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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Are Republicans Giving Conservatism a Bad Name?

This item by J.P. Green was originally published on May 25, 2013.
In a more rational Republican Party, here’s a headline that would encourage the leadership to stop and rethink a few of their assumptions: “Fewer Americans Identify as Economic Conservatives in 2013: Thirty percent say they are liberal on social issues, a new high.” The headline comes from Andrew Dugan’s report on Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs poll, conducted May 2-7.
The percentage of Americans who identify themselves as “economic conservative” has declined 5 percent, to 41 percent from 46 percent in the 2012 edition of the Values and Beliefs poll. Those who identify themselves as economic moderates picked up the gain, increasing their percentage from 32 to 37 percent. Those who call themselves economic liberals declined a point, from 20 to 19 percent, a figure that “has not fluctuated much since 2001”.
But there is some good news for liberals in the poll, as Dugan reports:

While economic liberalism remains stagnant, the percentage of Americans describing their social views as “liberal” or “very liberal” has achieved a new peak of 30% — in line with Gallup’s recent finding that Americans are more accepting on a number of moral issues. Thirty-five percent of Americans say they are conservative or very conservative on social issues and 32% self-identify as socially moderate.
Most Americans are ideologically consistent in their views of economic and social issues. For individuals who gave an answer to both questions, 75% of social conservatives also considered themselves economic conservatives, while 60% of social moderates were also economic moderates. Social liberals were less “consistent,” with a slim plurality, 44%, saying they were also economically liberal.
“Pure” conservatives — individuals who say they are conservative in both policy spheres — make up a substantial portion of self-identified or leaning Republicans, 63%. Pure liberals, by far less common than their ideological polar opposites, are a less sizable contingent of the Democratic Party, constituting 28% of its overall base.

While the poll may not reflect a political earthquake in the making, there is no good news here for the GOP. As Dugan concludes, “… The trend suggests that ideological attitudes in the country may be shifting. Social liberalism has grown by six points since 2001 and now attracts half of rank-and-file Democrats and Democratic leaners. It is possible that Americans are returning to a certain sense of normalcy on economic ideology, while social ideology continues to charter new ground.”
Perhaps the more interesting possibility is that Republican Party obstructionism has reached the point of diminishing returns — that the “conservative” brand has been tainted by association with the GOP, and growing numbers are more comfortable calling themselves something else.

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