Friday, December 30, 2011

‘Progressive’ Is The Most Positively Viewed Political Label in America

Why are Republicans always calling President Obama a socialist -- everybody hates socialists, even liberals, even Occupy Wall Streeters. The socialist name calling, echoed without challenge by the main stream press, seems to be working, too. Americans perceive Barack Obama as furthest away from their own political viewpoint, according to a just released Gallup poll.

It is no accident that Republicans picked the "socialist" moniker to pin to Pres. Obama's coat tails. Socialism is a negative for most Americans with six-in-ten (60%) saying they have a negative reaction to the word. Socialism is the most politically polarizing of the most common political monikers – the reaction is almost universally negative among conservatives.

These are among the findings of the latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Dec. 7-11, 2011.

Both of the ideological descriptions used most frequently in American politics – conservative and liberal – receive more positive than negative reactions from the American public. But the positives for conservative (62%) are higher than for liberal (50%).

This conservative v. liberal gap mainly reflects the balance of what people call themselves; more people consistently call themselves conservative than liberal in public opinion polling, even though surveys consistently show a majority of Americans favor liberal (progressive) policies and programs, including, for example, Social Security, Medicare, and everyone paying their fair share to support public transportation systems and public education. Those who think of themselves as politically “moderate” give similarly positive assessments to both words.

As many Democratic strategists have argued, the term progressive receives a far more positive reaction from the American public than the term liberal (67% vs 50%), though the difference is primarily among Republicans.

Last year the Republican National Committee urged fundraisers to stoke fear by calling President Obama, and Democrats in general, "socialists."

Democrats dubbed the GOP fundraising plan, contained in a private GOP document, "RNC Fear-Gate." The document layed out a full "strategy-of-fear" and included unflattering caricatures of House minority leaded Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. A copy of the document was left at the hotel that hosted the retreat, and a source provided it to Politico.

RNC member Donna Lou Gosney of West Virginia said, "You have to identify something and label it so you can talk about it and 'socialism' is a good scare word."

More Americans consistently call themselves conservative than liberal in public opinion polling because many have been conditioned by conservative messaging, largely echoed unchallenged by the main stream media, to view the word "liberal" negatively. The main stream media also does not challenge the conservative messaging meme that Americans are predominately right of center in their political views. Fox News, for example, continually pushes the right-wing talking point that "America is a center-right country."

In fact, on issue after issue, polls are clear that Americans favor progressive policies:

Major National Polls Show That Americans Believe We Need To Raise Taxes. In a September 19 post on the Capital Gains And Games blog, Fiscal Times columnist Bruce Bartlett wrote:

People support raising taxes as part of deficit reduction by a 2-to-1 margin over the Grover Norquist/Club for Growth/Tea Party position that the deficit must be reduced only by spending cuts without a penny of higher taxes. Supporting President Obama's budget plan three-fourths of Americans support higher taxes and only 21 percent support the doctrinaire right-wing position. [Capital Gains And Games, 9/19/11]

Gallup: 70 Percent Of Americans Want To End Wasteful Tax Giveaways To Corporations. In a recent Gallup poll, 70 percent of respondents favored "increasing taxes on some corporations by eliminating certain tax deductions." [Gallup, 9/20/11]

Three Out of Four Voters Support Tax Increases On Oil And Gas Companies, Private Jet Owners, And The Wealthy. In a July CNN poll, 73 percent of those questioned, supported "increasing the taxes paid by oil and gas companies" and "people who make more than $250,000/yr." Seventy-six percent supported increasing taxes "paid by businesses that own private jets." [CNN, 7/21/11]

Nearly Three-Fourths Of Americans Disapprove Of GOP's Handling Of Default Crisis. Following this summer's debt crisis, a CBS News/New York Times poll found that 72 percent of Americans disapproved of congressional Republicans' handling of the issue. [CBS News/The New York Times, 8/4/11]

Time: Americans Agree With Occupy Wall Street Movement. A Time poll from this month found that among Americans familiar with the Occupy Wall Street movement, 79 percent agree that "the gap between the rich and poor in the U.S. has grown too large," and 86 percent agree that "Wall Street and its lobbyists have too much influence in Washington." [Time, 10/13/11]

To Education...

Committee for Education Funding: Polls Show Americans Overwhelmingly Oppose Education Cuts. In March, the Committee For Education Funding reported: "Results from nine different public opinion polls since January make clear that the American public strongly opposes cutting federal spending for education programs for both K12 and higher education." From Bloomberg News:

A March 2011 Bloomberg National News poll found that by an almost four to one margin (77-21 percent) the public opposes proposals to "significantly cut education programs, including No Child Left Behind, Head Start, and subsidies for college loans". [Committee for Education Funding, 3/11]

To Public Workers And Labor Issues...

CNN: Three Out Of Four Americans Support Using Federal Funds To Hire More Public Workers. In a September CNN Poll, 74 percent of respondents said they favored "providing federal money to state governments to allow them to hire teachers and first responders." [CNN, 9/14/11]

Gallup: A Majority Of The Public Supports Unions And Public Employees. From Gallup:


[Gallup, 8/31/11]

Wash. Post On Wisconsin Labor Dispute: "The Verdict Is Clear: Americans Support Public Employees In This Standoff." In a March 2 post, The Washington Post's Greg Sargent reported on the public's consistent support of public employee bargaining rights:

Indeed, the verdict is clear: Americans support public employees in this standoff. Whether that will impact the outcome of the fight, of course, remains to be seen. But the bigger story here -- one that will ripple far beyond what happens in Wisconsin -- is that public employees are not proving the easy scapegoat many predicted they would be, and when faced with the question of whether their fundamental union rights should be taken away, Americans have stepped up and answered with a firm No. [Washington Post, 3/2/11]

To Social Benefits...

CNN: Americans Overwhelmingly Oppose Cuts To Social Security, Medicare, And Medicaid. Eighty-seven percent of Americans don't want the government to make cuts to Medicare and 84 percent oppose cuts to Social Security in order to reduce the deficit. [CNN, 7/21/11]

Pew: Three Out Of Five Americans Feel The Government Needs To Honor Medicare Benefits. Pew found that 62 percent of Americans feel that "the government needs to keep its promises to older people" by maintaining their Medicare benefits, "even for those who are well-off." [Pew Research Center, 6/11]

CNN: Nearly Three Out Of Four Americans Don't Believe Social Security Is A Failure. From the CNN/ORC poll released on September 13:

The Social Security system has been described as a "monstrous lie" and as a failure. Do you think those phrases are an accurate description of the Social Security system, or don't you think so?

Accurate 27%

Not accurate 72%

No opinion 1% [CNN, 9/13/11]

Pew: 87 Percent Of Americans Say Social Security Has Been Good For Our Country. From the poll:


[Pew Research Center, 7/7/11]

Pew: Americans Also Oppose "Allowing States To Limit Medicaid Eligibility." From the same Pew article:

The public also opposes making Medicare recipients more responsible for their health care costs and allowing states to limit Medicaid eligibility. About six-in-ten (61%) say people on Medicare already pay enough of their own health care costs, while only 31% think recipients need to be responsible for more of the costs of their health care in order to make the system financially secure. [Pew Research Center, 7/7/11]

To Environmental Issues...

Sixty-Nine Percent Of Americans Support Stricter Limits On Air Pollution. According to a Greenberg Quinlan Rosner poll, 69 percent of respondents favored the EPA "updating standards with stricter limits on air pollution." [Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, 2/11]

Only 18 Percent Of Americans Agree With GOP Attempts To Block The EPA From Keeping Corporate Polluters In Check. From an ORC International polling memo:

Americans do not want Congress to kill the EPA's anti-pollution updates. Only 18 percent of Americans -- including fewer than a third of Republicans (32 percent) -- believe that "Congress should block the EPA from updating pollution safeguards," after being told: "Some members of Congress are proposing to block the Environmental Protection Agency from updating safeguards to protect our health from dangerous air pollution, saying they will cost businesses too much money." More than three out of four Americans (77 percent) -- including 61 percent of Republicans -- say "Congress (should) let the EPA do its job." [ORC International, 2/2/11]

The Hill: "Even The Most Hardened Conservatives" Support Investing In Solar. A series of polls conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates testing the impact of the Solyndra scandal reportedly found that "even the most hardened conservatives" showed overall support for the solar industry. From The Hill:

In addition to the Ohio survey, FM3 conducted focus groups in California on behalf of the Sierra Club, finding that awareness of the Solyndra issue was higher there.

The memo states that male GOP swing voters in California voiced "strong faith" about the solar industry's viability.

"These voters were quick to condemn the federal government for failing to do its due diligence in evaluating Solyndra's business prospects, and for squandering taxpayer dollars on what they saw as a bad bet. But even the most hardened conservatives in that group strongly agreed that the solar industry is strong, growing, and worthy of future investment," it states. [The Hill, 9/28/11]

Sixty-One Percent Of Americans Agree That Government Regulations Keep Businesses Ethical. From the Public Religion Research Institute:

Overall most (61%) Americans disagree that most businesses would act ethically on their own without regulation from the government. Less than 4-in-10 (37%) believe that they would. This holds true across political and religious lines, with the lone exception of those who identify with the Tea Party movement (53% agree). [Public Religion Research Institute, 4/20/11]

...And Social Issues

Gallup: "A Majority Of Americans (53%) Believe Same-Sex Marriage Should Be Recognized By The Law As Valid." From the May 20 Gallup memo:

For the first time in Gallup's tracking of the issue, a majority of Americans (53%) believe same-sex marriage should be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages. The increase since last year came exclusively among political independents and Democrats. Republicans' views did not change. [Gallup, 5/20/11]

CNN Poll Found That 78 Percent Of Americans Favored Repealing DADT. From The Hill article:

More than three-fourths of Americans favor repealing "Don't ask, don't tell," according to a new CNN poll.

A full 78 percent of respondents said that "people who are openly gay or homosexual" should be able to serve in the armed forces. The results are similar to what CNN found in December of 2008 (81 percent) and May of 2007 (79 percent). [The Hill, 5/25/10]

Gallup: A "Record-High" Number Of Americans Favor Legalizing Marijuana. From the October 17 article:

A record-high 50% of Americans now say the use of marijuana should be made legal, up from 46% last year. Forty-six percent say marijuana use should remain illegal. [Gallup, 10/17/11]

CNN: Three Out Of Four Americans Support A Woman's Right To Choose In "Any Or Some Circumstances." In a September CNN poll, 25 percent of respondents agreed that abortion should be legal under "any circumstances" and an additional 53 percent said it should be legal under "some circumstances." [CNN Poll, 9/15/11]

Media Figures Attempted To Push The Same "Center-Right" Claim In 2008

Newsweek's Jonathan Darman insisted America is a "center-right country." [Newsweek, 9/19/08]

Newsweek's Jon Meacham: "America remains a center-right nation -- a fact that a President would forget at his peril." [Newsweek, 10/17/08]

On CNN Newsroom, Republican strategist Bay Buchanan said, "No question this country is center-right." [CNN, CNN Newsroom, 11/6/08, via Media Matters]

During the November 5, 2008, edition of America's Election HQ, Fox News contributor Karl Rove said: "Barack Obama understands this is a center-right country, and he smartly and wisely ran a campaign that emphasized that." [Fox News, America's Election HQ, 11/5/08, via Media Matters]

Click here for more on the "center-right" myth

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