By Jonathan CapehartIn an increasingly polarized, polarized world, many Americans are increasingly looking to social norms to navigate their way through life, but few are willing to embrace the ideals of political socialization.
A new Pew Research Center poll finds that just 27 percent of Americans believe that social norms can help people become better citizens, while 59 percent say that they can’t help but shape society, and 61 percent say they can do so at their own risk.
But there’s a silver lining: The vast majority of Americans who feel the same way about social norms say that political socializing can have a profound impact on how they think about and live their lives.
And a Pew survey finds that more than half of Americans feel that social standards are “very important,” while only 26 percent feel they’re “somewhat important.”
This sentiment is driven by a broad consensus that political ideals, including social norms and moral values, should be incorporated into the political system.
“The stakes are much higher,” said James Clark, director of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.
“The stakes of our democracy are higher.”
The Pew Research poll found that the majority of voters say they are “strongly” or “slightly” in favor of political norms, with nearly half of Democrats, Republicans and independents strongly favoring it.
But only 44 percent of Republicans and Democrats agree that social expectations are a good way to make people better citizens.
In contrast, the share of voters who think they should “play by the rules” is at 59 percent, while the share who think that they should take political risks is at 46 percent.
A majority of the public also supports the idea that social and political norms should be reflected in the policies that shape our society.
But while 56 percent of all Americans support a social system in which the government sets and regulates social norms (including social norms), just 39 percent agree that the government should be responsible for setting and regulating political and social norms.
Americans who identify as liberals or liberal Democrats say they generally favor the idea of political and moral norms being set by the government.
But they also overwhelmingly support the idea, on balance, that political norms and social standards should be left to the private sector.
A Pew poll released this week found that 58 percent of Democrats and Democratic leaners say that “social standards should come from the private sphere,” while 41 percent of GOP voters and GOP leaners agree.
The vast bulk of the other political groups agree that “political standards should have more control over the marketplace and social conditions.”
A majority (57 percent) of Republicans, Democrats and independents agree that political standards should “come from the marketplace.”
But Republicans and GOP leaning independents who support political norms also overwhelmingly agree that it’s best for the government to set and regulate social norms in the private marketplace.
Only 17 percent of Republican voters, 24 percent of Democratic leanings and 22 percent of independents agree.
A third (33 percent) think that social policies should be set by private businesses, while 25 percent of conservative Democrats and 29 percent of liberal Democrats agree.
And among all Americans, 56 percent think that “people should be able to make their own choices in the political sphere.”
But a plurality of Democrats (51 percent) and independents (53 percent) say that people should have a say in how they feel about how their government treats them.
And while majorities of both Democrats and Republicans support “people having a voice in how their governments treat them,” only 41 percent and 42 percent of both groups agree.
The findings come at a time when a new generation of politicians is taking a more activist approach to politics, a generation that includes a record number of millennials.
The new generation is embracing social norms as a way to navigate a changing world.
They are more likely than their parents to support political ideals that are at odds with social norms that are more traditional.
And this is especially true for young Democrats, a group that is now entering the political mainstream, with a large percentage of them identifying as progressives.
This generational shift is helping to shift how Americans view the role of social norms more broadly, said Dan Kahan, director for the Center on Governmental Ethics at the Brookings Institution.
While social norms are now considered a powerful tool to shape and shape public policy, they are not the only tool at the government’s disposal, Kahan said.
“There are lots of other things that you can do to help people shape their lives,” Kahan told The Hill.
But, he added, “I think what we’re seeing is the political class, particularly in this administration, recognizing that these norms are important and that they have a place in the politics of this country.”