When it comes to Americans' ability to cast a ballot in free elections, there is at least some consensus. The newest Pew Research Center survey found that 94% -- including 95% of both Republicans and Democrats -- agree it's important that legally qualified Americans be able to vote.
I'm tempted to inquire further about those in the small minority who disagreed -- perhaps they misunderstood the question? -- but for now, let's take comfort in the fact that there's overwhelming support for the core idea behind the franchise.
The trouble is the consensus breaks down soon after.
As political battles continue around the nation over voting access and restrictions, a new Pew Research Center survey finds that a majority of Americans (57%) say voting is "a fundamental right for every adult U.S. citizen and should not be restricted in any way." Fewer (42%) express the view that "voting is a privilege that comes with responsibilities and can be limited if adult U.S. citizens don't meet some requirements."
Not surprisingly, the partisan and ideological divisions are enormous.
By a nearly four-to-one margin, Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents see voting as a fundamental right that should not be restricted. By a two-to-one margin, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents see voting as a privilege that can be limited.
Similarly, 87% of those who describe themselves as "liberal" see voting as a fundamental right -- the highest in the Pew poll -- while 67% of those who describe themselves as "conservative" see voting as a privilege, which was also the highest in Pew's findings.
To the extent that this might be persuasive, the U.S. Constitution specifically refers to "the right of citizens of the United States to vote." At no point does the text refer to voting as a "privilege."
Nevertheless, the divide is emblematic of a larger truth: Democrats and Republicans aren't simply engaged in a debate over how best to protect voting rights, but rather, there's a deeper question on the minds of many about whether that fundamental right even exists.