Self-identified liberals crossed a major milestone, gaining on conservatives and being separated by less than 10 digits for the first time in the history of the polls conducted by Gallup, Inc. Part of the reason that more Americans are coming out as liberals and conservatives are on the wane is likely due to the polarizing Trump effect, which has pushed many more people toward proclaiming their connection to liberalism as well as the Democratic party. In fact, this is the first time in the polls that half of Democrats also identified as liberals, representing a changing face of the party.
In 2017, 35% of U.S. adults identified as conservative while 26% called themselves liberal. In 2016, that difference was 11 points and has been around 20 points in years past.
Gallup first began taking these polls in 1992. Since that time, self-identifying liberals are up from 17% to 26%.
Perhaps another sign of the far more divisive, polarized times we live in (not to mention another Trump effect), is that moderates have declined since 1992. They once encompassed 43% of the population, but have since fallen to 35%. Conservatives, meanwhile, have remained steadfast throughout; 36% in 1992 and 35% in 2017. Another four to five percent of the population refuse to or are unable to classify themselves in those three terms provided in the survey.
The overall trend is a decline in moderates and an increase in liberals, according to the poll. This speaks to the effects President Donald Trump is having on the current political climate. The commander-in-chief has been arguably the most divisive president in the modern era, with policies, speeches, and even tweets often inciting many people on the left.
The president’s penchant for such moves has likely contributed to the increasing comfort former-moderates have with labeling themselves as liberals, showing how the Trump effect may not only have consequences for today’s politics, but for years to come.
The survey also found that older and less-educated adults tend to skew conservative, while younger and more highly educated adults gravitate towards the liberal signifier.
Men showed a preference for the conservative label by 16 points, while women were far more closely split over the two terms.
As to be expected, geography also correlated with certain labels, with majority blue states preferring liberal and majority red states preferring conservative.
The move toward the liberal label is less a coup for left-leaning folk than it is a more dedicated base that has seen both parties gradually pull further apart over the last few decades. With such stark differences between the two parties now on full display, more people are finding it easier to identify as liberals, especially as both the Republican and Democratic parties skew further toward opposite ends of the political spectrum.
With fewer people identifying as moderates, and such vitriol being fired back and forth across party lines, it is unlikely that the political turmoil we’ve witnessed will solve itself anytime soon. With mid-term elections coming up, a swing of either the House or the Senate toward the Democrats could lead to years of bickering, squabbling, fighting, and little actual governing should these parties find themselves unable to reconcile.
The surveys were compiled of averages from multiple surveys conducted over the year. The 2017 aggregate includes 13 different surveys taken between January and December, with 12,766 national adults surveyed.
“Conservative Lead in U.S. Ideology Is Down to Single Digits,” Gallup, Inc., January 11, 2018.