More Americans Identify With Conservatives Than Liberals, Pollster Says

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:28 PM EDT

( - According to a Washington-based polling firm, more Americans identify themselves as conservatives rather than liberals. Pollster Kellyanne Conway, president of the Polling Company, believes that conservatism is playing a big role in this year's Virginia gubernatorial election.

"There are two very heartening things I see in the polls for conservatives," Conway said during a speech Wednesday in Washington.

"We still, in the ideological self description, find that more people including women, lower income households, union households, people who find social issues more important than economic issues, are by convincing margins, way outside the margin of error margins, call themselves conservatives than liberal," she said.

"Two to one easily," Conway emphasized, "the self-identified liberal label has not cracked 20 percent (in the polls) in ages."

She believes people identifying themselves as conservatives is playing a factor in Virginia's gubernatorial race between Republican Mark Earley and Democrat Mark Warner.

"That's why Mark Warner is 'Farmer Mark.' He's 'populist Mark.' You can't show me anything in his campaign literature that says he's liberal and he is. I can show you things in his record and his statements that says he is. I was in Richmond and saw some of his (television) ads, and he is calling himself a conservative," Conway said.

She thinks Warner shying away from the 'liberal' label is significant in this year's campaign.

"That is very important, because already [people] are identifying themselves with the conservative philosophy, then it is a step in the right direction," Conway said.

Warner articulated support for some conservative themes during a Labor Day debate this week with his Republican opponent Mark Earley in Buena Vista, Virginia.

Earley listed successes orchestrated by Republicans Gov. James S. Gilmore III and George F. Allen, now in the U.S. Senate, including abolishing parole, reforming welfare, requiring that minors seeking abortions first notify their parents, creating the Standards of Learning and the tests to evaluate student performance, and phasing out the car tax.

He said Warner opposed most of those policies and couldn't be trusted to carry through on them.

Warner disputed several of those charges.

"Let's set the record straight -- I support welfare reform. I support abolition of parole. I support the death penalty. I'm against gay marriage. I support Second Amendment rights, and this kind of garbage that's coming out from the other side is nothing but false and misleading," he said.

Polls indicate running on conservative themes is helping Warner who continues to have a double-digit lead over Earley.

If conservatives talk more about 'themes' than 'issues and charisma,' Conway thinks more Americans will adopt the conservative philosophy.

"I don't know if it's in conservatives' best interests to mimic what most politicians and most people in the major (establishment) media do by talking about 'issues.' I certainly don't think it's important to talk about image or charisma. Who cares? I think it's important to talk about themes," she said.

"People in the conservative movement respond to big ideas like defeating the Soviet Union, reforming the tax code, those are big ideas that have consistency," Conway said. "Some of the themes we see in our (polling) data are affordability. If you talk affordability as a theme than you do have people respond to that by saying they believe that tax cuts should go farther and faster."

Respondents, she said, believe that health care should be affordable, but prescription drugs shouldn't necessarily be an entitlement under Medicare.

"They also believe that housing affordability is unattainable right now but certainly don't believe that there should be housing subsidies for certain people. What they believe is that there should be property tax reduction," Conway said.

She concluded that "... as conservatives, fairness has replaced equality completely as a core government value. Fairness is the impulse toward school choice, proper immigration reform, a flat tax or some type of across-the-board tax reduction."

Security is another theme that conservatives should build upon Conway says because Americans are concerned about missile defense, crime, retirement security, Social Security and family security.

"But you are not going to hear that, though, if the (establishment) media continues to be obsessed with things like pro-abortion and gun control, even though their own (polling) data shows those issues are conspicuous by their absence," she concluded.