The Gallup poll finds that Americans describe themselves as having gotten more conservative in recent years:
Americans, by a 2-to-1 margin, say their political views in recent years have become more conservative rather than more liberal, 39% to 18%, with 42% saying they have not changed. While independents and Democrats most often say their views haven’t changed, more members of all three major partisan groups indicate that their views have shifted to the right rather than to the left.
Independents, notably, say their views have grown more conservative, rather than more liberal, by a two to one margin.
So far in 2009, 40% of Americans describe themselves as conservative; conservatives outnumber liberals by more than two to one. So how does one explain the Democrats’ gains in the last two election cycles? I’m tempted to say that the definitions of “liberal” and “conservative” are moving to the left as fast as people’s self-descriptions are moving to the right. But Gallup also tested views on specific issues, and found that, with some exceptions, Americans have been moving to the right on an issue by issue basis, too. For example, the percentages saying we should favor the economy over the environment and that health care is not the government’s responsibility have grown since 2004.
As we’ve written more than once, voters tend to turn to the “outs” when they become fed up with the “ins.” It appears that not too many voters were fed up with the Republicans because the party was too conservative. Nevertheless, there was enough dissatisfaction with Republican governance that the other guys got a shot. It seems reasonable to expect that the Democrats might wear out their welcome sooner than the Republicans did, since, in addition to the usual grievances that accumulate and erode support for the party in power, the Democrats are taking the country in a direction where the voters don’t particularly want it to go.