The U.S. is a Liberal, Not a Conservative Nation

In 2007 Media Matters for America and Campaign for America’s Future did a survey of several decades of public opinion polling and showed that — on an array of key issues — Americans in general (as distinct from the corporate media) are predominantly liberal/progressive in their thinking.

It would be interesting to see an update to this polling now, in the midst of this Great Recession. I’m guessing that some results in the economic sphere might change somewhat, but since the original study spanned decades (good times and bad) we’re looking at enduring and persistent values.

The results clearly show that much of the corporate media, particularly right-wing partisan organizations like Fox News, serve as myth-making forces in our society, in this case the myth of conservative America.

So, where now — in light of this study — is the “middle of the road?” Those who proudly claim that position usually point to the shape of the bell curve. Following that reasoning, I claim that the main mass of the bell curve is liberal/progressive.

Here are the key findings of the study. See if you can locate yourself.

The role of government — 69 percent of Americans believe the government “should care for those who can’t care for themselves”; twice as many people (43 percent vs. 20 percent) want “government to provide many more services even if it means an increase in spending” as want government to provide fewer services “in order to reduce spending.”

The economy — 77 percent of Americans think Congress should increase the minimum wage; 66 percent believe “upper-income people” pay too little in taxes; 53 percent feel the Bush administration’s tax cuts have failed because they have increased the deficit and caused cuts in government programs.

Social issues — 61 percent of Americans support embryonic stem cell research; 62 percent want to protect Roe v. Wade; only 3 percent of Americans rank same-sex marriage as the “most important” social issue.

Security — 43 percent of Americans say we are spending too much on our military; 60 percent feel the federal government should do more about restricting the kinds of guns that people can purchase.

The environment — 75 percent of Americans would be wiling to pay more for electricity if it were generated by renewable sources to help reduce global warming; 79 percent want higher emissions standard for automobiles.

Energy — 52 percent of Americans believe “the best way for the U.S. to reduce its reliance on foreign oil” is to “have the government invest in alternative energy sources”; 68 percent of the public thinks U.S. energy policy is better solved by conservation than production.

Immigration — 57 percent of Americans feel “most recent immigrants to the U.S. contribute to this country” rather than “cause problems.” Sixty-seven percent of Americans feel that “on the whole,” immigration is a “good thing for this country today.”

Health care — 69 percent of Americans think it is the responsibility of the federal government to make sure all Americans have access to health coverage; 76 percent find access to health care more important than maintaining the Bush tax cuts; three in five would be willing to have their own taxes increased to achieve universal coverage.

See the complete study here.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


8 Responses to “The U.S. is a Liberal, Not a Conservative Nation”
  1. Joe Williams says:

    Media Matters for America and Campaign for America’s Future are both self-describe progressive (i.e. liberal) policy research groups. What else would you expect them to conclude?

  2. depelton says:


    You wrote:

    “Media Matters for America and Campaign for America’s Future are both self-describe progressive (i.e. liberal) policy research groups. What else would you expect them to conclude?”

    If you want to make a plausible critique of this report, you’ll need to go deeper than an attack based merely on the words, “liberal” and “progressive,” since those are not pejoratives in most people’s lexicon, certainly not in mine.

    In any case, Media Matters and Campaign for America’s future are merely the messengers in this case, simply reporting on results from a panoply of well-known non-partisan polling organizations, such as the University of Michigan’s American National Election Studies (NES), the University of Chicago’s General Social Survey (GSS), PEW Research Center, Gallup, etc.

  3. Joe Williams says:

    Mere words perhaps; but their words (and yours), not mine. When these groups choose to identify themselves in that way, I assume they’re aware of the connotation those words have, pejorative or otherwise.

    Believe me, if your point is that Republicans are out of touch with main stream America, I’m with ya. I still don’t know what the Tea Party is all about. But to say these data suggest that higher tax rates and gay marriage are the logical antithesis to Sarah Palin’s loopiness is equally naive. These are very complex, interwoven issues that don’t fall into neat political categories. To pick one example, there’s a report over at Pew right now that shows a strong correlation in people’s ‘Trust in Government’ simply with their assessment of the nation’s condition, rather than any political leaning. Sorry.

  4. depelton says:

    My simple point — supported by the polling — is that, based on issues and not on party self-identification, this is a center-left, not a center-right nation (as Jon Meacham and others have persistently maintained), despite the fact that more people self-identify as conservatives. Bizarre but true.

    To repeat, this has nothing to do with Democratic or Republican partisan identification, much less Palin’s obvious loopiness, which is thankfully irrelevant. Rather it has to do with conservative vs liberal/progressive values as shown in numerous polls.

    We seem to be speaking past each other, so feel free to have the last word, if you’re so inclined.

  5. Wyatt Reardon says:

    10% of the population pays 90% of the income taxes… did you expect the folks that don’t pay income taxes to be of another persuasion (other than progressive?).

  6. depelton says:

    “10% of the population pays 90% … ” etc.

    If only it were that simple.

    In fact:

    “If the federal taxation rate is compared with the wealth distribution rate, the net wealth (not only income but also including real estate, cars, house, stocks, etc) distribution of the United States does almost coincide with the share of income tax – the top 1% pay 36.9% of federal tax (wealth 32.7%), the top 5% pay 57.1% (wealth 57.2%), top 10% pay 68% (wealth 69.8%), and the bottom 50% pay 3.3% (wealth 2.8%).”
    Source: Kennickell, Arthur (2003-03). “A Rolling Tide: Changes in the Distribution of Wealth in the U.S., 1989-2001”. United States Federal Reserve. Retrieved 2007-09-19.

    So, expressed in terms of total wealth, and not merely income, it’s a lot more equitable than I would have guessed.

  7. depelton says:

    Fascinating how the simplicity of this polling is sowing widespread confusion and consternation among those who don’t like the result. For instance, the trackback below refers to the patently obvious conclusion as “a predetermined agenda.”

    Here’s how most people would interpret these polling results:

    * Conservatives want to reduce the role of government, liberals to increase it. Polling suggests widespread public support for increasing the role of government.

    * Conservatives generally oppose increases in the minimum wage, oppose tax increases on the wealthy, etc. Polling shows widespread support for these measures.

    Yada yada yada …

    It’s not rocket science.


Check out what others are saying about this post...
  1. […] Here’s an example of using reasonably unbiased polling data to fit a predetermined agenda.  It’s committed on both sides of the aisle; this one happens to be liberal.  It seems plausible on the surface, but can you spot the fallacy with “”69 percent of Americans believe the government should care for those who can’t care for themselves’, therefor 69 percent of Americans are liberal”?  What other factors may influence the answer to a question like this? Category: Polling  |  Comment (RSS)  |  Trackback […]

Speak Your Mind (You Must Use Your Real Name)

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!