This is a first.
According to a new Gallup poll
released last Friday (and diaried by windsong01
), America has become more socially and economically liberal in the Obama era.
While conservative views on economic issues remain predominant in America (though to a lesser degree than in previous years), the Gallup poll definitively shows that liberal views on social issues have become increasingly mainstream.
PRINCETON, N.J. -- Thirty-one percent of Americans describe their views on social issues as generally liberal, matching the percentage who identify as social conservatives for the first time in Gallup records dating back to 1999.
Gallup first asked Americans to describe their views on social issues in 1999, and has repeated the question at least annually since 2001. The broad trend has been toward a shrinking conservative advantage, although that was temporarily interrupted during the first two years of Barack Obama's presidency. Since then, the conservative advantage continued to diminish until it was wiped out this year.
The newfound parity on social ideology is a result of changes in the way both Democrats and Republicans describe their social views. The May 6-10 Gallup poll finds a new high of 53% of Democrats, including Democratic-leaning independents, describing their views on social issues as liberal.
While these trendlines on "social ideology" is great news, I'm not certain what this trend means. Yes, national support for marriage equality
and marijuana legalization
are at record highs. Support for the death penalty is at a 40-year low
and most Americans seem to favor a path to citizenship for "illegal" immigrants (although that seems to depend on the question that is asked)
. Even the trendlines on animal rights
are moving toward a more traditionally liberal position. But trends for other liberal social issues positions appear to be stagnant. For example, support for the pro-choice position on abortion rights has pretty much flatlined
, polling on law and order/policing issues remains stratified along racial lines
(although white people seem to slowly but surely be "getting it")
, the latest polling on voter ID laws that I could find shows that support for voter ID laws remains high
(and can be highly racialized)
, and support for gun control measures seems to be slightly waning.
(The Washington Post
's Catherine Rampell
is wrong in suggesting that the pro-choice position on abortion rights is "the outlier" w/r/t liberal views on "social issues").
On economic issues, the Gallup poll indicates that there has been some movement to the liberal side:
In contrast to the way Americans describe their views on social issues, they still by a wide margin, 39% to 19%, describe their views on economic issues as conservative rather than liberal. However, as on social ideology, the gap between conservatives and liberals has been shrinking and is lower today than at any point since 1999, with the 39% saying they are economically conservative the lowest to date.
Americans overwhelmingly support a minimum wage increase
and large majorities of Democrats and independents (but not Republicans) support a minimum wage increase tied to inflation rates. Large majorities of Americans think that corporations and the wealthy do not pay their fair share of taxes.
On the other hand, a plurality of Americans think that there is too much government regulation of businesses and corporations and while a slim majority of Americans support labor unions
, their support is still far lower than in the peak support that labor unions enjoyed in the 1950's and over 70% of Americans also favor "right-to-work" laws.
So is America a more liberal country than it was prior to the era of the Obama presidency? I think that "by the numbers," the answer to that question is "yes"... in reality...yes, it certainly seems that way.
But while I disagree with a portion of Rampell's argument, I do agree with her that just as the label "liberal" was branded as something "bad" even as early as the 1960's, that negative branding has demonstrably happened to the label "conservative"
But something seems to have changed in the past few years. Maybe it’s the recent association of the “L-word” with a TV show about hot lesbians; maybe it’s the effect of a flood of political love letters to liberty and libertarianism, cognates that may have reduced the toxicity of “liberal”; or maybe it’s revulsion to some of the self-anointed standard-bearers of social conservativism who subsequently turned out to be bigots or hypocrites, or both.
Rampell has a point here, although I hasten to add that I think that it's less that "self-anointed standard bearers of social conservatism" (i.e. the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins) "subsequentially" turned out to be bigots and hypocrites; they always were bigots and hypocrites. Now, in the era of the first African-American president, many (mostly white) social conservative can't seem to hide their disdain.
I would also suggest that President Obama deserves some of the credit for Americans being able to more fully embrace the word "liberal"; after all, a lot of this movement has happened on his watch.
"Geeks" and "nerds" are no longer as despised in the popular culture as they were in the past. Certainly, the 44th President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama, if nothing else, embraces his inner geekiness and hasn't been afraid to let his "geekiness" (as opposed to his inner "angry black man") show. Indeed, this particular geek (myself) enjoys thinking of President Obama as Adlai Stevenson's greatest revenge. ("Nerd-in-chief" has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?)
So, is America more "liberal" than it was prior to November 4, 2008?
I'm pretty certain that we seem to think that we are more liberal. In fact, in some ways, we are more liberal.
But now is not the time to pat ourselves on the back because I don't think that America is anywhere near liberal enough. We have a lot of work to do.