Regular readers of TDS probably know that we’re not real jazzed around here about those “ideology polls” that ask people if they are “liberal,” “moderate” or “conservative.” Reassuring as they are to conservatives who want to believe this is a “center-right country,” these polls don’t define terms, don’t get deeper than labels, and have produced results that have not significantly changed for decades.
So you can imagine my reaction when Gallup came out with a new poll that showed “trends” in ideological self-definition along this L-M-C spectrum, based on this question:
Thinking about your views on political issues and how they have changed in recent years, would you say that you are now more conservative than you were a few years ago, have your views not changed, or are you more liberal than you were a few years ago?
In response to this ill-defined and double-loaded question, 39% of respondents said they were more conservative, 18% were more liberal, and 42% hadn’t changed.
In their analysis of this poll, and to their credit, the Gallup folk spend much of their time explaining why the results didn’t necessarily make any sense or mean anything:
Which way do Americans want to be led? While the new Gallup Poll finds the public reporting a heightened sense of conservatism in its political outlook, Americans’ specific policy positions have not changed much since 2004. To the extent they have, about as many of these positions have become more liberal as more conservative.
So we all have Gallup’s permission to pretty much ignore this poll, right? That’s probably not an option if you are a conservative politician or pundit who’s spent much of the last few months arguing that the Republican Party didn’t need to change its ideology or perhaps needed to become even more ideologically rigid. Indeed, I’m sure we’ll see some saying: “See? The Republican Party needs to move to the right to keep up with public opinion!”
Like their famous abortion poll in May, Gallup’s latest ideology poll may prove comforting to conservatives–but so comforting that they may make stupid strategic decisions on that basis.