The Results Are In: Americans Are Now More Closely Aligned With Progressive Ideas Than at Any Time in Memory
Continued from previous page
What's more, the country's changing demographics suggest that America will continue to be a center-left country in the coming decades. The most progressive (or at least solidly Democratic-leaning) constituencies in the country -- single women, African Americans and other minority groups, young people -- are growing as a share of the electorate, while the "Reagan Democrats" -- older, working-class whites -- who were the backbone of the conservative movement are declining as a share of the population.
Page Gardner, founder of Women's Voices/Women Vote, said of the new coalition, "if you look at their views across the board, they're incredibly progressive."
More Americans are also living in high-density urban environments than ever before, which political scientists have long held creates more tolerance for diversity and in general a more receptive attitude toward the role of government in one's daily life.
Finally, the report notes that the social issues that used to inspire not only the right but also many in the center are rapidly losing traction -- in part because of the demographic trends described above.
Most Americans remain pro-choice (despite one oddly-worded Gallup poll to the contrary), and while a slim majority opposes full marriage equality for gays and lesbians, the general level of acceptance of gays and lesbians is growing ever greater.
That a sea-change is happening in America's political culture should be apparent by the results of the last election, a race that the Republican party explicitly framed as a question of ideology, accusing Barack Obama of being very far to the left -- even deriding him as a cryptosocialist.
But the authors of the report point out, "for the press, Democratic victories are explained away
And it's not just returns from the election -- the report notes:
Conservative commentators, particularly those on Fox News, have portrayed Obama as so liberal that his activist agenda bordered on socialist or even Marxist. Yet according to Gallup polling, Obama's approval ratings for this first 100 days in office were higher than those of any president since Ronald Reagan and higher than seven of the last eight presidents at the 100-day mark. It doesn't seem likely that an entrenched center-right nation would reward such a liberal president with historically high job approval.
But as MediaMatters Director Eric Burns outlined, by and large, the media have not only failed to fully acknowledge the ideological outlook of the American electorate, the months since the election has been marked by the "mainstreaming of incredibly conservative views" within America's pundit class, with "sometimes violent" rhetoric being debated as if it were comfortably within the mainstream.
Burns suggested that part of the reason the center-right meme persists is that many political reporters today cut their teeth in the era of the "Reagan Revolution" and during the "Clinton wars" of the 1990s -- an era in which conservatives were ascendant.
Another factor is that there hasn't been a significant shift in Americans' self-described ideology, as a much-discussed Pew poll taken just after the election found.
Pew's research showed, "Only about 1 in 5 Americans currently call themselves liberal (21 percent), while 38 percent say they are conservative and 36 percent describe themselves as moderate. This is virtually unchanged from recent years; when George W. Bush was first elected president, 18 percent of Americans said they were liberal, 36 percent were conservative and 38 percent considered themselves moderate."
The problem with self-identification, however, is that it hinges on how one defines those labels -- an individual may say he or she is conservative for a variety of reasons, but that same person may favor the progressive position on every issue down the line. According to the most recent (1997) Household Survey of Adult Civic Participation, only around half of Americans could say "which party is more conservative at the national level."