Policy Mood

Matt Bai proposes:

The cautionary note here, for jubilant Democrats, is that there is little reason to believe that the electoral trend in their favor actually reflects any widespread ideological shift. If you only look at numerical majorities, it might well seem that the story of the last 20 years in American politics is one in which voters have swerved erratically from one ideological pole to the next, embracing a harsh kind of conservatism in 1994 and then a resurgent liberalism in 2006. In reality, though, the American public doesn’t seem to move very much in its basic attitudes about government, which have remained mostly pragmatic and predictable; simply put, people tend to want a little more government when times are tough and a little less when things are going well. The number of voters who identified themselves in exit polls as conservative, liberal or moderate remained virtually unchanged between 2004 and 2008 — and in fact, those numbers have been more or less steady for decades.

Brendan Nyhan disposes:

I understand that people think this sort of Bai-style analysis is incredibly sophisticated, but the fact of the matter is that the facts are pretty much common sense — voting for Democrats is associated with a desire for the sort of policies Democrats offer.