Economics

Gallup-ing Toward Conservatism? Situation Normal, All Effed Not…

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One of the big stories hitting the intertubes, the Tweeter, blogs, you name it, is the recent Gallup Poll that shows Americans getting more conservative:

Despite the results of the 2008 presidential election, Americans, by a 2-to-1 margin, say their political views in recent years have become more conservative rather than more liberal, 39% to 18%, with 42% saying they have not changed. While independents and Democrats most often say their views haven't changed, more members of all three major partisan groups indicate that their views have shifted to the right rather than to the left.

More here.

This is all well and good if you're a conservative, but as even Gallup acknowledges, there's a lot less going on here than implied. Consider, for instance, Gallup's own long-time trend line on ideological affiliation:

Basically, it's same as it ever was, with self-identified conservatives in a four percentage point range since the early 1990s, moderates in a similar band, and liberals in one well below the other two groups.

Such findings comport broadly with a longer-running Harris Poll series that asks adults "How would your own political philosophy: conservative, moderate or liberal?" Broken down by decade, conservatives averaged 32 percent in the '70s, 36 percent in the '80s, 38 percent in the '90s, and 35 percent in the '00s so far. For liberals, the corresponding numbers were 18 percent, 18 percent, 18 percent, and 19 percent.

Despite these large and persistent preferences for "conservative" ideology over "liberal" ideology (self-defined, so who knows exactly what it means), political outcomes have not always been Republican-friendly. Though presented as a mystery to be solved, I think it simply reflects that fact that party affiliation and ideology are not particularly tightly connected among most of us (though it may be for the office seekers and political ops) and that voters get swayed by particular candidates and vote accordingly. To acknowledge that Barack Obama was the far more attractive candidate last fall (or, more precisely, to say that he sucked much less than John McCain) tells us absolutely nothing about the deep or even the shallow beliefs of the American people.

Though hopefully the rise of unaffiliated voters in the wake of Obama's vision deficit, not to mention that brave majority of Democrats who admit that Congress today is no "better than a random group from the phone book," is a sign that Americans (god bless us all, everyone) are waking up to the idea that it is better to run your own life in every way, shape, and form than to cede power to Washington, state houses, and other distant, indifferent, and incompetent rules.

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  1. “A conservative is a liberal who has been mugged.”

  2. I don’t fit into your stupid box, Gallup.

  3. “Do you consider yourself conservative, moderate, or liberal?”

    “I think government is a criminal enterprise, only differentiated from organized crime by size and perception.”

    “…”

  4. party affiliation and ideology are not particularly tightly connected

    Are you trying to say politics is a popularity contest? Couldn’t be…

  5. “no better than a random group from the phone book”

    if only…….
    (sigh)

  6. However, the opinion polls explain why Obama is rushing to get as much of his agenda rushed through Congress as fast as possible, and why every one of his speeches, press conferences, etc., is focused upon him and his personal popularity rather than policies and ideas. He knows where the center of gravity lies in American politics, and knows he owes his election to a desire for “change” r/t a policy-based move to the Left. As a result, he has to do as much as he can before American voters revert to the norm.

  7. Where’s the checkbox for “self-identified anarcho-capitalist”?

  8. “While independents and Democrats most often say their views haven’t changed, more members of all three major partisan groups indicate that their views have shifted to the right rather than to the left.”

    Since when did independent become a party? I thought the whole idea of being an independent was to be non-partisan.

  9. Epi — kinda makes you feel marginalized, don’t it?

  10. Since when did independent become a party? I thought the whole idea of being an independent was to be non-partisan.
    _________________________________________

    Well there is the small state Independence parties in the country.

    You can spell Conservative without Con and you cant spell Liberal without lie.

    A Libertarian is either a conservative or a liberal that has waken up to the two party regime.

  11. So Americans are going from statist liberals to statist conservatives? Color me shocked! When the opposite happens a decade from, shoot dang, I’ll be even more surprised!

  12. Not surprisingly, both the Gallup and Harris polls exclude the choice “libertarian” for political philosophy….

  13. Backlash to whiplash and back again.

  14. If the question asked, “Are you a Frank Meyer fusionist conservative, who belives in the free market system, traditional values, and a strong foriegn policy?”, I’m guessing that less than 40% of people could say yes. I think what is going on is that a lot of people are thinking, “I go to church every week, have kids, and am not a felon, so I must be conservative, but I voted for Obama because I want single payer health care, affirmative action, and less defence spending.” In other words, some self identified conservatives aren’t really ideological conservatives, they are thinking about personality/temprament.

    On the other hand, the self-identified liberals are really liberals.

  15. I wonder when polling and media organizations are going to get wit the program and begin to replace “liberal” with “progressive”.

    I’m torn on this phenomenon. One the one hand, whenever I read or hear a leftist declare himself a “progressive”, as if this has been the standard terminology for the left since the days of Teddy Roosevelt, or as if they had sent out a memo announcing the change (Yeah, so..we’re progressives now), I get the urge to punch them in the face. On the other hand, I’m happy they’re ceding the word “liberal” back to its original meaning after holding it hostage all these years. Maybe in a couple of decades libertarians can go back to calling themselves liberals.

    digression over

  16. Maybe in a couple of decades libertarians can go back to calling themselves liberals.

    I already do. It confuses the hell out of most people who know me even a little bit, which serves my purposes.

  17. “A conservative is a liberal who has been mugged.”

    And, a liberal is a conservative who has been arrested.

  18. “A conservative is a liberal who has been mugged.”

    Dang. RC beat me to the alternative.

    Since when did independent become a party? I thought the whole idea of being an independent was to be non-partisan.

    “Independents” is composed of liberals who have figured out that Democrats aren’t really “liberal” plus conservatives who have figured out that Republicans aren’t really “conservative.” The “plague on both their houses” vote.

    On the other hand, the self-identified liberals are really liberals.

    Except they’re voting against gun control.

  19. (self-defined, so who knows exactly what it means)

    Based on absolutely nothing more than my own anecdotal experience, I have a feeling the small percentage of “liberal” respondents may be because people with (what I consider) clearly left-leaning politics are more likely to think of themselves as “moderates” than are people with right-leaning politics. In other words, I suspect the set of “moderates” consists primarily of:
    1) A small number of “true neutral” moderates
    2) A small number of “moderate conservatives”;
    3) A much larger number of “moderate liberals”.

  20. Questions about self-identif’n via labels don’t tell us anything about where society as a whole is trending, because people (correctly IMO) take these identif’ns as relative to the avg. person. So as the center moves, left & right move with it.

  21. The first question should determine what the fuck the person thinks a conservative, liberal, or moderate is. I have a ton of hippy fucktard friends that think moderate means tax the shit out of the rich people and give it to the black guy bumming smokes on the corner, or that government was right in bailing anyone the fuck out and they should keep doing it. These identifications are relative to nothing.

    The whole study is as useful as me describing my self as a Zulain nationalist that leans slightly to the right of Quarg the destroy. About as useful as tits on a bull.

  22. Firstly, “Liberal” as a term has been demonized. It has become slang for “effete, lazy, socialist, homo”

    Conservative is all associated with believing in the Family Structure and GOD and good ol’ “missionary.” Which most middle America cottons to.

  23. Here’s the ORIGINAL rant with the ORIGINAL title dated 6/19/09 . . . http://eddobloggo.com/gallup.html

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