The Elusive 90% Solution

Mar 11, 2011

These days there appears to be almost nothing that all, or nearly all, Americans can agree on. But this week, fully 90% of the public said that they were hearing mostly bad news about gas prices.

That might seem like a no-brainer given the recent surge in gas prices. But reaching the 90% threshold is a rare occurrence in public opinion surveys. In part, this reflects the tendency of polling organizations to focus on current issues about which there are often considerable differences of opinion. Nonetheless, even on issues where one would expect to find near-total agreement, the public's views are far from unanimous.

Shortly after the economic crisis hit, for instance, economic perceptions turned overwhelmingly negative. Even so, the public differed over how bad things had gotten. By February 2009, virtually no one (4%) said economic conditions were good. But while 71% rated conditions as "poor," nearly a quarter (24%) said they were "only fair."

Read the full report, The Elusive 90% Solution, on the Pew Research Center's Web site. 

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