The all-important 'Why?'

“The increased conservatism that Gallup first identified among Americans last June persisted throughout the year, so that the final year-end political ideology figures confirm Gallup’s initial reporting: conservatives (40%) outnumbered both moderates (36%) and liberals (21%) across the nation in 2009.”

Within the “moderates” category over the last decade, Republicans have become increasingly more conservative and Democrats more liberal.

The bottom line? The decrease in moderates from 2000 to 2009 shows “a heightened polarization of American politics.”

- From “Conservatives Finish 2009 as No. 1 Ideolooical Group,” Gallup, 7 January 2009: LINK


According to the Gallup report, the “uptick” comes from more independents calling themselves “conservative.” I am counting on DemWit readers to give me insight into the above statistics. Is this as simple as the fact the word “liberal” has been turned into a curse word by the U.S. media? Are the results as complex as a backlash against President Obama and his aggressive agenda?

This is not a small sampling: “The 2009 findings come from an aggregate of 21 separate Gallup and USA Today/Gallup surveys, including nearly 22,000 interviews.” Further, the margins of sampling error are less than 1 percentage point.

There is no mention in this report of “progressives,” the preferred persuasion of many liberals. I prefer “liberal.” But, at 21 percent, does that put me on a so-called fringe? Ridiculous!

In my opinion, the most important question was not answered in this aggregate of surveys: Why?

Help me out here, guys. To what do you attribute these figures?


Ranch Chimp said...

Good Morning Ms.BJ!

Um,um,um,um ....Lord have mercy, girl!

Do yourself a favour .... and dont try to wonder what pop culture pigeon hole these folk's with their chart's will try to toss you in ....heh,heh,heh,heh,heh .... I think they all just done went plum nut's .... including these chart's and poll's and the rest of it! Now you can see why I dont call myself a democrat or a republican and have no title or party ... if I joined a party I would have to sacrifice something to join their club's, if I didnt I would be pigeon holed, I'd be screwed if I do or if I dont, and dont care to join any of this current silly game. Liberal, conservative, moderate, progressive, socialist, tea bag's, etc, etc ....good Lord! I looked at that chart and other's and read some of this stuff .... and to be honest dear .... I didnt know whether to laugh, cry, take a dump, or wind my watch.

Take Care Ms.BJ :)

Professor Frodo, turn to page 238, said...

Following is part of a quote; it comes from a period of time in American history where the divide between generations, as well as political ideology, split both our nation and our families. Despite all our current "doom and gloom" talking heads, who allege that the divide is deeper now than anyone remembers, let us merely look back to the former amateur boxer who said of the two poitical parties that there was not "a dime's worth of difference" between them.

Sounds rather recent in reference,don't you think? George Wallace was a demagogue who knew how to play to what we now call "the base." In a way, he was merely Glenn Beck one generation ago.

Frodo listens, and laments that we seem to forget our history lessons, no matter how good our intentions.

Infidel753 said...

I attribute this to the fact that the word "liberal" is more stigmatized than "conservative", so people are less likely to apply it to themselves. The definitions that people apply to such terms vary broadly, anyway.

It is more useful to ask people about their views on a range of specific issues, so that they can be classified as liberal or conservative by an objective standard. I wrote a post about that a month ago (link). It turns out that somewhat more people hold 100% liberal views than 100% conservative ones, but the more important point is that both groups are quite small. Most people don't fall entirely into one camp or the other, but have different views depending on the issue. (It's been apparent for a long time that a very large number of people are liberal on most social issues but conservative on most economic ones, though the fiasco of the Bush Presidency seems to have pushed a lot of people somewhat to the left on economic issues in the last couple of years.)

Just asking people which label they prefer to apply to themselves doesn't provide us with very useful information.

airth10 said...

BJ, I think your question is about why do so many voters profess to be conservative when they really act liberal-progressive.

America is a paradoxical country, as you know. By nature people are conservative. They don't like change. But on the other hand they want a society that is flexible, recognizes differences and addresses injustices. The latter can only be satisfied by liberal-progressives.

B.J. said...

DemWit is very fortunate that The Comments Zone is neither a chat room nor a fight club. I am so impressed by the thoughtful comments of my readers.

As for “labels,” I go along with Infidel753 that the word “liberal” has been stigmatized in this country. Conservatives can yap all they want about “the liberal media elite,” but, by and large, they control communications in the United States.

I recommend you click on the link in Infidel753’s comment and read his post, “Political divisions and political reality” (12/6/09). He (and wouldn’t I be surprised if he turned out to be a she?) concludes:

“The message could hardly be clearer. A ruthless commitment to ideological purity -- such as is being pursued now by the teabagger right and hinted at by some on the left as well -- is the royal road to alienation of the vast center and crushing electoral defeat. And that goes for either party.”

Finally, for those who prefer a label, here are definitions I wrote down years ago from my American Heritage College Dictionary:

conservative, n. 1. Favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change; not open to opposing viewpoints.

liberal, n. 1a. Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry. b. Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.


Infidel753 said...

and wouldn’t I be surprised if he turned out to be a she?

Well, my ex-girlfriends might be a bit surprised :-)

The Infidel

Tiny said...

Tiny's Funk and Wagnall's would put conservatives in a funk. It goes on to paint them as "Devotion to preserve the existing order of things (status quo). Liberals are painted as "favoring progress and reform, liberal in giving; generosity. 2. Broad-mindedness, cultural interests.

This tells Tiny that liberals are generous givers, concerned about cultural and daily needs of others, their fellow human beings.

It tells Tiny that conservatives preserve being stingy, greedy and narrow minded. To her, this proves her brother was right when he said, "So-and-so is so tight you couldn't drive a tooth pick up their a...uh...um...asterisk with a sledge hammer.

That's Tiny's understanding of the two parties. She thinks the Independents can look at both sides and cling to neither one of them. From her living in Georgia, she would place Lester Maddox and his axe threating days right in there with George Wallace.

katherine said...

Generally, I agree with RanchChimp, that the bulk of political labels are manipulations. They marginalize and dehumanize individuality in favor of conformity. My question is similar to yours in that I question who benefits from their use? While we share a common humanity, each one of us is a unique individual. I make conservative choices. I make liberal choices. I make choices all over the map which don't fall into one category and if they do, that's thoughtlessness personified.

In my experience, it's a profound personal mistake to allow another individual to define me in any way. It's a profound personal mistake to allow someone to dehumanize me with some tidy, thoughtless label of convenience. I question the motive behind such social/political labels which are hardly charitable, often thoughtless, always arrogant. In my view, these labels are coming from fear and a desire for power and control.

Aware, thoughtful individuals realize and respect that the individual has the right to define him/herself. I feel very wary when any president says, "Americans are_____." Really? 350 million wildly diverse individuals actually fit into one convenient little box?
Hell no. Americans are all over the map of diverse humanity, individuality, race, creed, age, gender, ethnic groups, socio-economic backgrounds, beliefs. These generalized statements are typically inaccurate and exclusive. The individual's mistake is to fail to question their truth.

I think that, by and large, social labelling (similar to racial profiling) is a cruel, dehumanizing practice that does not serve our common good. It treats us as if we were tables or chairs.

Hopefully in this new decade, we'll open our minds and actually use them. I'm no great role model for openmindedness, although to illuminate its non-judgmental nature and possibilities for thinking out of the box, here's something to ponder which I heard from a wise Buddhist. He said, "When you go outside at night and look up at the stars and infinity, you think you see the Big Dipper. There is no Big Dipper. It's just a concept." Wow.

Thanks so much for the thoughtful, contributory work of your blog. k

a poet.... said...

sorry it took me a while. so. since you asked. smile.

this uptick in “conservatism” would seem to me to be a natural psychological response to uncertain or difficult times. easy certain black & white morality i guess. i aint sayin that makes it good (cause in my view it isnt) nor am i suggestin that the response makes any sense given that modern american conservatism does not seem to offer much in the way of concrete make my country better ideas. unless you count goin back to what we used to do as some kinda progress. which i ahhh….dont.

in terms of the words liberal & conservative and the current argument? what strikes me is the vehemence of the way these terms are used. me? i can live with a good debate. but logical argument is what i want. the rhetorical stuff? ummm. sound and fury signifying nothing really. i added the really.

so? what i would like to see is results. simple stuff that becomes huge problems the longer we wait to do something about them. like say. basic stuff. a job that pays enough to afford food shelter clothing education and being able to get medical care without havin to decide if you can afford to care for yourself even after forking out thousands of dollars in insurance premiums. these things were the america i was born into. they are a tougher and tougher find in the america i see today.

which in a funny way makes me a “conservative” right? because i do want to return to some of the things that came before. funny how that works.

thank you for provoking some thought….