Gallup Poll Confirms; America Is A Center-Right Country

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Despite the election of Barack Obama and the continuing misfortunes of the GOP, the United States is still a center-right country:

PRINCETON, NJ — Conservatives continue to outnumber moderates and liberals in the American populace in 2009, confirming a finding that Gallup first noted in June. Forty percent of Americans describe their political views as conservative, 36% as moderate, and 20% as liberal. This marks a shift from 2005 through 2008, when moderates were tied with conservatives as the most prevalent group.

The 2009 data are based on 16 separate Gallup surveys conducted from January through September, encompassing more than 5,000 national adults per quarter. Conservatives have been the dominant ideological group each quarter, with between 39% and 41% of Americans identifying themselves as either “very conservative” or “conservative.” Between 35% and 37% of Americans call themselves “moderate,” while the percentage calling themselves “very liberal” or “liberal” has consistently registered between 20% and 21% — making liberals the smallest of the three groups.

Changes among political independents appear to be the main reason the percentage of conservatives has increased nationally over the past year: the 35% of independents describing their views as conservative in 2009 is up from 29% in 2008. By contrast, among Republicans and Democrats, the percentage who are “conservative” has increased by one point each.

As is typical in recent years, Republicans are far more unified in their political outlook than are either independents or Democrats. While 72% of Republicans in 2009 call their views conservative, independents are closely split between the moderate and conservative labels (43% and 35%, respectively). Democrats are about evenly divided between moderates (39%) and liberals (37%).

This isn’t really a surprise, it’s pretty similar to what we’ve seen from the public before, and it sends a signal to the GOP:

As I have noted repeatedly, data from the 2008 exit polling showed that more people considered themselves “conservative” than “liberal.” This new Gallup poll is in accord with that.

This goes straight to NY-23, where both the DCCC and NRCC are attacking Doug Hoffman, the conservative candidate. Apparently, unlike the NRCC, the DCCC sees a path to victory for Doug Hoffman.

When the GOP paints a clearly distinct picture of ideas and issues from the Democrats, they win. Voters do not want to vote for Democrat-lite when they get have the real thing. Instead, the GOP should present and alternative, better vision of moving this country forward.

I agree that far, but that strategy has to recognize that the “alternative, better vision of moving this country forward” may not be the same in, say, New Jersey as it is in Alabama.

The mistake that most on the right will make upon seeing a poll like this is to believe that it confirms that America is, mostly, just like them and that what the GOP needs to do is become more conservative. Past results, and other polls, however, would clearly indicate that isn’t the case.

In Virginia, for example, Bob McDonnell is succeeding not because he has run on a hard-right platform, but because he’s done a much better job of communicating alternative Republican solutions to the problems that Virginians are facing. Those ideas can largely be described as “conservative,” but they aren’t ideologically extreme in any respect, and they are packaged in a way is attractive to the generally center-right voters in areas like Northern Virginia. Except for the amazingly unsuccessful negative campaign that Democrat Creigh Deeds has been running, here’s been no talk of issues like abortion or gay marriage, and it’s pretty darn significant that the McDonnell campaign didn’t both to request a visit from conservative icon Sarah Palin — largely because they know that her presence would do as much to turn off the moderate voters McDonnell needs as it would to fire up the conservatives he already has.

There’s a lesson for the left here as well, but it can be seen in the declining poll numbers for the President, and the increasing sense that he’s been governing as something other than the moderate he campaign as in 2008.

Personally, I doubt either side will learn the right lesson from these numbers.