The Battleground Poll, the most respected and thorough of all public opinion polls, released its latest results on August 20th. Although many people read this poll for the data on voter preference in upcoming elections, for voter opinions about the two major political parties, for what things matter most to voters, I always zip past this data in the first fifteen pages of poll results and go straight to Question D3, which very quietly and totally ignored proclaims the biggest missing story in American politics and which is the only story, in the long run, that really matters.
I have been tracking Question D3 for a long time, since June 2002, in thirteen straight Battleground Poll results. Americans respond to this question more consistently than to any other question in those thirteen Battleground Poll surveys. People many change their opinions dramatically about Iraq or President Bush or drilling for oil, but not their answer to Question D3.
The Battleground Poll is different. It is bipartisan. A Republican polling organization, the Terrance Group, and a Democrat polling organization, Lake Research Partners, collaborate in picking the questions, selecting the sample population, conducting the surveys, and analyzing the results. The Battleground Poll website, along with the raw data, is "Republican Strategic Analysis" and "Democratic Strategic Analysis." There are few polls that are bipartisan. No other polling organization asks the same questions year after year, none that reveal the internals of their poll results so completely, and none ask anything like Question D3 in every survey. What is Question D3 and what were the results to Question D3 in the August 20, 2008 Battleground Poll? It is this:
"When thinking about politics and government, do you consider yourself to be...
In August 2008, Americans answered that question this way: (1) 20% of Americans considered themselves to be very conservative; (2) 40% of Americans considered themselves to be somewhat conservative; (3) 2% of Americans considered themselves to be moderate; (4) 27% of Americans considered themselves to be somewhat liberal; (5) 9% of Americans considered themselves to be very liberal; and (6) 3% of Americans did not know or refused to answer.
Sixty percent of Americans considered themselves conservative. Does this mean that most Americans do not know what "conservative" means? No: The question specifically provides an out to people who are not sure about their ideology; it provides an out to people who want to be considered "moderate." Americans reject those choices. They overwhelmingly define themselves as "conservative." This is a huge political story - except that it is not "new" at all. Look at the thirteen Battleground Poll results over the last six years, and how do Americans answer that very question? Here are the percentages of Americans in those polls who call themselves "conservative" since June 2002: 59% (June 2002 poll), 59% (September 2003 poll), 61% (April 2004 poll), 59% (June 2004 poll), 60% (September 2004 poll), 61% (October 2005 poll), 59% (March 2006), 61% (October 2006), 59% (January 2007), 63% (July 2007), 58% (December 2007), 63% (May 2008), and now 60% (August 2008.)
The percentage of Americans who define themselves as "somewhat liberal" or "very liberal" has always been puny. In thirteen straight polls, this percentage has never been higher than 38% (June 2004) and it has usually been much lower. The gap between self-defined conservatives and self-defined liberals has been as high as thirty percentage points and as low as twenty-one percentage points. What does that translate into in electoral politics? If conservative presidential candidates simply got all the conservative votes - if virtually all moderate voters, uncommitted voters, and liberal voters went for the liberal candidate - then the conservative candidates would win a landslide bigger than Ronald Reagan in 1988. Have you ever wondered why liberals like Obama never call themselves liberals? Maybe their advisers have read the Battleground Poll internals.
Are these remarkable results skewed? This has always been the argument, but it is a hopelessly flawed argument. The poll results are incredibly consistent over time. These results are the same when President Bush has poll numbers at rock bottom and when Republicans were facing electoral disaster, like in October 2006 when 61% of Americans called themselves conservatives. The very consistency of these percentages is powerful evidence of their inherent validity.
If people did not know what conservative, liberal, and moderate meant, then the poll results to that question would bounce around over time and people would flock to define themselves as "moderate" or they would say "don't know." When given four different options to the conservative label, respondents overwhelmingly chose to define themselves, instead, as conservatives.
Do people feel pressured into calling themselves conservatives? Think: Hollywood regularly excoriates the image of conservatives; the mainstream media demonizes conservatives; schools teach that conservatives are narrow minded bigots; academia tries to hound independent conservative newspapers and organizations off campus. It requires much more courage to define yourself as a conservative than any other label, particularly when the banal "moderate" answer is so easily grasped. No: These answers to Question D3 are real, profound, and great.
Why, then, do other polls show Americans so different from conservatives? The short answer is that other polls are scrupulously constructed to hide the tsunami of conservative opinion in America. On abortion, for example, polls will report that Americans define themselves at least as much as "pro-choice" as they do "pro-life," but that is just not true. The "pro-choice" advocates nationally oppose bans on partial birth abortion, oppose parental notification, and oppose counseling on abortion. Led by men like Obama, the "pro-choice" position is, quite simply, that a woman always has a right to choose an abortion.
Polls do not show support for that at all. Polls over the last few months give the following levels of support to making abortion always legal: "always legal - 19%" (Quinnipiac Poll, July 2008); "legal in all cases - 19%" (Pew Poll, June 2008); "legal in all cases - 18%" (ABC / Washington Post Poll, June 2008). While it is true that the percentage of Americans who want abortion illegal in all situations is almost exactly the same as those who want abortion legal in all cases, the overwhelming percentage of Americans want just what pro-life advocates want: abortion generally available in cases of rape, incest, or life-threatening health problems for the mother; abortion for minors regulated just like abortion for any major medical procedure for minors is regulated; and abortion on account of personal inconvenience more strictly regulated. All of these polls showing Americans equally divided were crafted by people and by groups intent upon presenting a false impression of how Americans felt about abortion.
Polls on other issues are just as bad. The CNN poll of June 2008 on gun control is a good example. CNN asks people to interpret the Constitution, by reciting the text of the Second Amendment. Then asks whether this text in the Bill of Rights was intended to provide for "a well regulated militia" or to preserve "the right of the people to keep and bear arms." In other words, the question implies that the Second Amendment cannot preserve two rights, both of which are explicitly recited within the text of that amendment: A well regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is specifically guaranteed as well.
Like everything that the Left does, from entertainment to higher education, the structure, the format, and the revealed results of information is conformed to present an image in which conservatives and their values are as invisible as blacks in the Antebellum South. Even Leftists themselves believe this false picture. Consider, in 1988, how many liberal Democrats did not believe that Reagan had won an overwhelming landslide because they, personally, knew of no one who voted for him. Consider how blindsided the Left was by the overwhelming popularity of an unapologetic conservative like Rush Limbaugh. Consider that Republicans walk about in a blue funk wondering where the next Reagan is, utterly forgetting that not only Leftists, but "moderate" Republicans in 1980 were labeling Reagan as far, far too conservative. The Gipper, in fact, was comfortably in the middle of a huge American majority. The extremists are that 9% of Americans who call themselves "very liberal."
Conservatives are like those proverbial sailors becalmed off the coast of Brazil, dying of thirst, and wondering how they would survive until tomorrow. When another ship passed asked the listless sailing ship if its crew needed help, the urgent call was for fresh water, to which the passing ship replied "Lift down your buckets into the sea. You are in the mouth of the Amazon." Fresh water was everywhere around the dehydrated men; they just did not know it. Conservatives are not just a majority of Americans, but an utterly overwhelming majority of all Americans. As soon as they grasp this huge fact, government and politics in America will be transformed.