Are the American people more "liberal" or more "conservative"?

I recently started a GD thread: “What are the prospects for a left-wing analogue to Fox News?” – In response to the question, “How many people would watch it?” Debaser posted the following:

To which I replied:

To which Sam Stone replied:

At this point, rather than hijack the original thread into discussion of a question highly relevant to, but clearly separate from, the OP, I think it is appropriate to start a separate thread. Are the American people more “liberal” or “conservative”? What proof is there on either side of the question?

The people are getting more liberal, but the conservative faction is much more militant.

Evidence for more liberal:

  • Success of Queer Eye for Straight Guy and Will and Grace. Unthinkable a decade ago.

  • The Republicans liked to paint Kerry as the most liberal Senator. 49% of the people had their votes counted as supporting him. If Kerry is so liberal and so far out of the mainsteam, why so much support?

  • Divorced presidential candidates (Reagan, Kerry) and nobody cared. A generation ago, it would have been difficult for a divorced man to run for president.

I don’t see that at all. I see more “militant” attitudes from the left.

Evidence for more liberal:

I think you’re confusing tolerance with folks being more liberal.

I wouldn’t be so sure that 49% fully supported Kerry - many were voting for “anybody but Bush” for many reasons, and liberalism isn’t necessarily one of them.

Changing times. A generation ago fewer people divorced. A great many conservatives get divorced these days. That doesn’t mean that they’re more “liberal.”

I think an old-school conservative like William F. “stand athwart history and shout ‘Stop!’” Buckley might dispute that point.

Yes, but unless I am much mistaken, that statement is from the 50s. What conservatives wanted back then is quite different from what they want today. I think we could say the same thing about liberals. Were there any statistics about how many people support speach codes on campus? :wink:

More liberal or conservative than what? I don’t think the question makes any sense.

I think that he meant more or less than in the past. He is interested in which way the wind is blowing.

Reagan was elected a generation ago.

If that’s it, then I would suggest there are many winds and some are blowing left while others blow right-- especially if we’re looking at time periods of 5 - 10 years. But if we look at longer time periods (50 -75 yrs), there is no doubt we’re moving left. Most of the social programs that seemed radical several generations ago are pertty much taken for granted by both parties now-- we don’t argue so much about whether they should exist or not, we just argue about how much is too much or too little.

There is no such thing as “the American people”. Whenever a politician says “The American People want this!” or “The American People demand that!” he is blowing smoke up your Nixon. There is only one thing that the American people have it common: they mostly believe that there is such a thing as the American people, and that the American people, for the large part, agree with them.

That’s a good point. I have used it before to suggest that some social policies are not “for the people”.

And there is the fact that “being a liberal” in Europe is a complement, whereas in the Rush Limbaugh / Bill O’Riley’s land it is a taboo.

Dunno bout that, never been. I might go some day, but probably would never get out of Amsterdam. Really like coffee.

But I get the impression that our concept of “liberal” doesn’t much apply there. They just think of it as being “normal”.

So, the United States of America is the insane asylum of the planet?

That’d explain a lot…

What a wonderfully vague OP.
As was mentioned above, compared with 75 years ago, definitely more liberal but compared with, say, 15 years ago, I would say, as an outsider looking in, more conservative.
Two examples that spring to mind: In another thread, there is reference to a report suggesting 44 per cent of Americans are in favour of curtailing the rights of US muslims - would that have been the case in 1990?
And, on a completely different tack, there appears to be a lot less nudity acceptable in Hollywood movies these days.
The question is, which way will it go from here?

I have to agree with Wrath… 49% included a lot of “we don’t want Bush” people… still the fact that they were willing to “risk” a liberal is a positive sign.

Liberals or those who might be considered liberal aren’t militant enough I feel. Just because they were the opposition do conservatives like to paint them as whiners or protestors (aka militant). Conservatives were actively poking around churches and rallying votes. By far the right was pushing and succeding in getting people to vote… it wasn’t as visible or on the internet.

As for the “liberal” being a negative label now… thats true… but if people just chose to use other labels like “libertarian” that doesn’t mean they stopped being liberal 100%.

I think overall americans bend a bit to what might be considered liberal ideas… but they certainly after 9/11 are bending towards more overtly right wing truculence.

I think tolerance is the first step. Equality if the last step. We have a long ways to go, but we’ve taken the first step and every step is a step more liberal. If the country is so conservative, this tolerance wouldn’t have happened and the networks would have been flooded by phone calls at the first hint of homosexuality in a show.

And it has been a generation since Reagan. Time flies. But again, if the country was not becoming more tolerant and progressively more liberal, divorced presidential candidates would be unheard of.

Look at Social Security. Once the great radical liberal social program, it is now the third rail of politics. Look at civil rights- only 40 years ago Jim Crow was alive and well, now it’s nothing more than a tragic bit of history. Although there is a militant minority of Christian fundamentalists, more Americans are tolerant of other religions than 40 years ago. It was a big deal that JFK was Catholic, now we’ve had a Jewish vice presidential candidate and nobody batted an eye.

I think the perception of a rightward shift is caused by the minority of radical righties being more militant and of course the recent electoral success of the Neocon George W. Bush.

Tolerance is good… but not necessarily “liberal” I think.

Tolerating gays and blacks means not beating or hanging them ? They still don’t like them “niggers” or them “fruits” getting married.

I do agree with you about “social” laws and so… but then what is defined as liberal also changes. Overall laws and culture have changed. Tolerance for one group might be just exchanged for new intolerances ?

Why am I the only person who seems to recognize that America’s electorate is really only about half the population? At least that’s what they tell us about voter turnout. This year, it was really huge, voter turnout… something close to 60% of registered voters showed up to vote. That leaves about 40-50% of the country who are a) underage and b) not registered to vote. Perhaps the unregistered opinion doesn’t count to you. But I work with and interact with unregistered people all day long. There are dozens of reasons people are not registered to vote, ignorance probably being the predominate reason.

My point is when conservatives say, “51% of this country support Bush.” I maintain it’s more like 30% of the population of this country – a really vocal, powerful, effective 30% nonetheless. That 30% just happened to be 51% of the electorate.

An excellent point. With a committed minority, you can claim an electoral majority. Not only that, your electoral success is misread as a shift in public attitude.