Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs poll was released this week with the results showing the gap between those identifying as conservative and those identifying as liberal is closing greatly. In particular, the gap on economic issues shrank quite a bit, as reported by Al Jazeera:
With respect to economic issues, 42 percent identified as conservative, 34 percent said they were moderate and 21 percent identified as liberal. While conservative economic identification remains dominant, the 21 percent advantage over liberals is much lower than in 2010, when the conservative advantage was 36 percent.
The 21%, however, seems artificially small, especially when we consider views on many economic issues. It seems clear that much of what is actually liberal policy is not recognized as such. The example of the older gentleman at the town hall meeting angrily saying the government needs to keep its hands off of his Medicare comes to mind here. Let’s take a look at some polling data to drive the point home.
Progressive Taxes on the Wealthy
61% believe the rich are taxed too little, a number that has rarely fallen below 60% in the past two decades. This is a clear indication of two liberal perspectives. One, a majority are supporting a progressive tax system over the idea of a flat tax, which is just another give away to the wealthy. And two, a majority believe some taxes are not high enough, a position commonly demonized by the right.
Roughly 70% believe the minimum wage should be increased and should be increased along with the inflation rate. Just like taxes on the wealthy, this is also an endorsement of two liberal perspectives.
Government Job Creation
Over 70% are in favor of the government spending more to create jobs in areas like infrastructure, something that is easy to believe people have taken for granted at this point (roads, bridges, clean water, etc.) despite falling on the liberal side of the fence.
Saving Social Security
Whether Social Security was considered a social or economic issue in the Gallup poll, I’m not sure. And it goes without saying, it’s socialism and a liberal position itself, one that a large majority of Americans favor. But it has some small long-term problems that can be fixed rather easily and this is where the liberal economic position wins again and wins by a lot. The two most strongly supported ideas to keep Social Security stable pretty much for good are both liberal: raising the payroll tax or lifting the payroll tax cap (both 60+% in favor).
You have to dig slightly deeper on this issue to get the reality, which is heavy support for the more liberal side. Taking a look at China, people might be okay with free trade but in a more conditional way. Over 80% support getting tougher with China on trade which could easily be coupled with large majorities wanting the U.S. to push China harder on human rights and environmental issues.
In this case, pluralities (not necessarily majorities, in the interest of fairness) favor regulation on business and believe the government should carry out this task. In addition, a plurality believes regulation on the financial industry did not go far enough after the 2008 crisis. While these might be just below majorities, the numbers are still well above the 21% of people in the Gallup poll identifying as liberal.
In the debate on reducing the deficit, liberal thought wins again. Large majorities favored keeping liberal programs like Social Security and Medicare (69% in favor) and spending on the poor (59%) as is while asking for cuts to a conservative favorite, military spending (51%).
Wall Street Bailouts
This one is a little tricky for a few reasons, but let me explain. First off, the bailouts are a liberal action since conservative policy is (and initially was) to let them fail and let the economy crash into complete oblivion, which would have been catastrophic. Second, most people aren’t going to pay too much attention to this area of regulation unless the excrement hits the fan, as it did in September of 2008. Third, and related to the last point, public attention to economic issues in September 2008 had double from the year before so the attention at the time of the bailouts was certainly there. And what did all that lead to: 57% in favor of the government stepping in to keep the market from getting worse and only 30% opposed. The point here is when things go bad in the economy, the public looks to the government to stop the bleeding and is okay with a heavy government hand in the marketplace when necessary.
21% of the public identifying as economically liberal-minded certainly seems low according to all of these poll numbers. We have to assume that number will likely grow as more people become aware of what is and what is not liberal economic policy and become less afraid to identify with it.