10 Jul 2006

Read the Numbers And Weep, Liberals

Democratic Strategist Scott Winship looks at the national political division, and does not like the way the numbers break down:

• Adults, late 2004, based on my own analyses of the 2004 National Election Study: 35% liberal, 55% conservative (remainder are moderates, non-identifiers, or reported inconsistencies before and after the election)

• Adults, late 2004, Pew Research Center for the People and the Press: 19% liberal, 39% conservative (remainder are moderate)

• Voters, late 2004, based on my own analyses of the 2004 National Election Study: 33% liberal, 56% conservative

• Likely Voters, January 2006, Democracy Corps: 19% liberal, 36% conservative

My own analyses are different from the others in that I have two responses from each person — one before and one after the election — and because the NES tries to get as many people as possible to choose either liberal or conservative rather than moderate. Anyway, the bottom line is that when respondents can choose “moderate”, roughly twice as many people identify as conservative as call themselves liberal. If moderates are forced to choose, they split roughly evenly, leaving 55-60 percent more conservatives than liberals. And these statements hold whether one is looking at adults, voters, or likely voters.

then tries to find comfort by classifying people who are libertarian as liberal. Personally, I don’t think this analysis will help much electorally.

OK, the response from those who don’t like these facts is invariably that a lot of people really are liberal, but the term has been made into a dirty word by conservatives. If you ask people about their policy preferences and values, liberals would be in the majority.

Of course, saying it doesn’t make it so, but this assertion could be true. To test it, I used the NES from 2004, first choosing questions from the survey related to values and values-laden issues; foreign policy and national security; economic and social policy; and fiscal policy.* Within each of these four domains, I created weights for each question based on how well it predicted the presidential vote. Then I categorized everyone as a liberal or conservative in each domain by seeing whether weighted liberal responses to the questions out-numbered weighted conservative responses. Finally, (de-glaze your eyes) I weighted the four liberal/conservative designations based on their predictive power and categorized everyone as an “operational” liberal or conservative.

Now the good stuff. Based on my weighting scheme, the country is evenly split between operational liberals and conservatives. Adults are conservative on foreign policy and national security (52 to 48) and values (62 to 38), but liberal on economic/social policy (57 to 43) and fiscal policy (60 to 40). Consistent with the idea that liberal is a stigmatized word, just 56 percent of operational liberals self-identified as liberal, while 30 percent self-identified as conservative. In contrast, 79 percent of operational conservatives said they were conservative.

It shouldn’t be surprising though. What does the left really have to offer America? A democrat electoral victory will simply ensure surrender and withdrawal abroad; higher taxes and more government programs at home; greater privileges and perquisites for that party’s client base of whiners, spongers, and the gender-dissatisfied; and a never-ending chorus of accusations for the rest of us.

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