The Myth of the "Socially Liberal, Fiscally Conservative" voter.
We have all heard at some point in our lives, a person who claims to be “socially liberal, fiscally conservative“; in fact, perhaps you have said it yourself. Let's be honest for a minute, people say this because they have heard it somewhere else and they think it sounds smart. I say this because the reality is that very few people actually are fiscally conservative, much less fiscally conservative and socially liberal.
When asked in polls to label their own political views, respondents often report themselves as being fiscally conservative and socially liberal; however, we should not take their claims at face value, because there is so much misunderstanding about what this actually means. So to prove my point I want to take a closer look at polling data issue by issue.
When asked about social security, respondents in this report by Gallup were clear in opposing the reduction of benefits (57%), supporting increasing taxes on the wealthy (67%), and opposing tax increases on everyone else (64%). If we take a look at “far left” proposals like the Green New Deal, and Medicare for all we find that they have broad bipartisan support. In this study by Yale, they found that 92% of Democrats and 64% of Republicans support the policies in the Green New deal; 81% overall. Medicare for all has the support of 52% of Republicans, and 85% of Democrats according to this Reuters poll; overall 70% of Americans support Medicare for all. So if we take these policies and their support as a good gauge for how fiscally liberal our country actually is, the best estimate would probably be somewhere in between 70% and 80%.
Now, if we take a look at social issues, we find much less consensus. On the topic of gun rights, we are split nearly down the middle; when measuring whether the right to own a gun, or protecting people from gun violence, 51% responded in this poll that the right to own a gun is more important. Only 49% of people support allowing transgender individuals to serve in the military (with 17% unsure) and 52% of people reported gay rights as being “not very important“ or “unimportant“. Finally, in this poll, 52% of Americans are against the US becoming “more politically correct“, with steep partisan divides. This paints a picture of a more divided set of views on social issues today.
So who is socially liberal and fiscally conservative? Well, the answer is, wealthy Democrats who support socially liberal causes, but oppose tax hikes on them and their businesses. This group of people can dump tons of money into the political process, meaning they have a lot more sway in Washington today. A lot of votes are being left on the table, because ultimately when it comes to fiscally liberal policies only about half of the Democratic leadership is on board; despite 70-80% of the American people wanting to see those changes.
So what is the take away from all of this polling data? Well, there is probably a large chunk of people out there who are socially conservative, and fiscally liberal, and it seems as though the Republican party has done a good job of making sure that their voters are only focused on the social issues, which ultimately serves as their only uniting value. Republicans are split down the middle on fiscally liberal policies, meaning there is an untapped wedge ready to be driven within their party. Meanwhile, the democratic representation is still struggling to fully adopt a wide range of policies that are very important to an overwhelming majority of Americans, which means they are leaving a lot of votes on the table for Republicans and third parties to capitalize on. There is also a large body of people who have just stopped voting entirely who could probably be convinced by more action on fiscally liberal policies.