America’s Ideology

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 6, 2016 — The Gallup organization conducted a month long poll (Jan. 20-30) of almost 200,000 respondents (177,788 US adults) to determine where America stands ideologically. They find that the country still leans decidedly to the right, but not as strongly as in past years.

The three most conservative states are Wyoming (35-point difference between those self-identifying as conservative as opposed to liberal: 49 percent conservative – 14 percent liberal), Mississippi (31-point difference; 46-15 percent), and North Dakota (31-point difference; 43-12 percent).

The three most liberal states are all in the New England region: Vermont (14-point difference; 40 percent liberal – 26 percent conservative), Massachusetts (8-point differential; 33 percent liberal – 25 percent conservative), and Connecticut (4-point difference; 31 percent liberal – 27 percent conservative).

Surprisingly, California, despite the budding movement to leave the country (Calexit), being one of the strongest anti-Trump states, and a place where seemingly no Republican can win a statewide election, came in at +1 on the conservative scale (30 percent conservative – 29 percent liberal).

From the liberal perspective, Alaska is the most mis-characterized state. Having a conservative image, and particularly so considering their votes for statewide officeholders, the Last Frontier actually registered only a +11 difference, with 34 percent self-identifying as conservative and 23 percent as liberal, ranking as the 19th most liberal state.

In most cases, there is little differentiation between the collective voters’ ideology and whom they elect. From the 20 most conservative states, a group that sends 40 US senators to Washington, only three are Democrats: Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Jon Tester (MT), and Claire McCaskill (MO). Republican senators are only slightly more plentiful in liberal states. In the 20 most liberal domains, five of 40 are GOP members: Susan Collins (ME), Cory Gardner (CO), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Dan Sullivan (AK), and Ron Johnson (WI).

The breakdown for governors is more interesting. The 20 most conservative states have only three Democratic governors: Louisiana (John Bel Edwards; 8th most conservative state), Montana (Steve Bullock; 9th most conservative), and North Carolina (Roy Cooper; 17th most conservative). The next most conservative state brandishing a Democratic governor is subsequently found in West Virginia (22nd most conservative) in the person of newly elected Jim Justice.

But the liberal states are more open to Republican governors. In this category, eight of the 20 most liberal states have sitting GOP chief executives, the first three residing in the top 10: Massachusetts (Charlie Baker, 2nd most liberal), Maine (Paul LePage, 6th most liberal), and Maryland (Larry Hogan, ranking 8th). In the 11-20 liberal scale range, exactly half feature Republican governors: New Jersey (Chris Christie, 12th), Illinois (Bruce Rauner, 13th), New Hampshire (Chris Sununu, 17th), Michigan (Rick Snyder, 18th), and Wisconsin (Scott Walker, 20th).

Those individual respondents self-identifying as “moderates” are plentiful and constant; meaning the range from state to state differs only slightly. The place with the most self-identified moderates, according to the Gallup survey, is North Dakota (42 percent). The Peace Garden State also ranks third in conservatives (43 percent), and has the smallest number of liberals (12 percent).

Conversely, the state with the least number of self-described moderates is Alabama with a still healthy 31 percent. Therefore, the moderate swing from top to bottom deviates only 11 percentage points within all 50 states.

The information age is certainly providing people with more political information and, as a result, there is greater certainty within the electorate as to where the two parties stand. Therefore, the fact that more people possess greater political knowledge seems to offer further evidence to help explain why the country has become so ideologically polarized.

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