Gallup has come out with another of its surveys showing how different groups self-identify in terms of liberal-conservative-moderate.
The headline of the Gallup release focused on the liberal leanings of Asian-Americans, but the survey also showed that “non-Hispanic blacks” self-identified slightly more conservative (29%) than liberal (24%) with a clear plurality in the center (43%):
This self-identification does not fit the usual narrative of blacks being liberal, at least according to Matthew Yglesias who writes as follows (emphasis mine):
I think that what this pretty clearly shows is that ideological self-identification surveys are not very useful. By any objective measure African-Americans are the most left-wing racial group in America. But African-Americans don’t seem to like the term “liberal.” And even though very few black people have conservative political opinions, 29 percent of them describe themselves as “conservative.” I think this proves beyond a doubt that widely touted results about ideological self-identification are producing garbage numbers. Actual people clearly don’t understand these terms the same way political reporters understand them. It’s just false that more African-Americans are conservative than liberal—that these surveys produce that result doesn’t tell us a surprising new fact about black political views, it tells us that the surveys are badly designed.
Actually, I think this self-identification may be very meaningful. It may reflect that the voting pattern of blacks in favor of the Democratic Party is not the result of liberalism, but other historical and political factors. And at no time were those factors more prevalent than in 2008.
What the liberal elites, epitomized by the folks who run Think Progress (where Yglesias blogs), fear most is a realization in the black community that black self-identification does not match black voting in favor of Democrats. So rather than examine the issue with any level of nuance, the views blacks have of their own political leanings are thrown out as garbage.
In fact, blacks are not that far off in self-identification from the total of all Americans in Gallup’s survey released last month:
There is an opportunity for conservative politicians to make inroads into the black vote, and it would be a mistake to ignore that opportunity.
Update: Tom Maguire has more on the tendency of liberals to disregard this political self-identification: “Blacks vote for lefties, but I don’t know if that makes them lefties.”
I am reminded of the California Prop. 8 campaign, when black ministers came out against the “liberal” position in favor of gay marriage, and the black vote in favor of Prop. 8 (and therefore against gay marriage) was a decisive factor.