Monday, July 13, 2009

America more conservative? Not really

Last week there was much talk, especially among the Fox radio personalities, about a Gallup poll claiming that a majority of Americans consider themselves conservatives. The truth of the matter is not so cut and dry. While Americans, by a 2-1 margin, are claiming a more conservative ideology, at least in theory, when exploring stances on policy issues, Americans have remained the same:
While the new Gallup Poll finds the public reporting a heightened sense of conservatism in its political outlook, Americans' specific policy positions have not changed much since 2004. To the extent they have, about as many of these positions have become more liberal as more conservative.
Not to mention that there has not been an ideological shift among independents and progressives. According to David Frum, over at New Majority, a Republican blog, it's not that America is turning conservative, it's that conservatives have become even more conservative:
We are not, in other words, viewing a big national shift from the left to the right. Rather we are viewing a shift among those who already described themselves as conservatives toward an acceptance of more extreme forms of conservatism.
What the Gallup poll seems to have discerned is not a change of substance, but a change in style. Over barely six months of the Obama presidency, the right has worked itself into a furious state of mind, not so much over any one issue in particular, but over the very existence of the Obama administration. Then we confuse our own mood of extremism with a more general swing to conservatism by moderates and liberals. That’s a big misjudgment – and a misjudgment that may lead to some very serious strategic mistakes in the months ahead.
This, to me, unfortunately highlights that, although conservatism remains a salient moniker, on the whole, conservative stances might be sliding out of the mainstream. And to Frum's point, could use of this poll data unwittingly further the current Republican death spiral (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)?

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