Over the weekend, Drudge highlighted this Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll analysis showing that liberals are increasing their share of the population, while conservatives seem to be in slight decline:
In three national polls conducted so far in 2015, the analysis found that 26% of registered voters identified themselves as liberals — up from 23% in 2014. At the same time, the share of voters identifying as conservatives dropped to 33% from 37% in 2014.
The analysis by GOP pollster Bill McInturff, who looked at survey data from 2010 to 2015, found that the biggest ideological shifts came among women, young people, Latinos and well-educated voters, as well as people in the West and in cities.
I have multiple thoughts. First, I’ve long wondered if and when the long liberal effort to stigmatize conservatism would bear measurable fruit. Given that the “biggest ideological shifts” occurred where the Left has the most cultural and political control — with young people (pop culture and campus) and in our nation’s largest urban areas — it appears that tribalism may be having a real effect.
Second — and related — as our political battles increasingly focus around identity groups, demographic status is substituting for independent thought. The Democrats’ core constituencies — including single women and Latinos — are increasing their share of the population, so it stands to reason that identification with liberalism would increase as well.
Third, I don’t think this shift is nearly as permanent as Democrats hope. Concentrated in their urban and campus enclaves and isolated from dissenting voices, progressives tend to overestimate their power and consistently overreach. Note how quickly the liberal momentum from 2008 and 2012 dissipated (indeed, the WSJ’s own chart shows dips in liberal identification in 2010 and following the 2012 elections). Note how the forces of campus intolerance are beginning to alienate even fellow progressives. Many Americans are more sympathetic to the idea of liberalism than they are to its concrete manifestations.
The 2016 election will be a test of Americans’ tolerance for progressivism. There is no “moderate” Democrat in the race, and for now it looks like their second-most-popular candidate is an outright socialist. If the Democrats prevail, then perhaps America is in the midst of a longer-term transition — and we’ll have to suffer a bit more before the pendulum swings back to the right.