- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 8, 2010

There are definite things we “love and hate about America,” the numbers say. The nation does not live in a gray zone void of pronounced opinions.

Science and technology, the U.S. Constitution and our quality of life top the list of collective national “loves,” while our political system, the economy and the state of public schools lurk at the very bottom, according to a Harris Poll released Tuesday.

Respondents were asked to rate “16 elements of American life.”

Three-fourths of them gave thumbs up to the world of research and fancy electronics; seven out of 10 were fans of the Constituition.

The government itself got a so-so review, rated positive by fewer than half the respondents. But woe to the American political system, which garnered the admiration of less than a quarter of them.

The findings present a disconnect in some ways, according to the pollster.

“The contrast between the 70 percent of adults who give the Constitution positive marks, the 23 percent who give the political system a positive rating and the 43 percent who give the system of government good marks is very striking,” said Humphrey Taylor, chairman of the Harris Poll.

“Presumably, the system of government and the political system are based on the Constitution. However, for many people, politics and government have strong negative connotations,” he added.

It is reassuring to know, at least, that Republicans and Democrats were united in their admiration for the Constitution, meanwhile. Three-fourths of the Grand Old Party and 72 percent of Democrats deemed the nation’s founding document good or excellent.

“For many of the 16 elements on the list, the differences between Republicans and Democrats are small,” Mr. Taylor said. “However, on a few items, the differences are quite large.”

Gauging politics and other civic matters is in the eye of the beholder. Only 19 percent of Republicans, for example, gave the American political system a positive review, compared with 33 percent of Democrats.

In some cases, the Harris findings suggest that Republicans emerge as the more-optimistic demographic group in the survey.

Fifty-eight percent of Americans overall said that civil rights in this country were good or excellent. Among Republicans, the figure was 70 percent, among Democrats it was 53 percent.

Slightly more than half of the respondents overall gave high ratings to the American “equality of opportunity,” but there was a partisan gap: 65 percent of Republicans rated it highly, against just 47 percent of Democrats.

Could Republicans be more green-minded, as well as optimistic? While 44 percent of Americans overall said that the environment was good or excellent, the number was 61 percent among Republicans and 37 percent among Democrats.

The survey of 2,503 adults was conducted May 10-17, with no margin of error given.

• Jennifer Harper can be reached at jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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