Most Americans Are Liberal, Even If They Don’t Know It

e are in the midst of what many pundits call the “Trump era,” but in fact most Americans neither like nor agree with President Trump, as Tuesday’s election results strongly suggest. Since June, Trump’s job approval ratings have hovered between 33 percent and 40 percent, according to the Gallup poll. This is lower than any other president’s approval rating at this point in his presidency. Nine months into the “Trump era”, 65 percent of Americans say he has accomplished “not much” or “little or nothing,” according to a Washington Post-ABC News survey.

A national poll conducted in October asked Americans to name the first word that comes to mind when they think of Trump. The most popular words were “strong,” “determined,” and “bold,” followed closely by “arrogant,” “egocentric,” and “narcissist.” The next most popular words were “incompetent” and “unqualified,” with “idiotic,” “ignorant,” and “great” not far behind.

These words—both positive and negative—focus on Trump’s outsized personality, not his policy ideas. But when it comes to key policy areas, polls show that a vast majority of Americans also depart from Trump by leaning left. That lean isn’t generally reflected in Americans’ self-designations, nor is ideological consistency a notable American trait. A new Pew survey found that about one-third of Americans hold both liberal and conservative views, depending on the specific issue. Another Pew report divides Americans into nine categories based on their political and social views, from core conservatives (13 percent) to solid liberals (16 percent). But even those on the extreme right and left ends of the spectrum share some views in common.

Since Trump’s inauguration in January, much attention has focused on how his racist rhetoric toward immigrants and Muslims, disdain for the rule of law, and hostility toward the free press have polluted the nation’s public discourse and given legitimacy to hate groups associated with the “alt-right.”

But the focus on division and bigotry can obscure views that most Americans share, especially when it comes to such matters as economic fairness, protecting the environment, and the drift toward plutocracy. The vast majority of Americans are liberal or progressive when it comes to these matters. Even some Trump supporters, Republicans, and people who call themselves “conservatives” have liberal views on many topics.

Americans are generally upset with widening inequality, the political influence of big business, and declining living standards. Public opinion is generally favorable toward greater government activism to address these and other problems, like climate change and health care.

Most Americans worry that government has been captured by the powerful and wealthy. They want a government that serves the common good. They also want to reform government to make it more responsive and accountable.

The figures cited below come from surveys conducted by Gallup, Pew, and other reputable polling organizations on the key issues facing the nation. These are the most recent national polls on each topic. Most of them are from the past year, although a few go back further. Each poll is hyperlinked so readers can look at the original sources.

– The American Prospect

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