Are There More Conservatives Than Liberals?

Are There More Conservatives Than Liberals? February 22, 2018

Received wisdom from numerous polls suggests that conservatives outnumber, in the States, liberals.

So I found it interesting that, on reading an article on the brilliant FiveThirtyEight website (from Nate Silver), this tide seems to be turning:

  • As recently as 2010, there were more self-described conservatives than self-described liberals in all 50 states, according to Gallup. That’s no longer the case. By the end of 2016, there were more liberals than conservatives in four states (Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Vermont). And in Gallup data released last week, that number was up to nine, with the addition of California, Maryland, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington.

Now, it’s early days in this potential shifting of the sands of politics, but it is worth noting.

Obviously, the next question is “What are the properties most people ascribe to the label of liberal or conservative?” It could be that people are remaining politically the same, but that what is defined by these labels is now changing.

Gallup itself states:

Gallup measures political ideology by asking respondents whether their political views are very conservative, conservative, moderate, liberal or very liberal. Nationally, in 2017, a combined 35% of adults identified themselves as conservative and 26% as liberal, resulting in a nine-percentage-point conservative advantage. This is down from 11 points in 2016, 15 points in 2008 and 19 points in 1992, Gallup’s baseline year for this measure.

With another 35% of Americans identifying as politically “moderate,” neither liberals nor conservatives dominate in any state. Rather, these are minority-sized groups that affect the ideological balance of each state at the margins.

The 2017 results are based on 180,106 Gallup Daily tracking interviews conducted in the U.S. throughout the year. Interviews were conducted with at least 493 adults in every state and with 1,000 or more residents in 40 of the states. Each sample of state residents was weighted to ensure it is demographically representative of the state’s adult population.

In line with the drop in conservative-leaning states, net-conservative scores have declined in all but four states since 2008 — the first year Gallup produced state-level estimates. The three exceptions where net-conservatism has increased are Wyoming, North Dakota and Montana; Kansas remains the same.

Eight states have seen declines of at least 10 points in net conservatism since 2008: Georgia, California, Oregon, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Vermont and Delaware.

Despite Trump’s core supporters seeming to hold on fairly firmly, with midterms looming, and with some previous talk of his general support dipping, Democrats need to take advantage. And it appears that they are – the anti-Trump card might work. However, there are mixed messages, as the FiveThirtyEight article details how some of Trump’s support is solidifying in the Republican party:

It’s not totally clear why Trump is getting a boost among Republicans. Perhaps positive economic news has brought some wary GOP voters home. Perhaps Republican partisans are happy that Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress passed some major legislation. But that increased support is showing up in Trump’s overall approval rating. It was stuck in the high 30s for a lot of last year but is now in the low 40s.

Presidents traditionally have overwhelming support from Americans in their own parties. But Trump’s support among Republicans in 2017 was soft, at least by recent historical standards. George W. Bush’s approval rating, for example, didn’t fall below 85 percent among Republicans during his first year in office, according to Gallup, and Obama’s was generally in the high 80s and low 90s among Democrats throughout 2009.

Why does this matter? Generally, presidents with low approval ratings drag down their parties’ down-ballot candidates. Indeed, special elections in 2017 and this year have showed Democrats outperforming almost everywhere.

An example of this, as linked above, is in Minnesota:

Democrats held on to an open state Senate seat in Minnesota Monday night while the GOP held on to an open seat in the state’s lower House, with Democratic candidates in both cases outperforming Hillary Clinton in districts that Donald Trump carried.

As neither seat is changing partisan hands, the direct implications of the races are minimal — Karla Bigham will hold the Senate seat for Democrats while Jeremy Munson won the House race — and everything will proceed as normal.

But they do continue to indicate a national political environment that’s favorable to Democrats in the upcoming 2018 congressional elections. Holding the Senate seat raises the prospect that Democrats could seize a majority there, pending the outcome of some legal wrangling.

Both seats were vacant because incumbents resigned under a cloud of sexual misconduct allegations, which is just one of the ways Minnesota is an interesting state in terms of our current politics.

Hillary Clinton carried it in 2016, but like the rest of the Midwest, it tilted strongly in Trump’s direction relative to where it had been in 2012. Both of the districts that voted Monday followed that basic pattern. House District 23B voted by a narrow 3-point margin for Mitt Romney, but Trump won it in a 27-point landslide. Obama carried Senate District 54 by a fairly comfortable 7-point margin, but Trump eked out a 1-point victory.

Minnesota has two US Senate elections this November, plus two open House races in seats being vacated by Democratic incumbents in districts Trump won, plus an upscale suburban House district represented by Erik Paulsen (R-MN) that’s considered one of Democrats’ top pickup opportunities. The state’s political trends are of enormous national interest. Tonight’s results carry no guarantees for November, of course, but they seem to indicate that Democrats are succeeding in rolling back recent GOP gains in the state.

I tell you what, US politics is nothing but fascinating at the moment. If only they could ditch the legal corruption of massive lobbying, and get more viable political parties created or involved, it might soon approach a proper democracy!

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