Americans Seem Kinda Communist

Or socialist. Or maybe just Swedish. By way of Ezra Klein, I came across these polling data collected by Ruy Teixeira:

poverty polls pew
If you hold both of these views (and arguably, even just one), you are an economic liberal. Not a moderate, but a liberal. I realize many people don’t want to be called liberals, but these positions have historically been identified as liberal. And guess what? Liberals hold liberal positions. If you want to call yourself Martian, that’s fine, but you’re a liberal Martian.
There seems to be more of us too (liberals, not Martians): the majority–not a plurality, a majority–of Americans appear to be trending liberal since 1994. What is even more astonishing is that 57% of Americans think the government should provide a guaranteed income (data from 2001).
If you consume mainstream media, let alone the ‘finanical’ news (i.e., corporate propaganda), you would never in a million years realize just how economically liberal the majority of Americans are. This is a(nother) total failure of U.S. journalism, rivaled only by the 40+ percent who still believe Iraq was behind the Sept. 11th massacres.
It’s also a failure of the Democratic Party to fight for these positions (Got Craveness?)

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6 Responses to Americans Seem Kinda Communist

  1. MattXIV says:

    If you hold both of these views (and arguably, even just one), you are an economic liberal. Not a moderate, but a liberal.

    It’s a pretty big tent you have going when you start counting people like me and Milton Friedman as “economic liberals”. The real economic controveries these days are how to deal with the unsustainable funding requirements of entitement programs, what role government should have in health care funding, what level of taxation is necessary, etc. Also, it’s worth noting that a lot of more positive attidues about welfare programs these days are the product of welfare reform eliminating many of the most egregious excesses of the system, something that most who self identify as “economic liberals” struggled against.
    It’s also worth nothing that in the ’01 poll where the 57% comes from used a pro-support question wording (you can easily swing 10-20% on a poll based on how the question is written, often more) and was the second least popular option, next only to increasing cash assistance.

  2. Matt,
    several comments:
    1) historically, conservatives have been opposed to these positions.
    2) regardless of the wording of the poll, I don’t think anyone would have guessed that 57% would answer the question affirmatively. I wouldn’t have (I would have guessed maybe 1/3). Yes, it’s not as popular, but it still was a majority (and given the other questions, you could argue that would depress, not increase the response; “I’m for all of these other things, but a guaranteed income is too far”). By the way, 50% still favored an increase in cash assistance: “least popular”, yes. Unpopular, no.
    3)The “economic liberals” you disparage were the ones fighting for a guaranteed income in the 60s and 70s, largely because they thought welfare needed reform.
    4) While Medicare and Medicaid are in trouble, that is because the payouts (i.e., medical costs) are spiraling out of control. Social Security is not DOOMED until a Samuelson unit from now, which is to say, probably never. If there is a Social Security crisis, it is the potential for the SS surplus (annual revenue and Trust Fund) to disappear. That’s a general budgetary crisis, not an entitlement crisis (the overall deficit and federal debt can be laid at the feet of every federal program.

  3. KeithB says:

    AS Matt said, what would happen if you asked:
    Would you support a tax increase of 10% in order to…
    Though Matt Miller seems to think that 2% is enough…

  4. KeithB says:

    OOps, broke the link.
    It is “The two percent solution – How to fix Americas problems in a way Conservatives and Liberals will love” by Matt Miller.

  5. MattXIV says:

    1) Supporting a complete elimination of “safety net” programs is a pretty rare position and it’s certainly not much of a contemporary political issue. Even those who support it nowadays aren’t running on it or making a serious effort to implement it – it’s a dead issue in the context of contemporary electoral politics. It’s like citing robust support for keeping LSD illegal as evidence that politicians would do well to adopt a social conservative bent.
    2) I’m guessing that the responses for those questions would vary in the 25%-60% range based on question wording. The true rate is probably somewhere in the mid-30%s/low 40%s. With a highly positive framing, if you’re not breaking 70%, you don’t have workable popular support, which does exist for minimum wage, EITC expansion, etc which scored over 80% on the same poll. It’s pretty much impossible to determine the “true” level of support for a policy using an opinion poll.
    3) But the trend in questions is one of increased support for safety net programs from ’94-’07, which is contemporary with the introduct welfare reform, and hence may reflect a sated appetite for welfare reform and a satsfaction with improved efficiency from reforms rather than support for expanding welfare.
    4) I’m not going to get into a semantic game over social security, but the shortfall in FICA taxes vs expenditures is going to be a serious problem, as it will add non-trivial and rapidly growing demands for additional funds to pay off the bonds in the trust fund to pay out benefits. It doesn’t matter if SS remains solvent on paper forever if it keeps sucking up greater and greater amounts of general revenue. Call it whatever type of problem you want, but in the end there is going to need to be a tax hikes or spending cuts as a direct consequence of the way social security has been administered.
    Bonus point) Ideological think tanks generally spin polling data to support the impression that their ideology has broad popular support. CAP will always look at polling data and conclude that politicians would do well to advocate liberalism just like Cato will always look at polling data and conclude that politicians will do well to advocate libertarianism, etc. They have a strong incentive to do this since politicians listen to them to the extent they think their ideas will be popular and funders will give money to them to the extent they think they’re successful at influencing public opinion.

  6. genesgalore says:

    can you imagine where detriot might be today had proposed CAFE standards not been bucked. capitalism with well-regulated markets work just fine. we are crazy to let corporations anywheres near our government. you can rest assured that trickle down economics is pissed on economics for the bulk of americans.

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