America: A Center-Left Nation

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» Blog: “Center-Left America”

Audio: Robert Borosage explains the report’s findings..

Then-Sen. Barack Obama promised change during his White House campaign, and he ran on a distinctly progressive platform. Clean energy, affordable college, comprehensive health care reform. Obama’s victory capped off several years’ of sweeping Democratic electoral wins, each more progressive than the last.

But conventional wisdom still calls America a “center-right” nation. Immediately after the election, Newsweek editor Jon Meacham insisted that to govern successfully, Obama had to become a center-right leader in order to match America’s “instinctively conservative” streak.

Conventional wisdom is wrong.

America is more progressive than many people think. Public opinion shows the popularity of progressive policies. Demographics show the rise of progressive demographic groups. The new report we are publishing with Media Matters for America documents the trends and challenges the mainstream media to recognize reality.

Public opinion

Our report examines public opinion on a range of issues, from the role of government to universal health care.

Health care: “In general, would you favor or oppose a program that would increase the federal government’s influence over the country’s health care system in an attempt to lower costs and provide health care coverage to more Americans?”— CNN/Opinion Research Corporation, Feb. 18-19, 2009

Favor 72 percent
Oppose 27 percent

Energy: Would you prefer the government to increase, decrease, or not change the financial support and incentives it gives for producing energy from alternative sources such as wind and solar? —Gallup, March 5-8, 2009.

Increase 77 percent
Decrease 8 percent

Stimulus: “Which do you think is more effective in stimulating the nation’s economy and creating jobs: An economic agenda focused on returning money to taxpayers through tax cuts, or an economic agenda focused on spending for improvements to the country’s infrastructure such as roads, bridges and schools?” Los Angeles Times, December 6-8, 2008[i]

Infrastructure 54 percent
Tax Cuts 33 percent


We examine population demographics, which are also pointing left. The bedrock voters of the conservative movement are growing older and declining in number. America is becoming an increasingly diverse, younger and more metropolitan.

Younger voters: People under 30 chose Obama for President by a full 34 point margin over McCain (66 percent to 32 percent). Even more impressive than the margin was the diversity. Obama scored a 91 point margin among young African Americans (95 percent to 4 percent), and a 57 point margin among young Hispanics (76 percent to 19 percent). He even won young whites by a 10 point margin (54 percent to 44 percent), a strong contrast to his 14 point deficit among whites aged 45 to 64 (42 to 56 percent).

Hispanic voters: Two-thirds (65 percent) of registered Hispanic voters identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party. The gap is driven by the same issues that drive white voters — a general dissatisfaction with the state of the country, and their priority issues of education, health care and jobs. In the 2008 presidential election, Obama won Hispanics by 36 points (67 percent to 31 percent).

Unmarried Women:  Women as a whole tend to lean Democratic, and Obama outscored McCain among women by 56 percent to 43 percent (compared to 49 percent to 48 percent among men). But this is only the tip of the iceberg. The most important hidden block is unmarried women, who chose Obama by a stunning 41 point margin (70 percent to 29 percent). Unmarried women are growing in number, and registering to vote in record numbers.

What it means

The wind is at our backs. It’s safe to push. It’s important that we do. We need to channel the energy of our center-left nation, and achieve the promise, not the compromise. The crisis is great, bold action is needed, and the people are hungry for progressive change.