This statistic is from Bret Stephens’ excellent piece in today’s Wall Street Journal:
The number of Americans who self-identify as liberals continues to fall, to 21% in 2008 from 22% in 2004, according to CNN. (The number of self-identified conservatives held steady at 34%.)
But that’s because the liberal talking points of 2004 have been completely embraced by the moderates of 2008. Just as the moderate talking points of 2004 are finding favor among the conservatives of 2008. Forget what voters call themselves — this is what it means when a country slides to the Left.
A 2007 study found that 71 percent of Republicans polled identified as conservative. That’s 16 percent more than in 1997. Which means we’re an increasingly conservative country right? Not really. The same study also found that over the ten years, Republicans became more likely to support gays in the military and universal healthcare, and less likely to be “free-marketeers.”
A Rasmussen poll conducted this last July found that libertarians favored Obama to McCain 53 to 38 percent. These are the people who supposedly reject hand-outs as paternal, and larger government involvement as criminal. Yet they overwhelmingly went for the candidate who plans to set up free pre-school for every American three-year-old, and heavily subsidized healthcare for any American who wants it.
This phenomenon is the political equivalent of the shift we’ve seen in religious identification over the past few decades. The self-proclaimed Christians who don’t go to church, the Jews who don’t attend synagogue, the whole “spiritual but not religious” a la carte approach to belief. You can keep calling yourself anything you like, I suppose, as long as you keep updating the term to fit your fancy.