Voter reaction to political labels show America is now a “50-50 nation”

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Many pundits have suggested that America is now a 50-50 nation politically, and a look at how voters react to political labels suggests that may be true. Being linked to the Tea Party is still the worst thing you can say about a candidate, but Republicans don’t agree.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that roughly the same number of Likely U.S. Voters consider it a positive description if a candidate is called a conservative (31 percent), a moderate (33 percent) or a progressive (30 percent).

Twenty-five percent (25 percent) think it’s a negative description to be called a conservative, while 39 percent rate it somewhere in between. Slightly more (28 percent) believe it’s a negative to be called a progressive, the label liberals have adopted to get out from under the “L” word, but 34 percent say it’s somewhere in between. As for moderate, only 15 percent view it as a negative description, while 48 percent see it as somewhere in between positive and negative.

There’s been little change in voter perception of progressives since we first asked this four years ago, but these days it’s better to be seen as a moderate and not as good to be viewed as a conservative.

Liberal and Tea Party remain the most unpopular political labels. Only 23 percent consider liberal a positive description for a candidate. Twenty-two percent (22 percent) say the same of Tea Party, but that’s down 10 points from a high of 32 percent in September 2010.

But the number who consider Tea Party a negative description now stands at a new high of 48 percent, up from a low of 32 percent in January 2011 and 44 percent in October 2012. Twenty-four percent (24 percent) view the Tea Party label as somewhere between a positive and a negative.

Unchanged from past surveys are the 34 percent who see liberal as a negative description and the 37 percent who say it is somewhere in between.

Only 27 percent of voters view the Tea Party movement favorably, the lowest finding since the “tea parties” began springing up in April 2009 to protest higher taxes and increased government spending. At that time, 51 percent viewed the movement favorably.

The partisan differences are noticeable, however. Democrats look most favorably on the progressive and liberal labels and are OK with moderates. But they don’t care much for conservatives and really don’t like the Tea Party label.

Republicans, on the other hand, strongly favor the conservative label and are twice as likely to consider Tea Party a positive label rather than a negative one. GOP voters don’t view moderates as favorably as Democrats do, but 51 percent of Republicans rate that label somewhere between a positive and a negative. Most Republicans view both liberal and progressive negatively.

As for voters who are not affiliated with either of the major political parties, they like the moderate label the best and view conservative as a nicer thing to say about a candidate than progressive. Liberal is lower on their list of favorites, and Tea Party is the pits.

Forty-four percent (44 percent) of all voters now identify themselves as conservative on fiscal issues such as taxes, government spending and business regulation. Just 14 percent are liberal in this area, while 37 percent view themselves as moderates. When it comes to social issues such as abortion, public prayer and church-state topics, 37 percent say they are conservative, 32 percent liberal and 28 percent moderate.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.