If you thought we’ve been moving farther apart, you were right.
Gallup, which has been asking Americans if we are conservative, moderate or liberal since at least 1992, finds that the self-labeled moderate group has shrunk by 8 percentage points over the last 18 years — a trend it calls “unmistakable.” The shift is split evenly between conservatives and liberals:
It would appear that some moderates became gradually more liberal during the Bush years, and an even larger portion of them have joined the ranks of the conservatives during the Obama era.
Of course, whether you call yourself “moderate” depends in some part on where you think the middle lies. That’s why I think the proportion of self-described moderates in each party (click here for graphs) is less important than the trends of self-described conservatives and liberals:
Republicans consider themselves sharply more conservative, and Democrats think they’re sharply more liberal. The fairly steep decline in conservative Democrats, I suspect, represents the demise of the party among rural white Southerners.
Likewise, what you think about these trends probably depends on how important you think moderation itself is. Do you think it’s good to have compromises in which the left and the right each get a little of what they wanted? Or do you view such deals as occasions when neither side could make a compelling argument, with the result usually being bad policy?
Given the most recent trends, I’d say the trick for the GOP will be convincing its base that it’s being conservative while not alienating the independents who have headed their way (click here and scroll toward the bottom of the page to see that graph). And the Democrats? After two years of governing too liberally, it’ll be convincing ex-moderates and newly conservative independents that Democrats can still credibly identify the middle.
Other items of interest from the weekend/while I was out last week:
1. Two victories for the tea party last week: the death of the $1.2 trillion “omnibus” spending bill (in favor of a short-term continuing resolution to keep the federal government funded until the next Congress gets settled in) and, according to Mickey Kaus, the death of the DREAM Act. Apparently, the tea partyers are still being vocal after all.
2. WikiIrony: A leak that Julian Assange doesn’t like. What happened to transparency above all?
3. The king of Saudi Arabia may be working behind the scenes to move the “Ground Zero mosque” elsewhere in Manhattan. Say, why does King Abdullah hate Muslims?
– By Kyle Wingfield
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