Two polls that signal the United States is still a center-right nation

posted at 3:25 pm on January 13, 2012 by Tina Korbe

It’s true that ultra-conservatives (and I’m one of ‘em!) often wrongly assume they’ll be backed up by the public at large when they support “Hail Mary” policies (balanced budget amendments, a fair tax, the Ryan plan, etc.) or when they wish for a complete repudiation of the Obama presidency in the 2012 presidential election. We get ourselves into trouble by telling ourselves “fairy tales that everyone is on [our] side and just waiting to discover the fact.” The Tea Party, as it turns out, is not a microcosm of the entire country.

Nevertheless, the United States is still a center-right nation, as two recent pieces of evidence attest. Firstly, Gallup yesterday released a poll that shows conservatives remain the largest ideological group in the U.S.

Political ideology in the U.S. held steady in 2011, with 40% of Americans continuing to describe their views as conservative, 35% as moderate, and 21% as liberal. This marks the third straight year that conservatives have outnumbered moderates, after more than a decade in which moderates mainly tied or outnumbered conservatives.

The percentage of Americans calling themselves “moderate” has gradually diminished in the U.S. since it was 43% in 1992. That is the year Gallup started routinely measuring ideology with the current question. It fell to 39% in 2002 and has been 35% since 2010. At the same time, the country became more politically polarized, with the percentages of Americans calling themselves either “conservative” or “liberal” each increasing.

Secondly, Gallup today released a poll that shows Americans remain relatively unconcerned about income inequality, suggesting that most still buy into the American idea that all human beings deserve equal opportunity but not necessarily equal results.

Although Americans’ economic confidence is edging up, it is still low on an absolute basis, and economic concerns remain the dominant response when Americans are asked to name the most important problem facing the country. Gallup included this open-ended question in its Jan. 5-8 survey to find out more about the underlying nature of Americans’ economic concerns as this election year begins. Readers are encouraged to read all 1,000 Americans’ verbatim responses to this question.

Americans’ concerns about the federal deficit and the inability of elected officials in Washington to deal with the economy, including the executive and legislative branch, tracks with the very low ratings that the government and Congress have received over the past year.

Few Americans say that inequality or the gap between the rich and poor worries them, and a small 3% mention that the power of corporations and their influence on the economy is what worries them the most about the economy. …

Obama’s focus on inequality and the lack of a fair chance in today’s economy for middle- and low-class Americans does not reflect Americans’ top economic concerns, at least as measured by Gallup’s open-ended question. But, a small percentage of Americans mention the unhealthy power of big business or corporations or the rich.

In other words, Obama’s class warfare rhetoric might help to shore up his base, but does little to reach mainstream Americans.

Taken together, the polls ought to be a reassurance that conservatives could move the ball steadily down the field just by relentlessly pursuing policies that are in line with what the majority of Americans really want.


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