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Monday, August 30, 2004

Moving the playing field  

Bruce Walker at Men's News Daily (hat tip Brothers Judd):
The rock solid statistic in the latest Battleground Poll, the number that actually means something ... is found in the 'housekeeping' section of the questionnaire: Question D3 on Page 11 of the sixteen page questionnaire.

It bears repeating: 'When thinking about politics, do you consider yourself to be...' and then it lists six options for responders, which are 'Very conservative,' 'Somewhat conservative,' 'Moderate,' 'Somewhat liberal,' 'Very Liberal,' and 'Unsure/Refused.'

Precise recitation of these options is important because Leftists typically respond to polls which show that America is conservative by saying something like 'Oh, no - it is really moderate, not conservative' or 'Most people do not really have an ideological position.'

That is completely false. This Battleground Poll, like the five before it over the last four years, have given Americans the easy option of calling themselves a 'moderate' or of simply saying that the[y] 'don't know' or 'refused to answer.'

Those Americans who call themselves conservative in this latest Battleground Poll constitute exactly sixty percent of the American public. The rest - all of the rest, including 'moderates' and 'unsure' and 'refused to answer' and every shade of 'liberal' - constituted exactly forty percent of the American public.
Don't take his word for it. Here are the poll results (go to page 11 of the .pdf file). It clarifies something I have begun to suspect - that the Left's practice of moving the goalposts accompanies a related attempt to shift (not merely tilt) the entire playing field in their direction. In policy terms, this is what Geoge Will has referred to as "the liberal ratchet" - but this is something more global: to define the range of political opinion in terms congenial to one end of the spectrum.

Part of this involves delegitimizing opposite opinions as outside the bounds of the unacceptable - and thereby unnecessary to refute. One of the attractions of accusations of racism is that it takes the other's views off the table. Once upon a time, calling someone a militarist or a warmonger had the same effect; now, to the dismay and confusion of many, it no longer does.

The second strategy is to shift the definition of generic positional terms leftward. Thus, when a liberal says Moderate, he tends to mean Moderately Liberal - like, you know, the MSM. But the actual national median position, as the poll confirms, is Moderately Conservative.

So the short response is, You may be right - but Moderate doesn't mean what you think it means.

Caveats: Despite the majority self-identification as generic conservative, the results also show Kerry (and generic Democrats) with a slight advantage. Republicans may be puzzled why people don't seem willing to vote their expressed inclinations - just as Democrats wonder why people seemingly refuse to vote their economic interests.

Second point: The age range at the top of the same page skews heavily to 45-64, even more (I think) than the general population does. And it may well be that when some Boomers call themselves conservative, it means they want to hold on to the tried-and-true values of the Sixties. Maybe Conservative doesn't always mean what people think it means, either.

posted by Kelly | 12:26 PM link