Scripps Howard had a surprising article yesterday which indicated what libertarians have been claiming all along: Most voters are neither red nor blue. The information wasn’t surprising, that a major news service covered it is. Citing a recent , they wrote:
A study released last week by the Pew Research Center (http://pew research.org) might cause some discomfort along the red-blue border.
Based on a national survey of 2,000 adults taken shortly after the 2004 election, researchers attempted to see just how ideological Americans really are. The answer? Not very.
“Judging by their opinions on a number of issues, many Americans simply do not fit well within either the conservative or liberal ideological camps,” wrote Greg Smith and Scott Keeter, “instead falling into one of two other important U.S. political traditions – libertarian or populist – or defying attempts to pigeon-hole them.”
They looked at the responses to a set of questions on economic and social issues: questions about government-guaranteed health insurance, government regulation of business, recognition of gay marriage and government promotion of morality.
Their conclusion was that only 18 percent of poll respondents could be considered liberals and 15 percent conservatives. Another 16 percent were populists, those who tended to endorse government regulation in both the economic and social areas. Another 9 percent were libertarians, those who tended to oppose government involvement in both spheres.
The rest? A whopping 42 percent were in the middle in a grouping the researchers termed “ambivalent.” These Americans either answered the questions in seemingly conflicting ways or said they had no opinions at all.
I went over to Pew and found their article about their findings. They used six questions and plotted the results on a modified Nolan Chart. As someone who conducts telephone polls and actively tracks trends in how Americans are defined politically, I have some minor issues with the amount of questions they used, but find the overall results unsurprising.
Their cross-tabs indicate that libertarians are a bit wealthier but less educated than I would have guessed, but a lot of that is based on the specific questions they used to determine the political leanings of the survey respondents.
Here is one thing to watch out for: They classified populists as those who favor “an active role for government in both the economic and the social spheres.” The traditional Nolan Chart refers to these people as as authoritarian. The centrist center of the Nolan Chart is called ambivilent by Pew.
Here’s the Wiki definition of populist:
Populism is a political philosophy or rhetorical style that holds that the common person’s interests are oppressed or hindered by the elite in society, and that the instruments of the state need to be grasped from this self-serving elite and used for the benefit and advancement of the people as a whole. Hence a populist is one who is perceived to craft their rhetoric as appeals to the economic, social, and common sense concerns of average people. Most scholarship on populism since 1980 has discussed it as a rhetorical style that can be used to promote a variety of ideologies.
Individual populists have variously promised to stand up to corporate power, remove “corrupt” elites, and “put people first.” Populism incorporates anti-regime politics, and sometimes nationalism, racism or religious fundamentalism. Many populists appeal to a specific region of a country or to a specific social class, such as the working class, middle class, or farmers. Often they employ dichotomous rhetoric, and claim to represent the majority of the people.
I don’t find Pew’s definition consistent with common use of the term. This said, I’m pleased that the survey was conducted. It provides a statistical view of American’s which is not consistent to the way we are portrayed by the MSM or treated by politicians — and it continues to prove what we’ve been saying all along.