WaPo Poll: Most Americans Not 'Thrilled' Over Liberal Social Victories

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Jul 22, 2015 11:40 AM
WaPo Poll: Most Americans Not 'Thrilled' Over Liberal Social Victories

So, are we moving towards the left on social issues? For now, not really–in fact, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 63 percent of Americans are “uncomfortable” with the direction of the country on such issues, despite a series of liberal victories on gay marriage and Obamacare.

Women, men, Millennials, Gen-Xers, rich, poor, middle class, and even the liberal Northeast is uncomfortable with how the country is moving on social issues. Unsurprisingly, if you go by party identification and ideology, liberal Democrats think all is well.

If you just look at the top three issues we’re debating right now–the Confederate flag, Obamacare, and gay marriage, Americans, overall, are still very much split down the middle. Moreover, the recent Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage and health care don’t appear to be resonating with the Democratic base (via WaPo):

The poll finds all three issues are fairly divisive among the public at-large, with large shares seeing policy shift in a direction at odds with their views. A slim 52 percent majority supports the recent Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage across the country while 44 percent oppose the decision. That is a narrower split in opinion than other surveys have found asking more general opinions on gay marriage.

The public divides more closely on the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act with 45 percent in support and 42 percent in opposition. There is a similarly split opinion on the Confederate flag, with 46 percent in support of efforts to ban displaying the flag on government property and 44 percent opposed.

Some core Democratic groups are finding a disconnect with the rapid change in social issues as well. Fifty-one percent of non-whites, a growing group of Democratic supporters, say they are uncomfortable with the pace of social change. Two-thirds of women also say they are uncomfortable, as are 50 percent of adults under age 30.

Nevertheless, as with anything regarding Millennials and politics, some things don’t add up. For one thing, it’s no shocker that 66 percent of 18-39 year olds view the gay marriage ruling in a positive light. Yet, 50 percent also support the recent Obamacare decision, and 51 percent support banning the Confederate flag on government property. So, why is it that only 42 percent are comfortable with the direction of the country? On gay marriage, yes, the battle over that is pretty much settled, as the younger generation is decidedly pro-gay marriage. The split over the the issue right now is due to the fact that support for the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage is lacking with Americans over 40. On that issue, the country has swung to the left. On Obamacare, which pretty much splits everyone evenly, there’s little indication of whether anyone will switch camps. As for the Confederate flag, this issue–like Donald Trump–will hopefully fade soon.

Nevertheless, the rapid recognition and legality of gay marriage in America is unprecedented. At the same time, there might have been less controversy and less vitriol if the legislative process–and not the courts–had settled this issue. There was nothing prohibiting legislatures from passing laws to grant gay couples the right to marry. If a consensus had been formed over time that would force Congress to move on this issue by passing a law recognizing gay marriage in all 50 states, then so be it. The same goes for abortion*. And in both cases, the courts seemed to have detonated that process, hence the intense feelings exhibited by both sides.

So, overall, liberals are winning on the social issues, but everyone isn’t happy about it. As for the discontent among those within some key groups in the Democratic base, it shows that maybe not everyone is of the Liz Warren mindset, though that side seems to be increasing their clout.

*I hope this will never, ever happen.