More Americans identified as liberal in 2014 than any point in the last two decades, closing the gap with those who consider themselves conservative to just a 14-percentage-point difference.
According to a new Gallup poll, the percentage of Americans identifying as liberal rose for a third straight year to 24 percent, while conservatives held steady at 38 percent. The gap between liberals and conservatives has been decreasing since 1996, when it was at its highest point since Gallup began its poll in 1992.
Republicans are still more likely to identify as conservatives than Democrats are to call themselves liberals. According to the poll, 70 percent of Republicans identify as conservative while only 44 percent of Democrats identify as liberal, although that number is also a record high.
“Although the ‘liberal’ moniker remains the least favorite, it has enjoyed the most growth, while ‘conservative’ is up slightly and ‘moderate’ has waned,” Gallup said in its report. “But to a large extent, these changes reflect opposing ideological shifts within the parties, not national trends.”
The poll results come in a year when Democrats suffered significant losses in the midterm election, giving up control of the Senate and losing control of a number of governorships and state legislative majorities.
“Even though 2014 was a strong election year for the Republican Party, Gallup found no increase in conservatism in 2014 compared with 2013,” the report said, a sign that the election results may have been due to other issues like the unpopularity of the president’s party during midterms, rather than conservative policies.
While Americans are slowly identifying as more liberal, support for liberal policies is stronger, according to polls. A Gallup poll from May 2014 showed support for same sex marriage reached a record high of 55 percent in 2014, with almost eight in ten people under the age of 29 expressing support. The U.S. is also close to evenly split on support for abortion with 47 percent of people identifying as pro-choice and 46 percent as pro-life.
While polls show that Democrats care most about the availability and affordability of healthcare and the economy, Republicans are most concerned with the size and power of the federal government and federal spending and the budget deficit.
Also in 2014, Americans’ trust in both the executive and legislative branches declined with just 28 percent of Americans expressing trust in Congress and 43 percent in the executive branch, according to a separate Gallup poll.