News Flash: Half the People in Alabama Are NOT ‘Conservative’

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The Big Picture

by Glynn Wilson

Reporting that Alabama is the most conservative state in the union is sort of like saying grass is green.

Everybody already knows it, so what’s the point? How is that “news?”

But you know Gallup.

Them public opinion pollsters just can’t stop doing what they do for a living.

So here it is.

Alabama, North Dakota and Wyoming are the most conservative states in the union, where about 50 percent of residents identify their ideology as “conservative,” according to the latest Gallup poll on the subject.

Residents of Washington, D.C. were by far the most likely to identify as liberal (41%), followed by 31 percent in Massachusetts and 29 percent in Oregon and Vermont.

“The distribution of ideology generally reflects the familiar ‘blue state-red state’ patterns that define the political geography of today’s modern America,” according to Gallup.

But what I find interesting and newsworthy is that even in Alabama, this so-called “conservative” philosophy is still only held by half the population. Perhaps we can find a silver lining in that.

Conservatism has become a popular mantra people like to glom onto so they can feel like they are part of the mainstream. It is born and spread through peer pressure. While individual liberty is something that gets talked about quite a lot, most people just go with the flow. It’s too difficult to be different, I guess.

To fit in in a place like Alabama, men feel it necessary to cut their hair short, wear ties to church and work, and brag about their guns. But when it comes time to vote, is it really in their best interest to vote for Republicans who own the “conservative” label these days? Why would anybody vote for a party that would destroy workers’ rights to have a say in their working hours, working conditions and pay?

Even Gallup acknowledges that ideological labels like liberal and conservative “are quite broad … the precise implications of what it means to define oneself as conservative or moderate or liberal are not always clear.”

Surveys show that 69 percent of people who identify themselves as “conservatives” also identified as Republicans or leaned toward supporting the Republican Party, while 78 percent of those identifying themselves as “liberals” said they voted for or leaned toward supporting the Democratic Party.

Yet there are still Democrats in Alabama who seem to think they can get votes by appearing to be “conservative Democrats.”

They really do need to wake up and smell the coffee.

While it is true that “Americans can be conservative on one set of economic or social issues while being liberal on others,” according to Gallup, when it comes time to vote, people tend to support the party all their friends and family support. And since the 1980s, the Republicans have made all the inroads by cornering the market on religion and patriotism.

Nationally, they are a shrinking party, since the country is growing more educated and diverse.

“America has become a slightly more liberal and a slightly less conservative nation than it was in 2011,” according to Gallup, and that trend is expected to continue.

But in a state where brain drain is a serious issue, the Republicans have grabbed all the levers of power and they’ve learned how to use them to promote their radical conservative agenda. The peer pressure to get onboard with their ideology is working, even among union members and environmentalists.

Since the state’s mainstream news organizations are all onboard with the pro-big business “economic development” idea — and “sustainability” is now about as popular as “socialism” — the public doesn’t have much of anywhere to turn to see a different philosophy at work. Thus the spread of “conservatism” becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

All of this is happening against a backdrop of a growing diversity in views available on the Web. But at the same time, people are generally reading less. They may see the headlines on Facebook or Twitter, but how many will really click on the links and read the substance of the news, even if somebody tries to go to the trouble to provide it?

This is clearly at the root of why the daily newspapers are no longer published daily. People are simply not interested in reading anymore. Although I suspect it also has to do with the safe, boring and predictable approach to news by the big newspaper chains over the past 30 years. If they had challenged their readers more with more intelligent reports, maybe they could have held peoples’ attention. They failed.

The overriding dilemma that has been the case for the economic survival of the press and the news media since the advent of radio, then television and now the Internet, is a competition for peoples’ time and attention. These days it takes even more of a sensational push than ever before to break through the haze and get people to pay attention to something that’s actually important.

If almost everybody is simply distracted by “entertainment,” playing games and bowing down to the latest craze, whether it is the “tea party” or the “occupy movement,” Facebook games, Honey Boo Boo or a bunch of crazy comments on some blog, how can we get people’s attention focused on the real issues that may very well determine the economic survival of their families — or the survival of the planet?

That is the challenge. I don’t have all the answers. But it is something we think about a lot. Stay tuned.

© 2013, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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