by Robert Maynard
As we get closer to the upcoming elections the question of how to best advance the conservative cause presents itself. Some would argue that elections present an opportunity to reach out to more people with the conservative message, while others insist that ideological considerations take a back seat to actually getting sympathetic politicians elected. Sometimes we come across indications that these two objectives are not mutually exclusive pursuits. In a recent American Thinker article by Bruce Walker, such a case is presented. Walker makes the argument that there is a self identified conservative majority out there ready to be mobilized. He draws that conclusion by looking at a series of five Gallup Polls taken over three years, which broke down ideological self-identification by state. According to Walker:
In August 2009, Gallup data showed that conservatives outnumbered liberals in every single state. In February 2010, Gallup presented polling data that showed the same thing: though the numbers were different, conservatives outnumbered liberals in every state. Six months later, Gallup presented new polling numbers which showed that conservatives outnumbered liberals in every state but Rhode Island. One year ago, in February 2011, Gallup again showed polling data which revealed that in every single state, conservatives outnumbered liberals. Then, in February 2012, the Gallup Poll showed that in every state except Massachusetts, conservatives outnumbered liberals.
Gallup is not the only polling organization to reach this conclusion:
The Battleground Poll, conducted by George Washington University in collaboration with a Democrat and a Republican polling organization, also has published the ideological self-identification of Americans. The latest Battleground Poll has just been released, and the pattern in the latest Battleground Poll is identical to the previous twenty-one polls over the last ten years.
In the latest poll, 58% of Americans describe themselves as “very conservative” or “somewhat conservative,” while only 37% of Americans describe themselves as “very liberal” or “somewhat liberal.” The “moderate” or “don’t know” remain as in past polls very small, at 2% for both of those groups. Moreover, conservative Americans are much more conservative than liberal Americans are liberal. So, while 61% of Americans who identify themselves as conservative or liberal pick “conservative,” when asked if they are “very conservative” or “very liberal,” 68% of those strongly ideological Americans are “very conservative” while only 32% are “very liberal.”
Such findings are not often reported widely in the media and the conclusions related to political strategy to be drawn from them are even less often voiced. Instead we are told that conservatives can only win if they water down their conservative convictions and tailor their message to the supposedly moderate majority. What are we make of such advice if the majority of Americans actually self-identify as conservatives?
There are two conclusions to be drawn from this finding. The first is that forming a conservative message is not just a good way to advance conservatism, but it is also a winning political strategy. The majority of self-identified conservatives need to see a message of conservatism clearly articulated if they are to mobilized behind a candidate, or slate of candidates. Or, as Ronald Reagan stated in 1975, conservative politicians need to “Raise a banner of bold colors, not pale pastels”. The other lesson to be drawn from these polls is the enduring nature of conservatism.
Despite the fact that the majority of media outlets arguably lean to the left, not to mention academia, our public school system, the entertainment industry, etc., the majority of Americans still self identify as conservatives. Conservatives need to encourage this trend by making the conservative message more available to the American majority. Beyond elections, we need to find more avenues with which to promote conservatism. There is no reason why we should not be able to solidify America’s conservative leaning even further.