The annual Gallup “Values and Beliefs” poll is out and one of the major take aways is that the number of Americans who self-identify as “conservative” or “very conservative” on economic issues has dropped to the lowest level since 2009.
Forty-one percent of Americans now characterize their economic views as “conservative,” or “very conservative,” the lowest since President Barack Obama took office in 2009 and on par with where views were in May 2008. This year’s downtick in the percentage of Americans identifying as economically conservative has been accompanied by an uptick in the percentage identifying as economically moderate — now 37% of Americans, up from 32% last year.
Also, the number of Americans who characterize their belief in social issues as “liberal” or “very liberal” has hit an all time high:
While economic liberalism remains stagnant, the percentage of Americans describing their social views as “liberal” or “very liberal” has achieved a new peak of 30% — in line with Gallup’s recent finding that Americans are more accepting on a number of moral issues. Thirty-five percent of Americans say they are conservative or very conservative on social issues and 32% self-identify as socially moderate.
Why the flip? Jazz Shaw has some cogent thoughts:
Those numbers are more nuanced than the economic ones, as usually happens in these studies. But those seeking to reign in the government credit card do seem to be on the decline at the moment. But why? Part of the reason may be that people are seeing some signs of life in the economy. Not massive signs of improvement, obviously, but the stock market is up and some additional jobs are coming on line. The lack of a pressing threat, sadly, tends to make people more willing to put their problems off until tomorrow.
Also, fiscal conservatism is hard. Let’s face it… the idea of doing with less for yourself in exchange for a long term benefit for future generations requires a bit more vision than you’ll find in the average shopping mall skateboard club. It was never going to be an easy sell, and if it looks like the party lights are being turned back on – even slightly – there will be a percentage of the pack ready to stock up on drinks and head back to the festivities, running up the tab.
I think more the latter than the former. We are seeing this in Europe — “austerity exhaustion.” When people have been living beyond their means for years and are suddenly forced to make do with less from government, the subsequent belt tightening is resented — especially when the far right and far left wing parties point to the rich still living care-free lives. If you note recent elections in Greece, Italy, and elsewhere, fringe parties are surging while traditional political parties and alliances are declining.
I’d like to see this poll taken later this summer when the debate over the debt ceiling hits its stride. People are going to be reminded of just how much debt we’re carrying and who is at fault for refusing to deal with it. I have a feeling that recovering economy or not, recalling we’re under a $16 trillion mountain of debt will move the dial back toward fiscal sanity.