MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
With Democrats in control in of Congress and a Republican in the White House, there's been a lot of talk about bipartisanship in the last couple of months. On election day, a majority of voters made one thing clear. They want change. Today, we start our series Crossing the Divide by asking whether change in government means compromise.
NORRIS: To help us understand what voters say they want in the way of compromise and whether they are likely to get it, NPR asked Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, to do some polling for us. It's part of our weeklong series on this subject. Welcome, Andy.
Mr. ANDREW KOHUT (Pew Research Center): Happy to be here.
NORRIS: Now, the first of these findings seems to be the Americans are saying that the country is more divided and at the same time they want more compromise.
Mr. KOHUT: Yeah. Well, they're tired of the polarization. I mean, 66 percent say this country is more politically divided than it was in the past.
NORRIS: So this poll looks at what voters see around them and what they want.
Mr. KOHUT: And they want more compromise. They certainly want more moderation. But at the same time, these desires are tempered by two things. They like politicians who stand their ground and say unpopular things, and they're also tempered by the fact that the American public is a little reluctant to have their leaders compromise on issues that they feel most strongly about.
NORRIS: I want to get to the issues in just a minute. So, if people want this compromises that mean that voters have a certain distaste for those political leaders who stake out the visions at the far end of the spectrum, those die hard conservatives or died in the wool liberals?
Mr. KOHUT: And what we find is people who say they like least people who are straight Republican conservatives, straight Democratic liberal. They want people who take a mix of positions. The majority say, 66 percent majority say they like politicians who have a mixture of liberal and conservative positions.
NORRIS: That's where it gets complicated, though, unless they're espousing a position that is near and dear to the voter?
Mr. KOHUT: So you have two conflicting forces and then I guess in the end, it's going to depend upon how America's political leaders address this enigma, this conundrum in public opinion. Will they press for compromise for the sake of progress and making things happen, which will satisfy voter? Or will they stick to their position and please voters with some of the strongest attitudes about issues?
NORRIS: So, what are the issues that they're talking about? Why are they actually looking for some progress?
Mr. KOHUT: Well, we saw a majority saying they're willing to compromise on the environment, on issues of taxes, on the issue of immigration. They're less likely to say they would favor a compromise on Iraq by a 51 to 45 percent margin. But, the one issue that really stands out as no compromise is on abortion, where the margin was 72 to 25. So in all of these issues that are the important issues, there's a bit of a divide when you get to specifics, even though in principle the public supports the notion of compromise and certainly the notion of moderation.
NORRIS: Did you ask people from the poll - if you ask them if they are interested in compromise, did you ask, I guess, the opposite question? Would you prefer that people just duke it out, that they maintain their position, hold the ground and fight to the death?
Mr. KOHUT: Well, yes. I mean, that people do not want contentious politicians. They somehow want politicians who are moderate, seek compromise but are willing to give a little bit of ground, but not so much ground that people feel that their own positions on these important issues are compromised themselves.
NORRIS: Thank you, Andy.
Mr. KOHUT: You're welcome.
NORRIS: Andrew Kohut. He's the director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.