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November 19, 2008

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I think I remember that Stimson has updated the mood measure, but hasn't put it on his website. Worth checking out perhaps

The number of voters who identified themselves in exit polls as conservative, liberal or moderate remained virtually unchanged between 2004 and 2008 — and in fact, those numbers have been more or less steady for decades.

This argument always annoys me. People may still define themselves as conservative, liberal or moderate, but they define those terms differently today than they did decades ago.

What conservative group would have argued for civil unions in place of marriage in 1980 (like the YesOn8 crowd did in California this year)? Support for women's rights, minority rights, civil liberties, environmental laws, etc. have all changed dramatically over time and the conservative/moderate/liberal position along with them.

Adding to what Jinchi said, is conservatism torturing people to get information or ensuring fiscally responsible government? Is liberalism allowing gays in the military or enacting universal healthcare?

Without strict definitions about political positions that most people have varying opinions about (and I'm surprised that political scientists don't deal with multi axis diagrams to show the political spectrum), results may simplify reality.

In The Political Beliefs of Americans, Free and Cantril many years ago pointed to one of the pitfalls of such discussions as this. The terms "liberal" and "conservative" are so mushy, that attaching any meaning to them is difficult. They distinguished between two different lib/conserv spectra, ideological and operational.

Starting from there would relieve some of the confusion.

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