Democrats in the U.S. are shifting to the left, according to new data from Gallup.
Or, as Frank Newport writes for the research and polling firm: "Democratic candidates for the 2016 presidential nomination face a significantly more left-leaning party base than their predecessors did over the last 15 years."
According to telephone interviews conducted in the first week of May with more than 1,000 adults, 47 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents now identify as both socially liberal and economically moderate or liberal. This is compared with 39 percent in these categories in 2008, when there was last an open seat for their party's nomination, and 30 percent in 2001.
Elaborating on the poll's implications, Newport added: "The shift in the electorate may help explain the attention being garnered by long-shot candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont who has used the label 'socialist' to describe himself and who is avowedly liberal across the board."
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Writing last month at Salon, Jim Newell urged Democrats to "stop hiding" from the "l-word"—liberal:
Liberal doesn’t need to be a naughty word when it comes to economic issues. Americans lopsidedly support quintessential “economically liberal” positions like protecting Social Security and Medicare, raising taxes on the wealthy, and maintaining discretionary spending programs for education, medical research, infrastructure, etc. People may conceive of these as “moderate” positions, and they may have once been. But now they are positions that are under withering assault from “economic conservatives.”
You would never, ever catch President Obama — at least before he was a lame duck — going out there and describing the aforementioned positions as “liberal” ones, or himself as a “liberal.” He would describe his economics as “common sense,” “middle class,” or some other milquetoast phrase. He would go to great lengths, in fact, when accused — gasp! — of being a “liberal.” As long as Democratic standard-bearers refuse to describe these economically liberal positions as such, though, Republicans will continue using “liberal” as a caricature — and an effective one.
Gallup reports: "The trends for the entire country show a shift toward more liberal self-identification, and that trend is even more pronounced among Democrats on social issues." In fact, more than half of Democrats (53%) currently describe themselves as socially liberal, up from 35 percent in 2001.