America Is Dangerously Divided. USA TODAY and Partners Launch “Hidden Common Ground” to Find Solutions.

USA TODAY, Public Agenda and Ipsos delve into the issues that divide Americans and offer “common ground” solutions leading up to the 2020 presidential election

MCLEAN, Va.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Hidden Common Ground, a nine-month examination of issues that divide America along with potential solutions, launches today by USA TODAY, part of Gannett Co., Inc. (NYSE: GCI), and partners with a poll that finds Americans believe political divisiveness is harming our democracy. Nine out of 10 say it’s important for the United States to reduce the chasm.

Leading up to the 2020 presidential election, USA TODAY, Public Agenda and Ipsos will examine controversial issues — such as health care, immigration and economic opportunity — and present solutions from diverse subject-matter experts.

In the first installment, USA TODAY Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page reports on the bitter divisiveness that marks so much of our politics and what citizens want to see in American public life. “By overwhelming margins,” she reports, “those surveyed said national leaders, social media and the news media have exacerbated and exaggerated those divisions, sometimes for their own benefit and to the detriment of ordinary people.”

According to the inaugural Public Agenda/USA TODAY/Ipsos survey, three in four respondents say there is more common ground among the American people than is typically recognized. Moreover, one in 10 respondents say political divisiveness is making them sad, anxious or depressed. Surprisingly, almost 40 percent of Republicans and almost 50 percent of Democrats say they would be tempted to cross party lines to elect a leader who helps bring the country together.

In the coming months, Public Agenda will produce in-depth research and analysis on major issues facing the American electorate. Ipsos will conduct polling on these topics, identifying areas of public agreement.

The results will be presented online at and, beginning Thursday, Dec. 5, in a monthly special report in the print edition of USA TODAY. In addition to reflecting areas of agreement among U.S. voters, upcoming installments will give readers the opportunity to compare where presidential candidates stand on each issue.

Reporting on each issue will be accompanied by original commentary from the USA TODAY Opinion team as well as opinion pieces from diverse subject-matter experts.

Award-winning opinion editor and columnist Tim Swarens, formerly of the Indianapolis Star and the Miami Herald, is joining the project in the role of commentary editor. His work has been published in USA TODAY, the Wall Street Journal, the Arizona Republic, the Detroit Free Press and the Seattle Times. Swarens also has appeared on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and the BBC.

Much of the political rhetoric and social media chatter in our nation is undeniably corrosive. But that’s not the full story,” Swarens said. “Our goal with this project is to highlight the voices and stories of people and organizations across the country who are working together, in spite of their differences, to find solutions to problems facing their communities and our nation.”

Hidden Common Ground also features a unique partnership with the National Issues Forums Institute, which will host a series of moderated, online forums using its Common Ground for Action digital platform beginning Thursday, Dec. 5. A schedule of forums and information on how to participate can be found at Public forums in communities across the country are planned throughout 2020.

This initiative is part of Gannett’s commitment to provide the most comprehensive coverage of the 2020 election, fueled by the company’s footprint in more than 260 communities across the U.S. Gannett’s effort will include industry-leading innovation in augmented reality, audio and video storytelling, interactive experiences and in-person events.

Public Agenda is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and public engagement organization dedicated to strengthening democracy and expanding opportunity for all.

The Hidden Common Ground project is supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Charles Koch Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. The Kettering Foundation serves as a research partner to the Hidden Common Ground initiative.


Founded in 1982, USA TODAY reflects the pulse of the nation, serving as host of the American conversation by delivering high-quality, engaging content through unique visual storytelling across all platforms. A media innovator, USA TODAY reaches nearly 88 million unique visitors each month across digital platforms, with more than 26 million downloads of our award-winning app. USA TODAY is owned by Gannett Co., Inc. (NYSE: GCI).


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