Public Opinion Is Leaning Left, With Support For Liberal Programs Reaching 60 Year High

A man wears a Bernie Sanders political cap
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The American people are showing a level of support for traditionally left-leaning policies that haven’t been seen in 60 years, Vox reports. Public support for a substantial and positive role for the government, including higher taxes, more social services, and increased regulation, may, in fact, have reached the highest levels on record according to a sweeping aggregation of a number of national surveys.

The findings were revealed by James Stimson, a political scientist at the University of North Carolina. Stimson, who is a prominent authority in the field of American public opinion research, revealed his conclusions in a message sent to a political science email list earlier this week. His announcement pointed to news that the latest edition of Policy Mood, an aggregation of American opinion polls across a variety of topic and issues, had been released to the public.

Stimson points out that the annual aggregation of opinion for 2018 is the most liberal recorded in the 68-year history of the publication, coming in at just barely higher than the previous record in 1961.

A cursory analysis of the data, which dates back to the 1950s, reveals that it is not uncommon for leftist sentiments to grow during Republican presidential administrations, nor for the opposite to happen under Democratic leadership. But, although the current climate of public opinion has clearly been affected by the pervasive prominence of President Donald Trump, the study’s authors share that there is more happening than just that.

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“The idea…is to focus on the enduring sources of conflict in American politics — taxation, the government’s responsibility to spend more or less in different areas, and the merits of stricter regulation versus less red tape — rather than hot-button issues that come and go,” Matthew Yglesias writes for Vox. “The Mood became very liberal in the early 1960s, and that set the stage for the Great Society, in which liberal ideas were enacted across a wide variety of topics — including Medicare and Medicaid, federal money for K-12 education, civil rights, voting rights, and the beginnings of environmental protection.”

In contrast, in the 1970s, Stimson’s findings showed a more conservative bent, setting the stage for what would become known as the Reagan Revolution where under President Ronald Reagan taxes were decreased, military spending increased, and cuts were made to social programs.

Trump’s election, according to the data, came as the sentiment of the country drifted similarly to the right under President Barack Obama, potentially setting the stage for what many saw as the upset victory of Trump over Hillary Clinton.