Voter Shift Towards Conservatism Has Enormous Electoral Implications

Conservatism has always been the dominant ideology of the United States. Take 2008 for instance. President Obama was riding a progressive wave into office, dominating the competition, while Democrats coasted comfortably into Washington on his coattails. But even then, 37 percent of Americans identified themselves as conservative versus 22 percent who identified themselves as liberal.

Fast-forward to 2010 where conservatism is making a “comeback,” if you can call expanding on a 15 percent lead a comeback. Regardless of what you call it, the percentage of people calling themselves conservative has jumped 5 percent since 2008, while the liberal brand has fallen by 2 percent.

This leads to some very interesting electoral consequences. Lydia Saad of Gallup and Anne Kim and Jon Cowan of Third Way crunched the numbers to see what the electoral consequences of this ideological shift would be. Washington Post columnist David Broder explained their findings in a recent article :

Suppose Democratic candidates run as well as Obama did nationally in 2008, taking 20 percent of the conservatives, 60 percent of the moderates and 89 percent of the liberals. And suppose, too, that turnout rates are the same for all three groups.

With the updated Gallup figures, a 2010 Democratic candidate who matched Obama’s national percentages would still win Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Oregon and Washington. But, with more conservatives and fewer liberals in the mix, the Democrat would come up short in 13 other competitive states and barely break even in California, Illinois and New Hampshire. Among the big states where the numbers now break against the Democrats are Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

This should come as disastrous news for Democrats. The shrinking pool of liberal votes means that Democratic candidates will have to be even more effective than President Obama at capturing liberal voters to have a chance in November. But with Democratic voter enthusiasm well below 2008 levels and a large number of liberal voters disenchanted by the performance of the White House this seems next to impossible.

This is a problem of Democrats own making. In 2008 they were granted an almost unprecedented chance to build the liberal brand by capturing moderate voters. Instead, their unpopular agenda drove away independents and left liberals unsatisfied. People are once again demanding a change of direction from Washington, and if these Gallup numbers show anything, it’s that they are likely to get it.

by Brandon Greife, Political Director of the College Republican National Committee