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The Results Are In: Americans Are Now More Closely Aligned With Progressive Ideas Than at Any Time in Memory

On issue after issue, significant majorities of Americans favor progressive solutions to the nation's problems and reject the right's worldview.
 
 
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On issue after substantive issue, significant majorities of Americans favor progressive solutions to the nation's problems and reject the right's worldview. That's true whether the issue at hand is taxes, war and peace, the role of government in the economy, health care, and on and on.  

Yet the idea that America is a "center-right" nation persists; Republican and conservative activists repeat the assertion ad nauseum -- as it's in their interest to do -- and most of the political press corps swallows it whole.

The idea is like a zombie -- you can bludgeon it, burn it or get Dick Cheney to shoot it in the face, but it keeps coming -- it will not die.

The persistence of the center-right narrative, even in the face of piles of evidence suggesting it's little more than a myth, has very real consequences on our political discourse.

Aside from coloring the way the media covers -- and the public views -- the vital issues of the day, it impacts progressive activists, who even when they have the wind at their backs often feel the need to move slowly, cautiously and in ways that will minimize direct confrontation with the conservative movement.

Progressives have long begun the legislative process in the middle and then moved to the center-right, when the reality is that the country is looking for bold changes , not incremental tinkering. 

This week, a new report released by the Campaign for America's Future and the media watchdog group MediaMatters attempts to finally bury the idea that the U.S. leans rightward. It takes a comprehensive look at the political landscape in which we live and a look forward at America's shifting demographic profile -- all of which reveal a citizenry that is anything but center-right and will only continue to trend in a more progressive direction, leaving modern conservatism increasingly isolated in its ideas. 

The study gathered public-opinion data from a number of respected, nonpartisan polling outfits, findings from the (huge) National Election Study series and official statistics on ethnicity and gender to make the case. Among the findings: 

  • On what may be the key difference between liberals and conservatives today -- the role of government -- more than twice as many people agree with the statement, "there are more things government should be doing" than believe the Reaganite adage, "the less government, the better."
  • In 1994, more than half of Americans said, "government regulation of business usually does more harm than good" and fewer than 4 out of 10 thought "government regulation of business is necessary to protect the public interest." That's been flipped on its head during the 15 years since -- today, fewer than 4 in 10 believe regulation causes more harm than good.
  • A majority (55-70 percent, depending on how the question is worded) believes it's the government's responsibility to provide health care to all Americans; fewer than a third of those responding to a CBS/ New York Times poll thought health insurance should be "left only to private enterprise."
  • Almost 2 out of 3 Americans believe the taxes they pay are fair, and that the very wealthy pay too little in taxes; almost 7 in 10 believe corporations don't pay their fair share of taxes.

During a conference call with reporters, Robert Borosage, co-director of Campaign for America's future, acknowledged that until 15 to 20 years ago, a center-right coalition of conservatives and political moderates did represent a majority of the electorate, but noted that the views of moderates and independents have grown much more closely aligned with those of more progressive voters, and the result is a center-left mandate for the new administration and Democratic-controlled Congress.  

 
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