being a better form of government. Only 23% opted for the socialist statement.

This is really something that we’re really taking heart in is that the majority of Americans are still capitalists, which is great to see.

Trinko: There’s been a lot of talk about the left, it seems to have gotten much more aggressive in recent years, both on a rhetorical level but also in some of the policies: the Green New Deal, Rep. Rashida Tlaib recently called for a $20 an hour minimum wage, the House of course passed a $15 minimum wage. But a lot of it is just the rhetoric. The fight’s over almost culture war issues.

What did this polling of these purple states show about what people think about where the left is going?

Rogers: Yeah, the left is absolutely moving in an extreme direction, or at least most voters believe that.

We asked, basically, “Do you think that the left is pushing to a Democratic Party a bit too extreme?” And 50% responded in the affirmative compared to 45% that disagreed with that statement, and 43% strongly agreed. This was reflected across all the states we surveyed.

There’s definitely a national sentiment that the left is pushing way too far and, unfortunately, for people who identify as Democrats, a majority of those people, people who identify as Democrats, actually support those policies and back them.

Really, the left is finding themselves in a difficult situation where a majority of their bases are really supporting policies that are just out of step and out of touch with the American people at large, or at least the voters we surveyed.

Trinko: I would say that during President Trump’s years in office, one of the biggest fights we’ve been having on a cultural level is political correctness, and yours was, I think, one of the first polls I’ve seen that actually asked people about that.

What did you find was the attitude in these purple states toward it?

Rogers: Yeah, this was a question that we first asked in our first survey surveying people who only identify as Republicans and we found that even among very conservative folks and folks who identify as more moderate, political correctness is a huge issue.

It’s something that a little over 70% of people who identify as Republicans said was a major problem and that was pretty striking to us.

We asked it in a national survey also. We asked, “Do you think that political correctness is a major problem, minor problem, or no problem at all?” And people saying major or minor problem, 79% of the electorate feels that political correctness is a problem.

As I mentioned earlier, we’re looking for ways for policies that will bring Americans together and it was very interesting that political correctness, which isn’t really a policy issue, really paints everything going on. So, taking that knowledge of how the country feels about political correctness is really important.

Trinko: What do you think should be food for thought for conservatives from the polling you’ve done?

Rogers: Basically, there are a lot of innovative policies that bring our country together, so we looked at different voters that had switched their votes in the past, we’ve looked at Americans from all different backgrounds, and there are a lot of interesting policies in the area of jobs, of the economy, of culture, that do bring everyone together with significant majorities.

I think in these polarizing times, a common thought and attitude that people have is we can’t agree on anything, and that’s simply not the case. We have found policies in a variety of different areas that really do tie everyone together.

Trinko: What are some of those policies?

Rogers: So, a great policy or a great area of policy that really everyone agrees with is the idea on what the future of education should be.

Starting this out, we asked folks about whether or not they believe that there are skilled labor jobs out there that don’t require you to go to college, don’t require you to take on student debt, and actually can end up paying you more than a job that you would have to go to college for would pay, and 72% of the people we surveyed agree with that, which is pretty impressive compared to only 21% that disagreed.

The country at large, and this was in our purple state survey, the country at large agrees that there are great jobs out there that don’t require you to go to college.

On tying with that in our national survey, for instance, we asked, “Do you think the cost of a college education is worth it?” Basically, “Do you think the price of a four-year college degree is worth the price of tuition today?” And 72% disagreed with that statement.

Taking two different questions from two different surveys, they really do tie into the same sentiment that there’s a lot of issues with the cost of college.

What are some solutions? That’s a common problem, is there is a common solution that people feel? Well, yeah, 87% of the people we surveyed nationally believe that they would support more efforts for job training.

So while there’s a huge dissatisfaction with the cost of college and the rising costs of tuition, there’s an equally strong push for more job training options. It’s really interesting to see.

Trinko: What about health care? Obviously, this has been an issue that’s really roiled the country for at least a decade. We now have some on the left pushing for “Medicare for All.” What did your survey reveal about Americans’ attitudes on this?

Rogers: Health care is a contentious issue, or it has been in the past, but it’s an issue, once again, you would think there would be a lot of disagreement across the country on, that’s just simply not the case.

We asked Americans, “Do you favor or oppose doing away with all private health insurance companies and creating a government-run health care system?” We wanted to keep the language of single-payer or “Medicare for All” out of it, we just wanted to see what the sentiments were exactly.

And 65% of voters opposed doing away with all private health care, all private health insurance, 65% opposed that, 52% strongly opposed that, so there’s a huge amount of opposition. And only 27% favored it.

There’s a large consensus on the fact that government-run health care is not the solution.

When it comes to if there is a problem with health care, what are your problems with health care? Fifty-five percent, a majority, said that health care costs them too much, it costs the consumer too much as opposed to only 15% that said there wasn’t enough coverage or 9% that said there’s not enough quality in the health care.

When you look at what problems Obamacare really looked to solve, it was a problem of access and it was a problem of quality a lot, and it sacrificed costs.

We all know that Obamacare caused insurance premiums to skyrocket and that effect is felt a bit by Americans when they’re looking at what can be fixed about the health care system, just reducing consumer costs is something that is an area that we can improve on.

Trinko: What do Americans think about taxes? When I was looking at this polling, one thing that jumped out at me, which I don’t personally agree with, but it seemed like it was really popular to tax the super rich.

Rogers: It is. This was one of the more unfortunate findings. This is what I point to when people ask, “Well, did you cook the books? Did you skew the numbers?”

This is certainly not a result that is ideal for myself or Heritage Action to find, but yeah, 47% of Americans feel that the richest 10% of Americans are taxed much too low, which is a striking number. And then on top of that, another 16% feel they’re taxed somewhat too low.

The leftist ideology of Occupy Wall Street and Antifa and these things of free distribution and taxing the rich, that is something that has been effective in terms of convincing Americans, which is sad to see.

Trinko: But a lot of middle-class people still think that they and small businesses pay too much in taxes, right?

Rogers: Yeah, absolutely. Asking a similar question, “How do you think the middle class is taxed?” Thirty-three percent said much too high. … While over 60% feel that the richest 10% are taxed too little, a solid 59% feel the middle class is taxed too high, and also 57% say that small businesses are taxed too high.

There is an appetite for potentially even more tax cuts for middle-class Americans and small businesses, which is great to see.

Trinko: What about the issue of immigration? Speaking of an issue where it’s hard to separate viewpoints from rhetoric, what do people actually think?

Rogers: Yeah. This is one of the more polarizing issues of our time and our polling, once again, did capture where the polarization is and where there’s a chance for a consensus and where a consensus already exists.

There is polarization about building the wall, which is not a surprise to anyone, it certainly wasn’t surprising to us.

We asked, “Do you support building a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico?” And it was very split. It was a statistical tie international survey, which is a bit surprising based on what we see the media reporting at large is that maybe it’s just a small minority of Republicans or maybe conservatives, outspoken conservatives, are the only ones who support border security, but that’s just not the case.

Forty-eight percent support building a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico and 49% opposed, and that’s a statistical tie within our margin of error. But we see immediately where the polarization happens and it does happen between people who live in rural areas and people who live in suburban areas.

There’s a split between men and women on this issue, so it is polarizing, we pick up the polarization but when we expand beyond the wall and we look at other different solutions to immigration, not solutions to border security, but just other issues within the umbrella of immigration, we see a lot of different things, like skills-based immigration, for instance.

We asked, “If more legal”—that’s important to say—”legal immigrants are admitted to the United States, should priority be given to immigrants based on their skills or should priority be given to immigrants based on whether they already have family members in the country?”

Fifty-one percent of our national likely voters that we surveyed said skills, which is a huge number, especially compared to only the 29% that said family.

With this, really one of the only subgroups that prefer chain-based family migration over skills-based immigration are people that subscribe to a liberal ideology. So that’s an area where we do have consensus across pretty much all of our cross tabs and subgroups, really except for liberals.

Trinko: Lastly, you’ve obviously been working on this polling for months. Did any of the results particularly surprise you?

Rogers: Yeah, we had some huge surprises. One in particular, sticking with the subject of immigration, we asked, “When it comes to illegal immigration, which do you think is the biggest challenge illegal immigrants posed to America? (1) They take jobs from Americans. (2) They commit violent crimes. (3) They overuse social services. Or (4) they undermine American culture?”

Huge surprise here, 37% of the electorates said social services—and the social services we listed in the question were schools, hospitals, and welfare. I’ve run little impromptu focus groups on this asking this question at dinner parties and family gatherings and things.

Trinko: Wow, you must be a lot of fun.

Rogers: I know. I try to keep things interesting with polling questions but it does come back about the same.

So we hear the president talk a ton about the crime and jobs aspect and those are very important aspects to immigration and are important challenges that immigration, illegal immigration, poses, but the social services is by and large the most popular thing and, of the four challenges we listed, that’s probably the challenge the president talks least about.

When we’re working, trying to come up with policies to bring Americans together, finding a way to help relieve social services and speak to that aspect of immigration, that’s something where we bring independents into the fold, we bring moderates into the fold, this is all their greatest concern as well.

Trinko: OK. Well thank you so much for joining us. Again, Nate Rogers of Heritage Action for America.

Rogers: Thank you.

Trinko: And full disclosure, I should note that Heritage Action is a sister organization of The Heritage Foundation, our parent organization.