State Policy Network
American voters’ views on equality of opportunity

New State Voices polling from State Policy Network shows that Americans prefer equality of opportunity to equality of outcomes.

What do Americans mean by “Equality of Opportunity?”

Americans are in agreement about a few of the big components of equality of opportunity.  For example, a majority, and similar numbers among all different party affiliations believe prohibiting discrimination and forbidding the government from favoring any one group of people are important parts of providing equal opportunities for all.  Similarly, very few Americans of any political stripe feel it would be appropriate to make it illegal to access private education or inherit generational wealth in the name of equality. 

However, when it comes to certain goods and services, there are key political differences.

For example, 55% of Democrats believe access to free healthcare is part of “equality of opportunity” compared to just 22% of Republicans.  Democrats are also more likely to favor access to free post-secondary education (34% to 16%) and even free K-12 education, which already exists in the U.S. (59% to 45%).

How else do attitudes of “Equality of Opportunity” vary?

In certain areas, there are significant patterns by age to what American voters believe constitutes access to equal opportunities. The youngest generation of American voters are less likely to believe the government must treat everyone equally both in general business and under the law. This may be connected to progressive calls, which resonate more with younger voters, for restorative justice against previously marginalized groups. Additionally, younger cohorts are more likely to see socialist policies, such as a basic level of income for all, as a key component of giving everyone the same shot at success. The degree to which these views will persist as these voters age is still unknown but highlights a key need for education by those who believe in true equality under the law.

Messaging “Equality of Opportunity”

Equality of opportunity is a great issue for reaching the Vital Center by focusing on the areas where there is large-scale agreement.