No, America is not turning Right

As pundits, semi-journalists, politicians, and that hyper-opinionated guy posting on youruncle sam thinking Facebook page stumble through their painfully uninformed and shallow analyses of “what just happened” in the 104 midterm election — all coming to the conclusion that Americans are all becoming Republicans — let’s stop, take a breath, and look around.  Shall we?

When we look at polling data of American’s opinions on politicians, political parties, and political and social issues, we see that the trend is slowly, but steadily, shifting toward the Left.  Already, most Americans (meaning anything more than 50%) hold opinions on the issues that align with those on the Left.  And even on issues that still have a Right-leaning majority, the trend lines are heading Left.

Abortion:  63% support Roe v Wade, less than 30% oppose it, and that hasn’t really changed in 20 years.

Background checks on gun sales.  The nation is evenly split over tighter gun control in general, with 48% say it is more important to control gun ownership, and 49% say it is more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns.  On the specific question of background checks, however, even most Americans who live in a household where they or someone else is an NRA member overwhelmingly favored the idea of making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to such checks. About three-quarters (74%) backed these expanded checks compared with 26% who opposed them.

Bush or Obama:  In the eyes of Americans, Obama is more honest that Bush (51% to 41%), more empathetic than Bush (54% to 31%), more effective than Bush (44% to 42%), a stronger leader than Bush (47% to 43%), and more worthy of their approval than Bush (41% in November 2014 to 33% in November 2006).  By the way, during the last 35 months (2.9 years) of his second term, Bush’s approval rating  (which bottomed out at 25%) rose above 40% only twice. Obama’s approval rating has never dipped below 40%. Bush’s high point was at 62%; Obama’s high point (so far) was at 78%.

Citizens United:  A landslide 80% of Americans oppose the US Supreme Court’s decision to allow unfettered corporate political spending, with 65% “strongly” opposed. Nearly as many backed congressional action to curb the ruling, with 72% in favor of reinstating limits.  Meanwhile, a few weeks ago,Senate Republicans blocked a constitutional amendment meant to reverse the two recent Supreme Court decisions on campaign spending. Senate Democrats needed 60 votes to end debate on the measure, but fell short in the 54-42 party-line vote.

Climate change:  61% of us believe the Earth has been warming, and nearly half (48%) see it as a major threat.  Only 37% of Republicans believe in global warming, and only 21% of Pew’s “Steadfast Conservatives” do.  Even more of us (65%) favor Obama’s stricter limits on power plant emissions. 

Death penalty:  Support for the death penalty is at its lowest point in 40 years and has fallen sharply over the past 20 years. Since 1996, the margin between those who favor the death penalty and those who oppose it has narrowed from a 60-point gap (78% favor vs. 18% oppose) to an 18-point difference in 2013 (55% favor vs. 37% oppose.

Environmental protection:  Most Americans (58%) say that protecting the environment improves economic growth and creates new jobs, and just 17% think environmental protection hurts growth and jobs. When asked to choose directly which was more important—environmental protection or economic growth—we decisively favored protecting the environment 62% to 38% when there is a conflict between the two goals.

Equal pay:  Most Americans — 72% of women and 61% of men — agree that “this country needs to continue making changes to give men and women equality in the workplace.” Whatever estimate you use for the ratio of pay for women to men, doing the same work, it comes out that women make less (and it’s getting worse, not better) and that it’s undeniable that the gap is, indeed, linked to sex.  Recent cases have shown that women who ask for pay increases often don’t get them.  Worse, women who ask for raises are seen as demanding (men are not). Meanwhile, Senate Republicans have, four times,  unanimously blocked a bill to close the pay gap between men and women.

Evolution:  Most Americans (60%) say humans have evolved over time. Only 33% believe humans have always existed in this form.

Future:  Millennials are considerably more liberal than other generations: About four in ten are mostly (28%) or consistently (13%) liberal in their views, compared with 15% who are mostly (12%) or consistently (3%) conservative. Older generations are progressively more conservative.

Government spending:  Most Americans oppose cutting government spending on unemployment aid (65%), aid to needy in the US (71%), health care (72%), environmental protection (81%), scientific research (77%), Medicare (82%), natural disaster relief (84%), education (89%), Social Security (87%), and veterans’ benefits (91%).

Helping the poor:  Nearly seven in ten (69%) say it is more important to maintain current Social Security and Medicare benefits than to reduce the deficit, while 59% prioritize keeping current levels of spending for programs that help the poor and needy over deficit reduction.

Immigration reform:  Most Americans (52%) support Obama’s vow to enact immigration law changes by executive order if Congress will not act.

Income inequality:  A whopping 78% say income inequality is a big problem, while only 20% say it’s not.

Marijuana:  Support for marijuana legalization is rapidly outpacing opposition. Most Americans (52%) say the drug should be made legal, compared with 45% who want it to be illegal. Opinions have changed drastically since 1969, when Gallup first asked the question and found that just 12% favored legalizing marijuana use.  Four states – Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska – and the District of Columbia have passed measures to legalize marijuana use, while an additional 14 states have  decriminalized certain amounts of marijuana possession. Including those five locations, nearly half of U.S. states (23 plus D.C.) allow medical marijuana. Most Americans (60%) say that the federal government should not enforce its marijuana laws in states that permit use.

Marriage equality:  Most Americans (54%) favor same-sex marriage.  Only 39% oppose it.

Military spending:  Most Americans (51%) say reducing the deficit is more important than keeping military spending at current levels.

Minimum wage increase.  An overwhelming 73% of us are in favor of raising the minimum wage to $10.10. Minimum wage increases have been on state ballots 15 times since 2002. They’ve passed every time.

Political party:  Most Americans (55%) hold an unfavorable view of the Republican Party. Only 37% have a favorable view of the GOP.  The nation is evenly split on its view of the Democratic Party, 47% unfavorable and 46% favorable. President Obama has a higher favorable rating than either party.   One remarkable shift is among Cuban Americans, a long-time GOP stronghold. Less than half (47%) of Cuban registered voters say they identify with or lean toward the Republican Party—down from the 64% who said the same about the GOP a decade ago, according to 2013 survey data. Meanwhile, the share of Cubans who identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party has doubled from 22% to 44% over the same time period.

Priorities:  In every major poll, Americans rank the traditionally liberal concerns of the economy/jobs as the #1 issue, and health care as #2, while the conservative concerns with the federal budget deficit, President Obama, immigration, taxes, gun policies, and war barely register.  The Fax faux scandals (Benghazi, etc.) actually do fail to register.

Race relations:  A full 87% of us approve of marriage between whites and blacks. In 1958, it was just 4%.

Sexual orientation:  Most Americans (62%) say that society should accept homosexuality.  Even America’s churches are coming around to the liberal viewpoint.  Among young Catholics, the acceptance rate has risen to 85%.

Stem cell research:  A large majority (73%) support using stem cells for biomedical research.

Taxes:  Most Americans (57%) say their biggest beef with our tax system is that it does not force the wealthy to pay their fair share.

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