Kansas Liberty: 06 July 2009
Twice as many say they've grown more conservative. Trend indicates GOP problem may be lack of leadership and ideas, not ideology.
Gallup: Despite Obamamania, America drifting to starboard
Judging by what appears in the newspapers and on television, it would seem to most that the U.S. is leaning leftward. After all, Democrats control the White House, the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, and more statehouses — including Kansas' — than ever before.
In reaction, the Republican Party has been involved in a bout of self-examination, wondering if the party has become too conservative to attract the support of a majority of Americans. The state party has a history of harshly condemning conservative Republicans who are critical of the more liberal members of their own party. The Republican state Senate leadership PAC spent tens of thousands of dollars to defeat conservative Republican candidates.
But those tactics may be working against the interests of the GOP, if a Gallup analysis released Monday is correct.
According to the polling organization, "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 percent to 18 percent, with 42 percent 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."
Ideologically, Gallup reports, 38 percent of poll respondents now call themselves "conservatives." Only 18 percent call themselves "liberals." The largest percentage — 44 percent — say they're in the middle or don't know.
Those figures should encourage conservatives. More Americans now self-identify as conservatives than at any time since 2004, the annual survey says. And among conservatives, nearly 60 percent say they have become more conservative. Even among the dwindling number of liberals, 14 percent say that while they may self-identify as liberals, they've become more conservative. Among "political moderates," 33 percent say they have grown more conservative over recent years. Only 18 percent say they have become more liberal.
On a wide range of issues — including abortion and gun control — conservative positions have been strengthened over the last five years. More Americans now say they favor supporting the economic climate over "global warming" policies, for example. An increasing number of respondents say healthcare is not a responsibility of government, even though the number who say the current system isn't satisfactory has grown.
However the poll also shows that "views on gay rights and embryonic stem-cell research are similar now to where they were at the time of the 2004 elections, despite significant policy developments on each since then." Support for tougher policies on immigration has slipped by ten points.
The most obvious numbers, however, are the ones that matter on election day. "Given the stark differences between the current political scene and the one surrounding the 2004 elections, 2004 represents a good comparison point for this analysis," says Gallup.
"Not only was there a five-point drop between 2004 and 2008 (from 51 percent to 46 percent) in the popular vote for the Republican presidential candidate, but there has been a similar drop (from 45 percent in 2004 to 40 percent in 2008, and 39 percent in 2009) in the percentage affiliating themselves with the Republican Party."
If more and more people consider themselves to be conservative, but fewer and fewer consider themselves to be Republicans, these figures might suggest voters are much less inclined to trust the Republican Party to articulate their views or lead on the issues that matter most to them.
In fact, most recent polls — including a recent analysis by the left-leaning Pew Center based on polling — show that even as Republican party support continues to ebb, more Americans are simply opting to become independents.
- Gallup's annual report: http://www.gallup.com/poll/121403/Special-Report-Ideologically-Moving.aspx
- Pew Center: Trends in Political Values and Core Attudes: http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1229/political-values-core-attitudes-trends-2009