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The New Conservative Plurality


There’s more evidence that the June 20 New York Times poll on health reform cannot be trusted. In addition to missing quite a few McCain voters, the sample also includes quite a few more Democrats and liberals than other recent credible polls.


Liberals comprise over one-quarter (27%) of the respondents in the Times’s poll. This is considerably higher than what the Pew Research Center found in its recent exhaustive survey of Americans’ political values and core attitudes that only 19% of Americans self-identify as liberal, about the same percentage Pew found in surveys going back to 2000. Similarly, a much-discussed June 15 survey by the Gallup Organization places the liberal share of the population at 21%, which also is in line with the 2008 exit polls.


It is worth noting that the samples in all three of these surveys are of “adults.”


Bottom line: The consensus among polling organizations — except for the Times and its partner CBS News, apparently — is that the percentage of Americans who call themselves liberal has remained about where it has been for many years and has not spiked in recent months. America has not veered to the left, except in the parallel universe known as the New York Times.


Not surprisingly, the percentage of conservatives in the Times’ poll (29%) also differs considerably from the findings in other recent polls. Pew, for example, gives conservatives a 37% share of the population. Gallup goes even further — conservatives now comprise a plurality (40%) of the population.


Finally, the Times’s poll tells us that Democrats outnumber Independents by the comfortable margin of 38% to 31%. This directly contradicts the main finding in the Pew surveys, i.e., that “the proportion of independents now equals its highest level in 70 years.” The Pew study also included this relevant context:

The…striking factor in the long term trend in party identification is the record number of political independents in 2009 – 36% of Americans describe themselves this way. The only previous year in which independent identification was this high was in 1992 when Ross Perot ran a widely popular independent party candidacy.

That 36% figure, moreover, is the average for all the surveys conducted thus far in 2009 and actually understates the extent of the surge toward Independent status. It is literally breathtaking — from 30% in December 2008, to 33% in January, 34% in February, 35% in March, and then 39% in April. And what happened to the Democrats’ share of the population during this period? According to Pew, it plummeted by more than a full percentage point each month, from 39% in December to 33% in April.


Somehow the Times poll misses this dynamic development. Its polls going back to October 2008 show virtually no change in the percentage of Democrats.


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