American Public Opinion in June 2015.

In 2014, 30 percent of people described themselves as social liberals, while 34 percent described themselves as social conservatives. That totaled 64 percent of the vote, while the other 36 percent were mostly “moderates.” In June 2015, 31 percent of people described themselves as social liberals, while 31 percent described themselves as social conservatives.[1] That totaled 62 percent of the vote, while the other 38 percent were mostly “moderates.”

What’s a “social liberal”? The share of the population favoring social liberal causes greatly exceeds the share identifying as social liberals. If the social liberals are added to the moderates in the two polls, we end up with totals of 65 percent in 2014 and 69 percent in 2015. Some 55 percent favor legalizing recreational marijuana, support gay marriage, and say that it is acceptable for two gay men to kiss in public.[2] All these would once have been identified with social liberalism. If it is posited that social conservatives would oppose these measures, then that makes it possible to conjecture how many “moderates” hold social liberal views. If 30 percent identified as social liberals in 2014 and 55 percent of the total favored the liberal causes, then 25/36 of the moderates supported these social liberal causes. Applying the same calculations to 2015, 24/38 of the moderates support these social liberal causes.

To belabor the obvious, there has been a shift of public opinion toward social liberal causes between 2014 and 2015: liberals added 1 percent who migrated from the moderates, and the moderates picked up 3 percent who migrated from conservatives. Any Republican wager on a socially conservative position in 2016 looks to be a loser. At the same time, the social liberal causes mentioned in the polls are all about enhancing individual rights, especially with regard to identity. The polling doesn’t tell whether the moderates will also support social liberal causes when it comes to expanding social welfare.

In June 2014, 53 percent of Americans regarded Hillary Clinton as trustworthy. Then came the e-mail story and the questions about the Clinton foundation accepting donations from foreign donors with business before the State Department. In June 2105, 41 percent of Americans regarded Hillary Clinton as trustworthy.[3] As views on her trustworthiness declined, her favorability numbers went up. In April 2015, 36 percent had a favorable view of Hillary Clinton; in May 2105, 42 percent had a favorable view[4]; in June 2015, 45 percent had a favorable view. Thus, although 45 percent of the June 2015 polling sample viewed her favorably, only 41 percent viewed her as trustworthy. So, some 4 percent of voters—all of them Democrats?—are rubbing their hands together and going “she’s a liar, good!” The same percentage, 49 percent, do not regard her as trustworthy (not trustworthy + don’t know) and view her unfavorably. It is likely that the people who distrust Clinton are divided between Republicans, Independents, and dissident Democrats.   The size of the dissident Democrat community is nothing to be sneezed at. In June 2015, 45 percent of self-identified Democrats believed that their party had too few candidates running for President in 2016[5], while 52 percent were pretty sure of for whom they would vote.[6] The dissident Democrats are never going to vote Republican. If push comes to shove, they will hold their nose and vote for Clinton.

[1] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 5 June 2015, p. 19.

[2] “The way we were in 2014,” The Week, 31 December 2014, p. 12. Curiously, 72 percent are OK with lesbians kissing in public. This groups all social liberals with all moderates and about one in seven social conservatives. Probably explained in part by the popularity of lesbian porn among men.

[3] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 12 June 2015, p. 17.

[4] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 15 May 2015, p. 17.

[5] In particular, there is reason to think that most Democrats would be happier if a different Clinton was running for President. One poll reported that 42 percent listed Bill Clinton as the most admired president of the last quarter century. At 18 percent President Obama ranked second. See: “The way we were in 2014,” The Week, 31 December 2014, p. 12.

[6] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 5 June 2015, p. 19.

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