The results of new independent polls from credible opinion research houses indicate that Americans, concerned about Obama's radical spending and abortion policies, appear to be moving to the right. The usual obligatory disclaimers: It's only four polls. We need to see more data before we can identify any trends, if they do indeed exist. But there is reason for conservatives and right-leaning independents to find encouragement here.
The first survey, a Fox News poll conducted by Opinion Dynamics (PDF), found that fully 78 percent of Americans believe that when President Obama says "investment" it means spending their tax dollars, not saving them.
A majority (54 percent) of voters think Obama and the Democrats propose too much of an increase in spending, while only 6 percent want them to spend more. 35 percent say federal spending is "about right."
By party affiliation, 85 percent of Republicans and 61 percent of independents think the increase in spending under the Obama administration is too high, while 61 percent of Democrats say what the president proposes to spend is about right.
60 percent of those surveyed say the president's proposed cuts in government waste don't go far enough, including 84 percent of Republicans, 66 percent of independents and 38 percent of Democrats.
Given Obama's criticism of the Bush administration deficits during the presidential campaign, some 28 percent of Americans say they are surprised Obama is increasing the nation's deficit. More than twice as many -- 68 percent -- are not surprised.
The poll's most significant finding, however, has to do with the involvement of the federal government in the lives of American citizens, and it strongly suggests that Colin Powell has grossly misinterpreted the attitudes of the American people on this issue:
"Former Secretary of State Colin Powell recently made news by saying that Americans 'want more government in their life.' Americans disagree. Most -- 71 percent -- say they want less government in their life. A much smaller number (17 percent) fall in the category described by Powell."
Another finding by Opinion Dynamics:
"By 55 percent to 33 percent Americans think the federal government's increased involvement in U.S. auto companies is a bad thing, which is higher than the number that thinks the government's involvement in the U.S. financial industry is bad (47 percent bad thing, 38 percent good thing)."
The real stunner, however, is found in the results of another survey. For the first time since the Gallup Poll began asking the question in 1995, a majority of adult Americans have identified themselves as pro-life. In addition, fewer of them think abortion should be legal under any circumstances. 51 percent of Americans now call themselves "pro-life" and 42 percent "pro-choice":
"The new results, obtained from Gallup's annual Values and Beliefs survey, represent a significant shift from a year ago, when 50 percent were pro-choice and 44 percent pro-life. Prior to now, the highest percentage identifying as pro-life was 46 percent, in both August 2001 and May 2002."
"The May 2009 survey documents comparable changes in public views about the legality of abortion. In answer to a question providing three options for the extent to which abortion should be legal, about as many Americans now say the procedure should be illegal in all circumstances (23 percent) as say it should be legal under any circumstances (22 percent). This contrasts with the last four years, when Gallup found a strong tilt of public attitudes in favor of unrestricted abortion."
This dramatic shift toward the pro-life position is not an "outlier" - it has been confirmed by two other studies. Gallup asked the same abortion questions that are in its Gallup Values and Beliefs survey on a separate Gallup daily tracking poll from May 12-13, with nearly identical results. Gallup also points out that a Pew Research Poll also indicates a significant change in Americans' attitudes about abortion:
"...a recent national survey by the Pew Research Center recorded an eight percentage-point decline since last August in those saying abortion should be legal in all or most cases, from 54 percent to 46 percent. The percentage saying abortion should be legal in only a few or no cases increased from 41 percent to 44 percent over the same period. As a result, support for the two broad positions is now about even, sharply different from most polling on this question since 1995, when the majority has typically favored legality."
The shift in abortion views, when measured by party affiliation, can be accounted for by Republicans and independents who lean Republican, among whom identification as "pro-life" increased by fully 10 points over the past year, up from 60 percent to 70 percent. while the views of Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents has essentially remained static..
When examined by ideology, the increase in pro-life sentiment was accounted for by those who consider themselves conservatives and moderates. Again, Gallup detected no change in the abortion views of political liberals.
A year ago, Gallup found that more women considered themselves to be pro-choice than pro-life, by 50 percent to 43 percent. 49 percent of men last year identified as pro-choice and 46 percent as pro-life. Today, because of an increase in pro-life sentiment among both demographics, according to Gallup, both women and men are more likely to identify themselves as pro-life:
Men and women have been evenly divided on the issue in previous years; however, this is the first time in nine years of Gallup Values surveys that significantly more men and women are pro-life than pro-choice.
So what does all this polling mean? Without more specific data, one cannot say with 100 per cent assurance, but the Fox/Opinion Dynamic results regarding spending and the involvement of government in the lives of Americans and businesses suggest that Obama and the Democrats are over-reaching. The are transforming the nations economic system into a form of corporatism that is scaring the daylights out of many moderates and conservatives. Obama surprised both groups. The former are suffering from buyers remorse in the extreme, most of them having voted for Obama. Most of the latter were expecting a different form of collectivism from Obama, i.e., socialism.
Explaining the change in attitudes about abortion is more problematic. Gallup says it is possible that Obama's abortion policies may be driving Republicans and independents away from the pro-choice position, while Democrats generally support everything Obama is doing as president.
Some early reaction to the Gallup Polls reported by Politico includes comments from some Republicans who have had high profiles in the media and affirmed their support for life in front of the national audience:
"This is promising news," Gov. Sarah Palin (R-Alaska) told Politico through a spokeswoman. "Every life is precious and has purpose."
"The American people are saying loud and clear they want leaders who believe in the sanctity of life and cherish it even at the earliest stage," former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said in a statement to Politico.
"Over the last few months, Republicans have been trying to rebrand themselves," he said. "This is a clear indication that we do not need to rebrand by moving left toward the middle but instead remain steadfast in our commitment to human life."
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, agreed with Huckabee, saying the poll shows "that those who blame pro-lifers first when the party loses need to throw out that idea."
"For the Republican Party, it's the independents and the moderate Republicans that are trending pro-life," she said.
Obama "has gone way too far in a direction that people don't want to go on this issue," added Dannenfelser. "Obama's policies and his nominees are running in the exact opposite direction of the polls.
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele told Politico through a spokeswoman that "we have a long way to go, but will continue to work to promote pro-life values."
Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, to no one's surprise, disagrees:
"It's one poll, and I look at more than just one poll."
Actually, it is three polls, two by Gallup and one by Pew, that indicate a dramatic shift in the attitudes of Americans about abortion. Ms Keenan may whistle through the graveyard (grim metaphor intentional) all she wants, but it is significant that for the first time since 1995, more Americans take the pro-life position than the pro-abortion one.