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A majority of Americans are ready to protest. Here’s what’s got them fired up.



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WASHINGTON — The numbers are in: Americans are fired up.

More than half of Americans — 57 percent — say they are outraged enough about an issue that they would carry a protest sign for a day, according to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll on social trends.

That’s comparable to shares in 2014 and 2015 who said the same, but the survey also finds that the political gravity has shifted in the interim towards the left — and the issue of guns and gun control.

In 2014, 61 percent of Democrats said they felt passionate enough to carry a protest sign, while 60 percent of independents and 54 percent of Republicans said the same.

Now, the share among independents has fallen to just 43 percent, while Republicans have ticked down to 50 percent. But among Democrats, nearly seven-in-ten — 69 percent — now say they are upset enough about an issue to protest it.

What Americans are protesting about has changed significantly too, perhaps most vividly illustrated by last weekend’s nationwide demonstration of support for victims of the Parkland school shooting.

Guns are now the dominant topic named by both Republicans and Democrats when asked what they would use a protest sign to convey.

Here’s what a word cloud of the Democratic responses to the open-ended poll question looked like:

  Hart Research

And here are the Republican responses:

  Hart Research

That’s a change from 2014 and 2015, when abortion and immigration dominated among respondents on the right, while those on the left cited a hodgepodge of issues including health care, funding Planned Parenthood, the Black Lives Matter movement and getting money out of politics.

The NBC/WSJ “social trends” poll was conducted March 10-14, about a month after the Parkland shooting but before the gun control-focused March for Our Lives.

“The question keeps being raised: ‘After Parkland, will this one be different?’” said Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducted the poll along with Democratic pollster Fred Yang. “At a minimum we can say that this is different in that it’s dominating the national debate on both sides.”

Gender equality, racial equality top list of important political movements in America

While guns remain a dominant — but divisive — issue, the poll’s respondents also cited the pushes for both gender and racial equality as the most important political movements in America overall. Twenty-eight percent of Americans (including 15 percent of Republicans, 27 percent of independents and 41 percent of Democrats) named the fight against sexual harassment and gender inequality in the workplace as the most important movement.

Similar shares (27 percent overall — including 10 percent of Republicans, 24 percent of independents and 44 percent of Democrats) cited the movement for greater racial equality.

Almost half of Republicans said that “protecting our borders and limiting immigration” is the most important political cause in America today, while about four-in-ten Democrats pointed to efforts to address climate change.

Support for abortion rights hits a high

The poll found that 55 percent of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 43 percent disagree, saying it should be illegal in all of most cases. That’s a record high level of support since the poll began asking the question in 2003; the previous high was in January 2013, when 54 percent supported all or most abortion as legal, while 44 percent disagreed.

Support for legal abortion in all or most cases outweighs opposition in most subgroups, but opposition to abortion in all or most cases is the dominant position among Republicans, Trump voters, rural Americans, and seniors.

Partisan and generational gaps in views of a changing America

As the country faces continued demographic and political change, the majority of Americans — 54 percent — say that they are comfortable with the country’s increasing diversity and tolerance for different lifestyles, gender roles, and other experiences. That includes 53 percent of independents and 74 percent of Democrats, but just 29 percent of Republicans.

The 25 percent of Americans overall who say they are uneasy with these changes include a plurality of Trump voters — 44 percent — while 23 percent say they are comfortable and an additional 29 percent say they fall into neither category.

Millennials are particularly comfortable in this new cultural environment. Almost two-thirds of those aged 18 to 36 — 64 percent — say they embrace increasing diversity and tolerance, while just 16 percent say they are uncomfortable with it. Among those who are Baby Boomers and older, 49 percent say they are comfortable while 31 percent are uneasy.

Some of that gap may be reflected in the different ways that the two generations experience the world.

Fully 85 percent of millennials, but a lower 67 percent of Boomers (aged 58-75) , say they have a friend who is gay, bisexual or transgender. And while the same share of millennials — 85 percent — say they use social media every day, just about half of Boomers say the same.

The live-caller NBC/WSJ poll was conducted March 10-14 of 1,100 adults – nearly half reached by cell phone – and it has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.0 percentage points.

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CEOs discuss pulling donations, additional public statements to fight voting bills



More than 120 CEOs, business leaders, attorneys and experts came together on Saturday afternoon to discuss further action against voting legislation nationwide, call attendees told NBC News.

The group discussed numerous options for pushing back on the GOP-led efforts to restrict access to the ballot box including pulling donations, refusing to relocate business or jobs to states that pass restrictive measures, and moving events, said one of the call’s organizers, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld.

“It was incredibly concrete,” he told NBC News.

The meeting was first reported Sunday by The Wall Street Journal.

A wide variety of industries were represented on the call: financial, pharmaceutical, travel, technology, retail, and transportation. Notable attendees included Brad Karp of the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, Mellody Hobson of Ariel Investments, Chip Bergh of Levi Strauss and Arthur Blank, Home Depot co-founder and owner of the Atlanta Falcons.

Representatives of AMC Theaters and three major airlines were also in attendance.

Major corporations’ recent foray into the election policy debate comes as Republicans across the country work to advance hundreds of restrictions, changes that voting rights advocates and civil rights groups argue would disproportionately affect voters of color. Earlier this month, several major corporations spoke out against a restrictive new law in Georgia and pending legislation in Texas, while Major League Baseball announced it would move the All-Star Game out of Atlanta in protest of the state’s law.

Republicans immediately pushed back.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that it is “stupid” for corporations to take stances on divisive political issues, before warning corporate America to “stay out of politics.” (He softened his stance a day later, saying, “I didn’t say that very artfully yesterday. They’re certainly entitled to be involved in politics. They are. My principal complaint is they didn’t read the darn bill,” referring to Georgia’s recently enacted law.)

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, called the corporate response “nonsense,” and said American Airlines’ CEO should “go away” after the airline denounced a GOP-sponsored bill under consideration in the state where it is headquartered. Republican lawmakers in Texas advanced another restrictive voting bill out of the state House Thursday.

Sonnenfeld said he and other organizers invited more than 120 CEOs and hoped a dozen would join. Ninety turned out with just 48 hours’ notice — with a few calling in from Augusta, Georgia, where the Masters Tournament was underway — for the 2 p.m. ET call Saturday. Organizers left the Zoom room open after they wrapped up at 3:10 p.m., because attendees were still active in the chat.

“The overriding spirit is they don’t want politicians using wedge issues to try and solidify their hold on office, because that leads to angry communities and finger-pointing workforces and divided shareholders. It makes their job as CEOs harder to manage these constituents. They want social harmony,” Sonnenfeld told NBC News.

The Black Economic Alliance is coordinating a public statement that’s likely to be released this week, said Mike Ward, co-founder of the Civic Alliance, a nonpartisan group that encourages civic participation from businesses.

Ward said he’s helping organizers to follow up with companies on their responses and expects that a number of companies will come out in favor of federal voting legislation in the coming weeks.

House Democrats recently passed a sweeping voting rights bill, the For the People Act, which would create a federal floor of election access and regulations. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has promised it would get a vote in the full Senate, but its chances of passage are slim because of the 60-vote threshold in chamber currently split 50-50.

Democrats are also expected to reintroduce the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would update and strengthen the Voting Rights Act, this year.

Sonnenfeld said the call’s strong attendance as a “statement of defiance” against Republican pushback to corporate criticism.

“We had the top brass of American Airlines, United Airlines, and Delta. If they’re going to boycott airlines, they better have their own jet,” he said.

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