Now that Democrats have won the White House and have widened their margin of control in Congress, does this signify that American voters have moved to the left?
Many Republicans question this claim. And a new report from the Pew Research Center seems to verify that America is still a right of center as a country. But the picture gets murky when you look at the details. And this murkiness presents a considerable challenge for Republicans who are trying to figure out where to steer their party.
According to the just published report, more Americans today call themselves conservative than liberal, and the relative percentages in each category has hardly changed since George W. Bush was elected to his first term in 2000.
Thirty eight percent of Americans self-identify as conservative, 21 percent as liberal, and 36 percent as moderate. This compares to 36 percent, 18 percent and 38 percent, respectively, in 2000.
But taking a closer look at what this means leaves you scratching your head. You have to wonder what it means today to think of yourself as conservative.
When asked if the Bush tax cuts should be made permanent, only 38 percent of those who said they are "conservative" said yes. And 50 percent of "conservatives" said they favor government guaranteeing health care "even if it means raising taxes."
Although 71 percent of "conservatives" said they oppose gay marriage, only slightly more than half, 52 percent, said that abortion should be illegal.
Many Republicans point to the fact that traditional marriage initiatives won in all three states where they were on the ballot -- California, Florida, and Arizona -- as evidence for the conservatism of the country. But pro-life initiatives lost in all three states where they were on ballots -- California, South Dakota, and Colorado.
What can be the message here for those vying for leadership of the Republican Party?
Some argue that the party should lighten up on the social agenda. The party is all white, they say, and there is no future without Latinos and blacks.
But consider the obvious. First, conservatives define the Republican Party. According to this study, 68 percent of Republicans call themselves conservative.
Second, it should be obvious from the above, that if conservatives are rooted anywhere, it's more in the social agenda than in the fiscal and limited government agenda. Where in the world would the party be if the leadership tried to uproot from social conservatism?
Third, consider what is going on with blacks and Latinos.