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Building Bridges for the Common Good

Winter 2013 Trust Magazine

A clear message from the 2012 elections is that the American public wants our nation's leaders to pull together to address the urgent issues facing families, communities, and our country. This issue of Trust offers a compelling glimpse of how people from all walks of life—driven by passion for change, precision in their work, and persistence against challenges—are building bridges to achieve progress for the common good.

The 12 accomplishments featured demonstrate that even in a nation divided on many issues, we can continue the endless quest for "a more perfect Union" and the vision of our nation's founders—which has long inspired Pew's work.

Importantly, each of these successes demonstrates the power of facts and information to build support, resolve differences, and advance thoughtful and informed policies. Pew's work lays the foundation for effective government solutions by generating objective data, using research to inform and engage citizens, linking diverse interests to pursue common cause, and insisting on tangible results. In the last year alone, this approach has proved to be effective on a broad range of issues. For example:

At the state level, Pew helped Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania craft sentencing and corrections reforms to protect public safety, hold offenders accountable, and control costs. Through solid research and effective state-level advocacy, the policy changes won support from diverse partners—and were enacted by governors and state legislators of both parties. 

Nationwide, to help citizens register to vote and find their polling places, Pew worked with Google, Microsoft, and other technology companies to develop and deploy Web tools and mobile phone applications. By digitally connecting the public and private sectors, we put vital information into the hands of 25 million Americans. 

At the international level, more than half a billion acres of northern Canada's vast and pristine boreal forest are coming under strict protection thanks to a project led by Pew and Ducks Unlimited. The boreal campaign brings together governments, loggers, hunters, and environmentalists as well as more than 75 companies and 1,500 scientists. The campaign is bi-national, built on rigorous planning, and driven to achieve tangible results.

Breakthroughs like these happen when we heed the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan: "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion," he said, "but not to his own facts." And no one has worked harder to find and disseminate good facts than our longtime colleague, Andrew Kohut.

Andy, president of the Pew Research Center from its very first day, decided in 2012 to transition from that position but continue to provide counsel as founding director. I met Andy in 1995 when he was heading the Times Mirror Center for the People and the Press, which soon became the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. When we decided to consolidate our public opinion and social science research projects in 2004, it was clear that Andy should lead the new organization.

Today, the Pew Research Center is internationally known, respected, trusted, and cited in the media almost daily—largely because the center's work is scientific, rigorous, and obsessively neutral. As we thank Andy for his many contributions, we're pleased to welcome the award-winning journalist and former Wall Street Journal editor Alan Murray to serve as the new president. Under Alan's leadership, I'm sure the center will continue to inform and enlighten us with its data and analysis.

From the center's legacy to the 12 successes of 2012 detailed in these pages, a consistent theme emerges: Even in this era of division and gridlock, progress can be achieved when we pull together around the facts and focus on the ties that bind us, the goals we share, and the Union we never wish to stop perfecting.

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