Posted 7 months ago on Oct. 18, 2012, 11:22 p.m. EST by ZenDog
from South Burlington, VT
This content is user submitted and not an official statement
By Jonathan Bernstein - - - February 16, 2012 8:30 AM
There are a few ways to look at this. Politifact concentrated on self-identification polling, which shows far more American self-identify as conservative than as liberal, and decided that the plurality lead for “conservative” in those polls is at least close to Rubio’s “majority” claim. At a narrowly literal level — and that’s not a crazy level for Politifact to use in many cases — that’s not an unreasonable position. And yet the political difference between a nation in which a group makes up over 50% of the electorate and one in which that group is at around 40% is quite significant.
One could look at it another way, which is to get beyond self-identification to go to whether people believe in conservative concepts or not. But then it gets very tricky, as can be seen easily in from the speech Politifact was fact-checking. Rubio actually said: The majority of Americans are conservatives — they believe in things like the Constitution. I know that’s weird to some people…” Politifact ignored that context of Rubio’s comment, turning it into a narrow question of self-identification. But that’s not actually what Rubio was saying. He’s making a political claim that believing in the Constitution makes one a conservative. But that’s, on the surface false — virtually all Americans, liberals included, believe in the Constitution. Or it’s false in a different way: if Rubio is going to say that believing in the Constitution means believing in a particular interpretation of the Constitution, then those who do so may all be conservatives, but now we’re talking about a very small group of Americans who are well-versed in the controversies about Constitutional interpretation. Or it’s just a claim not open to fact-checking, that most Americans would agree with Rubio’s version of the Constitution if they thought about it. Or one could understand the statement as a rhetorical device. That’s not a bad thing for someone to point out (it seems to be a staple of 6th grade education), but it has nothing to do with how many Americans self-identify as conservatives, and selecting out that portion of the statement to fact-check seems, really, sort of perverse).
Moreover, one could point out that the real answer here is none of the above: Americans are not liberal, conservative, or moderate in their ideology, because most Americans aren’t ideological at all. That’s one of the classic findings in political science studies of voters. Americans are, indeed, partisan — but they don’t think in ideological terms.