Thursday, June 18, 2015

Liberals and Conservatives on Social and Economic Issues

The Millennials are Coming

The headlines from a spate of new polls tell the story of American public opinion moving to the left on social issues. As millions of Millennials become 18 years old and older (old enough to be questioned in most national polls and, of course, to vote), they are a major influence in shifting public opinion (see: 2015: More Millennials than Baby Boomers).

When asked how they view themselves on “social issues” during the last decade, the U.S. public has shifted in the liberal direction, with liberal and conservative views now tied at 31 percent each. A shift of 13 points to the left. Republicans haven’t changed much during the decade. Liberal Republican views only make up 11 percent of the party’s identity on social issues (up 3 points in 10 years). It is Democrats that have shifted dramatically to the left (53% of party labels itself “liberal,” up 15 points), reflecting both changed views and Millennials, who are more liberal, joining the ranks of Democrats.

Although conservative views on economic issues have declined from highs in the upper 40s during the early Obama years (2009 – 48%; 2011 – 47%), down to 39 percent today, conservative views are still two-to-one over liberal economic views of 19 percent.

Republican views on economic issues during the Obama era swung to the conservative direction by 14 points from 2008 (61%) to 2009 (75%). They have since settled in at 64 percent compared to only 7 percent of Republicans with liberal views.

A third of the Democratic Party now claim to be liberal on economic issues, much more than the electorate, and moderate and conservative Democratic views have fallen off.

The second poll showing a surge of support for same-sex marriage confirms the country’s shift to the left on at least some social issues. Sixty percent of Americans now support same-sex marriage and 37 percent oppose.

Republicans and Democrats are dramatically different on their support for same-sex marriage.

Although in the last five years support has increased among all three parties, there is still a 39 percent difference between Democrats and Republicans, larger than in 2010 (28%).

Gallup: On social ideology, the left catches up to the right, May 22, 2015
Gallup: Record-high 60% of Americans support same-sex marriage, May 19, 2015

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