U.S. ideology stable, “culture trench warfare” ahead?
The U.S. Democratic Party has gained a larger following over the past two decades but America’s ideological landscape has remained largely unchanged over the past two decades, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. You can see the analysis here.
What is of interest for readers of this blog may be the implications of this “cultural trench warfare” — with neither side gaining much ground from the other — for red-hot social issues such as abortion rights and the future prospects for both the Republicans and the Democrats.
“The Democratic Party’s advantage in party identification has widened over the past two decades, but the share of Americans who describe their political views as liberal, conservative or moderate has remained stable during the same period. Only about one-in-five Americans currently call themselves liberal (21 percent), while 38 percent say they are conservative and 36 percent describe themselves as moderate. This is virtually unchanged from recent years; when George W. Bush was first elected president, 18 percent of Americans said they were liberal, 36 percent were conservative and 38 percent considered themselves moderate,” the report, released late on Tuesday, says.
On the divisive issue of abortion rights, the report, using survey data from October, said 57 percent of Americans believed it should be legal. Breaking opinion up by ideology, it found that 43 percent of conservatives were in favour of it being legal while 77 percent of self-described liberals held that view.
This is not surprising — there are many Americans who regard themselves as economic or “tough on crime” or national security conservatives who still support abortion rights. What may surprise some is that 19 percent of liberals feel it should be illegal. These could be people influenced by Catholic social teaching or other trends who regard themselves as liberal on most issues but not this one.
For all the talk of an emerging evangelical center, the report says that: “White evangelical Protestants are the most conservative Republicans: 79 percent describe their political views as conservative, compared with 17 percent who say they are moderate and just two percent who call themselves liberal.”
This suggests that they will remain a key Republican Party base — but in an age of cultural trench warfare, can the party rely on this base to propel itself back into power? On the other hand, the survey’s findings certainly reinforce the wide perception that America is a “center right” country. Maybe that helps to explain the Democratic Party’s subtle shift on abortion rights to an emphasis on reducing the number of abortions and talk of it being a “tragic choice?” If you can’t win them outright, do you need to find common ground in the no-man’s land between the trenches?
Does it also mean both sides are “dug in” for the long haul as they are winning few ideological converts from the other ? What do you think?