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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Democrats Move Left

At FiveThirtyEight last week, Nate Silver explained that the rise in liberal identification does not mean a drop in conservative identification:
There’s no sign of much of a change in the percentage of self-identified conservatives since the George W. Bush administration. In Kaiser’s 2015 surveys, 35.3 percent of respondents identified as conservative. That’s about the same as the 34.7 percent average from 2007 to 2014.
The Kaiser poll does show that more people identified as liberal this year than in any other year since 2007. The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found the same thing. In the Kaiser data, this seems to continue a trend from 2014, which also found a higher percentage of liberals than in previous years.
How are liberals rising without conservatives falling? Liberals seem to be taking over for moderates. In both 2014 and 2015, less than 35 percent of Americans identified as moderates in the Kaiser data, compared with 38 percent or higher from 2007 to 2010.
The Kaiser data tracks fairly well with what Gallup has shown from 1992 to 2014. When looking at self-identified ideology overall,1 Gallup hasn’t found any decline in the percentage of conservatives2 while showing moderates at an all-time low and liberals at an all-time high.
Perhaps most importantly, the reason that liberal identification has been up according to Gallup is because of Democrats. The Democratic base is more liberal, but there has been zero movement toward liberalism among independents or Republicans. In other words, the left is more liberal, but the median voter is not.
New Gallup data confirm the analysis;
Democratic candidates for the 2016 presidential nomination face a significantly more left-leaning party base than their predecessors did over the last 15 years. Forty-seven percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents now identify as both socially liberal and economically moderate or liberal. This is compared with 39% in these categories in 2008, when there was last an open seat for their party's nomination, and 30% in 2001.