Conservatives Outnumber Liberals, But Gap Narrows

Gallup has released its annual poll on conservative/liberal/moderate self-identification. It finds that U.S. adults are now 36% conservative, 34% moderate, and 25% liberal. This is consistent with a broad body of polling that shows conservatives have outnumbered liberals by as much as two to one in recent decades. But liberals are gaining. This Gallup graph covers the period from 1992 to the present:


Conservative identification has remained essentially steady, but these days there are fewer moderates and more liberals. Why?

I am not sure that the shift reflects a real change in political attitudes. Rather, I think that in the aftermath of the Reagan years, it was political suicide to call oneself a liberal. A lot of professed “moderates” really belonged to the ideology that, in those days, dared not speak its name. In recent years, as the opprobrium attached to the label “liberal” has faded, more liberals have come out of the closet.

A more serious question is, if there are so many more conservatives than liberals, why don’t we do better politically? The answer is, I think, some combination of the following: 1) Liberals dominate influential positions in the press, universities, big business, and the arts (Hollywood, television, the music industry, etc.). 2) Liberals vote loyally and monolithically for Democrats, while conservatives are more critical of the Republican Party and are more apt to vote selectively, or not at all–and even, in a fair number of inexplicable cases, for Democrats. 3) Liberals tend to have financial interests at stake that make them more dedicated to politics than conservatives. 4) Because they love government–or possibly for some more arcane reason–liberal politicians tend to be more adept than conservative politicians. 5) Conservatives actually do do well, and in fact are ascendant at present. So quit complaining.


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