Monday, March 12, 2007

The Sheep And The Goats

That title is just because. The post is about how the Americans answer questions about their political affiliation. Here is a recent set of polling answers (click on the picture to make it larger):

As Kevin Drum notes, these numbers have stayed fairly constant for about twenty years.

Now why is this interesting? It is! The reason is that this self-identification does not match the same Americans' views on various public policy issues. Many so-called liberal policies have majority support. The interesting question is why people support liberal policies but reject the liberal label, and one answer is that this is a consequence of the successful demonization project of the Wingnuttia Inc. during the last two decades.

Another answer is something that might strike a person born in Europe more than someone who has always lived in a two-party system. There aren't very many subtle gradations in those questions. How would a rabid communist answer that questionnaire? There is no place for distinguishing true extreme-left views from views of people like Hillary Clinton, really. And note the "moderate" category. Doesn't its presence suggest that "liberal" is not "moderate"?

I wonder what would happen if we replaced the "liberal" label with "progressive"?