According to Gallup, despite the election of Barack Obama and the Democratic strength in Congress (or because of it), Americans say they are becoming more conservative. For those who may not have realized it, this again emphasizes the importance to Republicans of restoring their credibility as the party of conservatism. While the mainstream media continues to ask how Republicans will moderate their views to compete more effectively, the reality is that they need to demonstrate that they believe what they say about limited government, personal responsibility, and a strong national defense.
Despite the results of the 2008 presidential election, 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…
Indeed, in the latest survey, 38% of Americans describe their political views as conservative, and among this group 58% say their views have grown more conservative in recent years. Although a large segment of liberals (42%) say they have become more liberal, far fewer Americans in the poll (18%) describe themselves as liberal — thus providing little counterweight to the rightward movement of conservatives. At the same time, political moderates are twice as likely to say they have grown more conservative as opposed to more liberal (33% vs. 18%), thus further tipping the scales in favor of conservatism.
First and most importantly, this ought to be a signal to all conservatives that there is likely to be a great opportunity for conservative candidates in 2009 and 2010. If you don’t like the direction this country is headed right now, you need to be active and engaged at the grassroots level. If you can show up for meetings, lick envelopes, walk a district, or give a few dollars to a candidate of your choice, you should be doing it. The American electorate wants change, even if they still profess their affinity for Barack Obama.
Second, you ought to take a look at some of the issue-level responses that Gallup came up with. Americans have become more conservative on gun control, but not on immigration. Gallup also doesn’t really understand conservatism, and that comes through in some of their labeling. Do conservatives favor ‘maintaining the current system’ on health care? Gallup thinks so. Gallup’s broad conclusion – which I think is largely correct – is that Americans have not really moved much to the right, at least when you consider their views on an issue-by-issue basis.
So what’s the broad message of this poll? I think it’s a growing distrust of what they view as the liberal agenda of this Congress and this president. They may not have grown more opposed to gay marriage; they may recognize that their taxes have not gone up significantly (yet), but they can see that the current agenda is moving the country too far to the left. They know that they will have to pay for porkulus, and health care reform, and cap-and-tax. And they know they won’t be happy with the result. That’s why they consider themselves to be more conservative, even as their issue-by-issue views have moved only marginally.