The gap that has separated the predominately conservative social outlook of a majority of people from the more liberal social views of a growing minority has closed almost to the point of parity, according to the latest Gallup survey of Americans’ attitudes toward economic and social issues.
The poll finds that 34 percent of Americans still consider themselves conservative when it comes to social issues, compared with 30 percent who say their views are more permissive. That’s the closest margin separating the two groups since Gallup began polling on the topic.
“Americans’ increasingly liberal views on social issues are apparent in trends showing that the public is exhibiting greater support for gay marriage, legalizing marijuana, and having a baby outside of marriage, and diminished support for the death penalty,” Gallup summarized in its Wednesday report.
Gallup detects a partisan trend behind society’s slow move to the social left:
Conservatism is still the dominant ideology in the U.S. when Americans are asked to describe their political views overall and when asked about their views on economic and social issues separately. However, the conservative advantages are shrinking, in large part because of Democrats’ increasing likelihood of describing their views as liberal rather than conservative or moderate.
With the conservative advantage on social issues down to four points, it is possible in the next few years there will be more Americans describing themselves as socially liberal than as socially conservative. This movement is consistent with trends Gallup has seen on specific issues, perhaps most notably Americans’ views toward gay rights and legalizing marijuana.
Still, Gallup finds that conservative thinking underpins the majority of Americans’ attitudes toward economic issues, and that the political left has lost ground as more Americans embrace conservative fiscal values.
“Conservatives maintain a healthy advantage on economic issues, so if more Americans ever do come to view themselves as economic liberals than as economic conservatives, it would not be anytime soon,” the report concludes.