We spent 6 months after the US election trying to find common ground in America -- here's what we learned

CharlottesvilleChip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesBattle lines form between white nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the ‘alt-right’, and anti-fascist counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12, 2017.

The scenes in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday were painful to watch. Americans fighting Americans with flags, clubs, tear gas, and fists.

The violent face-off between white nationalists and neo-Nazis and counter-protesters resulted in the death of one young woman who was mowed down with a car and two police officers who were monitoring the rallies when their helicopter crashed.

It seemed to be the culmination of the divisiveness that’s shaken this country since November 9, 2016, the ugliest election in recent memory.

But on Sunday, a chorus of voices rose to denounce the violence, and the hatred, and the bigotry, calling for us to come together.

After President Donald Trump took office, Business Insider wanted to find what unites us. We spent six months tracking down issues Americans actually agree on in a series we called Undividing America. Here’s what we learned:

First, we took a hard look at the divisions we are living in. We found some high schools are 'resegregating', splitting black and white, high- and low-income students back into separate schools based on where they live.

For people leaving prison, finding a job is even harder. The incarceration rate in the US is one of the highest in the world. Many 'go immediately back to what they know' once they're out of prison because it's so difficult to find employment.

Skye Gould/Business Insider

See the full story from Elena Holodny here »

Part of the reason we're so divided comes down to the language we use. Behind the scenes, experts from both parties are busy devising and testing new ways to frame hot-button issues designed to pull voters further into their camps.

Skye Gould/Business Insider

See the full story from Mark Abadi here »

When we looked closer, we found that America was often not as divided as it seemed. We found signs of hope. As 28 Business Insider reporters and editors spent five months travelling the country, including stops in Alabama, Iowa, Texas, and Vermont, and talking to over 100 Americans, we found solutions rooted in common ground.

Americans also surprisingly agree that rich people and corporations aren't paying their fair share of taxes, that immigrants make our country stronger, that the federal government should make sure people have health insurance, and that we must uphold fundamental democratic values.

While they are becoming more divided on abortion, most Americans think that federal funding should help protect the environment, that the government spends too little on education and infrastructure, and that same-sex and interracial couples should be legally allowed to wed.

Emotions are still raw -- 16% of Americans said they stopped talking to a family member or friend because of the election. We found one mother and daughter who hadn't spoken to each other since, and captured their first conversation. Three months later, they're still talking.

The US military has become more isolated from civilian life than at any period in the country's recent history. While businesses often say they want to hire veterans, they're frequently not ready for them, and military families are working to change that.

Tiffany Smiley
Retired Army Maj. Scott Smiley and his wife Tiffany travel around the US to raise awareness about issues surrounding veterans and military spouses. Today, less than half of 1% of the US population is active duty.

See the full story from Kate Taylor here »

A trip to Iowa shows daily farmers have a more nuanced take on the immigration debate currently ravaging the US. While American farmers tend to be conservatives, many depend on immigrant workers to keep their operations running -- and some will go to extraordinary lengths to support them.

Dana Varinsky/Business Insider
American farmers, like Lee Maassen in Maurice, Iowa, are facing a political paradox because of Republicans' hard line on immigration.

See the full story from Dana Varinsky here »

At the liberal enclave that is the University of Colorado Boulder, conservative academic Steven Hayward wasn't the typical hire. But the school had recruited him to help their community diversify, and maybe even 'stir up some trouble.'

Students celebrate 4/20 -- an important day for the marijuana-smoking and edible-ingesting community -- at the University of Colorado Boulder in 2010.

See the full story from Abby Jackson here »

The gap between 'the rich' (families with $120,000-plus incomes) and everyone else is skyrocketing, partly driven by well-educated, well-paid women marrying well-educated, well-paid men. The imaginative power of the American Dream stems from the idea that it is available to everyone, and that's in danger.

Skye Gould / Business Insider
It is not correct to describe the inequality problem as a 'growing gap between rich and poor.'

See the full story from Richard Reeves here »

The gender wage gap is still 24 cents per dollar, and men and women's perceptions of equality in the workplace has its own divide. But an overwhelming majority of Americans support paid family and medical leave, including President Donald Trump.

Skye Gould/Business Insider

See the full story from Rachael Levy here »

Source: PayScale

While many of us realised we were living in political echo chambers after the election, a former Google data scientist reminded us that the same was true before the internet. People regularly reinforce each other's beliefs in real life, too.

Plus, a survey found there is nearly uniform consensus across every affiliation and demographic on the nature of facts. People get their facts from similar places like the media and the government, question partisan sources, and don't rely on Trump's tweets.

Business Insider
Tech billionaire Steve Ballmer spent $10 million starting the site USAFacts, which commissioned the survey, to make government data on everything from crime to taxes available, and digestible, to ordinary citizens.

See the full story from Julie Bort here »

Texas is the breeding ground for a lot of bipartisan ideas. Once infamous for its ruthless, lock-'em-up justice system, Texas has staked out a hard-earned 'smart on crime' consensus that's being replicated in conservative states across the country.

Male inmate students of a Christian ministry program inside the maximum security prison near Houston, Texas. Picture: Getty Images

See the full story from Michelle Mark here »

In some cases, people are tearing down physical barriers that are dividing us. New York is spending $1.8 billion to remove a one-mile stretch of the Sheridan Expressway that split several communities in the Bronx when it opened to cars in 1963.

For eight seasons, ABC's comedy 'The Middle' flew under the radar -- until Trump was elected. It follows a lower-middle-class family that lives paycheck-to-paycheck and somehow makes it work. A half-century ago, before entertainment fragmentation, a show like it might have driven the national conversation.

ABC/Michael Ansell
The Heck family lives in Indiana, refers to themselves as 'Hoosiers,' and uses humour to deflect some of the hard feelings about the tough times.

See the full story from Jethro Nededog here »

The election was a rude awakening for marketers. At best, they realised that they had been largely indifferent to the wide swath of Americans living in 'flyover country,' and, at worst, completely blind to them. Brands are now trying to court Trump voters.

Business Insider/Skye Gould
Middle America has long been lumped by marketers into one stereotype-laden bucket. But it's more complex than that.

Reach the full story from Tanya Dua here »

128-year-old Carhartt is an example of a brand that both blue-collar workers and urban millennials have embraced. 'They have the values and incredible deep appreciation for the idea of doing and making things yourself,' the company's vice president of marketing Tony Ambroza told us.

Carhartt has a reputation for creating very durable garments.

See the full story from Dennis Green here »

Chick-fil-A ignited a nationwide boycott in 2012 after its founder spoke out against gay marriage. But when the chain had national ambitions, it shed its polarising image, focusing instead on good customer service, supporting its employees, and making delicious food.

Chick-fil-A's successful expansion north came after its biggest controversy.

See the full story from Hayley Peterson here »

Food is a powerful way to bring people together. In the predominantly African-American neighbourhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, we found David's Brisket House, a Jewish deli that has been owned by the same Muslim family for 50 years.

Sarah Jacobs
Today, even as Bed-Stuy faces vast socioeconomic change and gentrification, David's Brisket House has survived as a neighbourhood staple.

See the full story from Sarah Jacobs here »

Investor Sam Altman wants to upend America with a crazy utopian plan for the future, complete with driverless cars, robot assistants, and free housing and healthcare for all. He's got the money, the connections, and the know-how to make at least some of it happen. What could our future look like -- if we undivided America?

Drew Angerer/Getty
Sam Altman is the 32-year-old president of Y Combinator, the most prestigious startup accelerator in Silicon Valley.

See the full story from Chris Weller here »

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