In the past two years, Americans have become increasingly likely to describe the Democratic Party’s views as “too liberal” (49%), and less likely to say its views are “about right” (38%). Americans’ views of the Republican Party, on the other hand, have moderated slightly, with a dip in the percentage saying the GOP is too conservative from 43% last year to 40% today, and an increase in the percentage saying it is about right, from 34% to 41%.
The recent increase in perceptions of the Democratic Party as too liberal could be a response to the expansion in government spending since President Barack Obama took office, most notably regarding the economic stimulus and healthcare legislation.The 49% of Americans who now believe the Democratic Party’s views are too liberal is one percentage point below the 50% Gallup measured after the 1994 elections, the all-time high in the trend question first asked in 1992.
So it’s not those whacky partisans who have gotten Obama “wrong” — mischaracterizing his “moderation” as extremism. It’s the whole country that has woken up to his leftism. In fact the biggest shift in perception is among independent voters. (“Since February 2008, the percentage calling the Democratic Party ‘too liberal’ has increased by 12 points among independents and 8 points among Republicans, with little change among Democrats.”)
The president is not only the chief executive but also the head of his party. In addition to sending his own approval skidding downward, Obama has managed to give his party the labels it has struggled so hard to shed — “weak on national security” and “tax-and-spend liberals.” A majority of the electorate was snookered into believing Obama was a moderate pragmatist. They aren’t likely to make that mistake again — and they are likely first to take it out on the Democrats on the ballot this November.