Gallup reported today, Fewer Americans Identify as Economic Conservatives in 2013. I looked at the article because I wanted some good news. But I didn’t really find it.
I’m not sure what people think when asked where they stand on economic issues. Right now, 41% of Americans say that they are economic conservatives. Compare this to 37% who call themselves moderates and only 19% who say liberal. What exactly do people think an economic conservative is? I think this is typical of such polling questions: useless. For example, I suspect that even most Republicans would agree with the statement, “The government should invest in infrastructure to create jobs.” Similarly with, “Because the rich have received the vast majority of productivity gains over the last 35 years, they should pay more in taxes.” And: “Banks should be regulated to reduce the harm done by their excesses.”
It seems that all these polls show is that the word “liberal” has been effectively vilified by the right. That seems to be especially associated with economic issues. After all, it isn’t an “inclusive and accepting liberal” it is a “tax and spend liberal.” As a result of this, those who call themselves “economic liberals” have been stuck in the high teens since 2001. Meanwhile, self-labeled “social liberals” have moved from the low 20s in 2001 to the low 30s now. According to Gallup, we are moving from a country that wants to kill gay people to one where we are just fine with letting them starve to death.
By far the most disturbing aspect of this poll is how many people identified as economic conservatives after the banking crisis. The numbers jumped from 40% in 2008 to 48% in 2009 and 51% in 2010. This goes right along with Thomas Frank’s argument in Pity the Billionaire. The worst financial crisis in generations caused by a housing bubble fueled by banker malfeasance causes people to… demand that the government get off the backs the bankers?! Frank sums it up in his usual wry style:
The good news is that the number of those calling themselves “economic conservative” has cratered over the last year. They stayed in the high 40s through last year but are only 41% now. Similarly, there has been a slow but clear trend upward in terms of economic liberals. Almost all of the changes are between how the moderates and the conservatives self-identify. The total of them both is pretty constant at 80%, although it is down just a tad the last few years.
Again, I think these polls are fairly meaningless. But they do show that the American people have a natural disregard for the only form of economic policy that is geared to their direct interests. Pity the billionaire indeed!