Americans Are Actually Quite Conservative Right Now, But Demography Tells Us Not for Long
Despite -- or, more likely, because of -- the past two elections that have gone the Democrats' way, public opinion is the most conservative it has been in over 50 years. Surprised? Well, it's true. Political scientist Larry Stimson has shown that public opinion is as conservative as it's been since 1952 (and maybe we can throw 1980 in there).
What, me worry?
This runs counter to the "MSM" (mainstream media) narrative of liberal ascendancy and the talk of "mandates" (whether it be 2008 or 2012).
But this research is in line with what we would expect. Public opinion actually tends to shift the opposite direction of whichever political party is in power. When Presidents Eisenhower and Reagan were in office, public opinion got noticeably more liberal. The opposite was true when President Clinton occupied the White House -- public opinion moved to the right. Apparently, we are a manic-depressive country.
But set the above aside for a second. Conservatives have some long-term demographic issues. As William Galston and Elaine C. Kamarck show in their recent article, the Republicans' short-term strategy of appealing to the older, white, middle- to upper-class electorate is not sustainable -- these people are going to die sooner rather than later. Actuarial science.
The authors note that the Democratic Party has taken firm control of the young electorate: Obama won 66 percent of 18-29 olds in 2008. What worse for the Republican Party is that today's youth are more "racially, ethnically [and] religiously" diverse than any previous cohort. As the authors point out: Republicans received less than 10 percent of the African-American vote in 2012, and their party's "miserable performance" among Latinos and Asian-Americans was "shocking." Galston and Kamarck predict that given the current census bureau projections, the GOP will have no chance of winning elections in about 20-30 years (because of their largely all-white electorate support).
This does not bode well for a party that draws support from older, white affluents and evangelicals. But it is not simply social issues that the Republicans have problems with -- it is economic issues.
Why Galston and Kamarck may be correct that the current Democratic Party is moderate to liberal, the younger cohort of Democratic supporters -- the Millenials -- "narrowly, favor socialism." Yes, you read that right. Peter Beinart, in his article The Rise of the New New Left, marshals an impressive list of statistics that show that Millenials are further to the left economically than any current voting demographic: (1) they favor a bigger government with more services; (2) are much more supportive of labor unions; and (3) believe that Big Business has more control over their lives than the government.
Now, there is no iron law of politics that says that in twenty years this demographic will be as liberal as they currently are; however, were I a young Republican, I would be concerned.