September 22, 2008


The Battleground Poll and the vanishing moderate (Bruce Walker, September 22, 2008, Enter Stage Right)

The percentage of Americans who describe themselves as conservative has remained over the last thirteen Battleground Polls around sixty percent. That is the biggest missing story in politics. A study of the archives of the Battleground Poll shows that this powerful conservative majority has been around since the question was first asked, in September 1996, twelve years ago. Fifty-seven percent of Americans, on the eve of re-electing Bill Clinton, considered themselves conservatives. In the twenty-two Battleground Polls since then, the clear conservative majority has never been lower than fifty-three percent and has gotten as high as sixty-two percent. The mean average over these dozen years has been 58.5% but over the last six and a half years, that percentage has averaged 59.9% - the sixty percent I mentioned in my previous article.

There is no way to tweak this number into something other than what it is. The respondents polled were different in each of these many polls. The options of "very conservative," "somewhat conservative," "very liberal," "somewhat liberal," "moderate," and "don't know / refused" has been available in every Battleground Poll since December 1997. Respondents have embraced the conservative label deliberately. More interestingly, the percentage of Americans who describe themselves as "very conservative" has risen steadily. Over the last several Battleground Polls, that percentage has been about twenty-one percent. At the beginning of the decade, only about sixteen percent of Americans in these polls identified themselves as very conservative.

While the overwhelming conservative majority in America is the biggest story in politics, the second biggest story is what happened to that middle of the spectrum which the Left is always telling us we should try to reach – the "moderate" voter. When Battleground first began asking respondents about their ideology (and why, we can only wonder, do other polling organizations not also routinely answer this crucial question? - maybe these other polling groups do, but choose not to publicize their findings), the only options were "conservative," "moderate," and "liberal." With those choices, the conservative majority was still huge at fifty-seven percent, but those Americans who waved the white flag of "moderate" was a significant thirteen percent. That is a voting bloc worth pursuing. [...]

Then, in the January 2002 Battleground Poll, the number of Americans who chose to call themselves "moderate" dropped to three percent. In the Battleground Polls since then, the self-described moderates has never been higher than four percent; it has been as low as one percent; and it has averaged just about two percent of the population, or just exactly what it was in the August 2008 Battleground Poll. What happened?

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 22, 2008 2:37 PM
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