For much of President Obama’s first term, economic conservatism appeared to be on the rise and social conservatism saw modest gains as well. In 2009, a record 42% of Americans said they were social conservatives, while in 2010, a high of 51% said they were economically conservative. This trend may have foreshadowed the 2010 midterms, in which Republicans gave congressional Democrats a memorable “shellacking” by winning a large number of seats in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
This new survey shows changes in Americans’ ideology: economic conservatism is at a five-year low, while social liberalism has registered its highest support — though it remains to be seen whether the changes will continue. On the one hand, for economic ideology, this may be a return to the “normal” rate measured in past polls but momentarily disrupted by a number of factors over the last four years, including the economic recession, the Democrats’ control of most of the federal government, and the healthcare debate. By comparison, the 41% of Americans now calling themselves economic conservatives nearly mirrors the eight-year average (42%) observed during the Bush administration.