Why I Am Not a "Progressive"

I noticed that a few folks have been taking the "Progressive Quiz" found here; it's part of a project of the Center for American Progress (CAP), designed to measure the acceptability of, and prospects for, the "progressive" ideology in America.

When taking the quiz, you're asked to "agree less" or "agree more", on a 0-10 scale, with forty assertions; after that, you're assigned a score between 0 and 400, measuring how "progressive" you are. I tried it, and gave up about 10 questions in. I may get around to explaining why later on.

Aside: I can't resist, by the way, putting those quotes around "progressive". I know the term has a long history, and in theory, it means something specific. But to me, its current-day usage is mainly a marketing-buzzword effort to avoid more conventional political terms that are (deservedly) out of favor with the public. And (in fact) one of the main things you can read about at the CAP site is how easily you can get Americans to swallow "progressivism" as opposed to (say) "liberalism".

The rise of progressivism in America is reflected more starkly in direct ratings of various ideological approaches. Today, more than two-thirds of Americans rate a "progressive" approach to politics favorably, a 25-point increase in favorability over the last five years, with gains coming primarily from those who were previously unaware of the term. "Progressive" now equals "conservative" in terms of overall public favorability (67 percent, respectively).

Um, hooray; at least for now, they've found more acceptable marketese for the same old crapola. [End of Aside]

CAP's report on the "State of American Political Ideology, 2009" contains the 40 assertions. They are, CAP says, "equally divided between progressive and conservative beliefs." You can also find out how Americans agreeed/disagreed with the assertions.

Some observations:

  • The poll shows one thing conclusively: you can get Americans to agree with just about anything, if you phrase it pleasantly enough. Respondents could score any assertion from 0 (total disagreement) to 10 (total agreement), with a 5 scored as neutral. In the survey results, the average "agreement" score ranged from 7.9 to 4.6. Only one assertion got that 4.6, and it was the only one that garnered less than the "neutral" score of 5:
    Homosexuality is unnatural and should not be accepted by society.
    According to CAP, the average American mildly disagrees with that (allegedly) "conservative" assertion. One assertion (see below) got a precisely-neutral 5.0 score; the remaining 38 assertions all scored on the "agree" end of the spectrum.

  • One thing you'll note is how "progressivism" piggybacks on environmentalism; Americans love to buy into sounds-good "green" slogans, and "progressives" will be happy to claim such sentiments as their own. Here's the assertion with the highest level of agreement (7.9) in CAP's polling:
    Americans should adopt a more sustainable lifestyle by conserving energy and consuming fewer goods.
    This screams for some explanatory text to be tacked on:
    By the way, economists call "consuming fewer goods" a "recession"; we're in one now. Like it?
    Posing things that way might have driven down the agreement level a tad. Unfortunately, CAP didn't do things my way.

  • CAP is not above presenting the status quo as "progressive". For example, this got a high level of agreement (7.6):
    Government investments in education, infrastructure, and science are necessary to ensure America's long-term economic growth.
    But all but the hardest-of-hardcore libertarians will agree with that to some extent. Similarly, this one got a 7.1:
    Government regulations are necessary to keep businesses in check and protect workers and consumers.
    Other than anarchists, is there anyone out there who thinks that all government regulations are unnecessary? I wouldn't think so, but 12% of their poll respondents scored this on the "disagree" end of the scale.)

    (If I'm remembering correctly, this is the statement that made me bail out on the quiz in disgust. I'm sorry, but mild theoretical agreement with some regulation does not make me a "progressive", and I'm not gonna buy into a methodology that makes it appear so.)

  • Some questions are really loaded, with question-begging wording that practically dares you to disagree:
    Our country has gone too far in mixing politics and religion and forcing religious values on people.
    No way, dude! In fact, I think it hasn't gone far enough!

    Amazingly, this only garnered mild agreement (5.1) with roughly equal percentages on "agree" and "disagree" sides.

  • People who want to cut back on US world-saving will find a small measure of cheer. For example, this one is billed as a "conservative" assertion, and it got the highest agreement score (7.4) of all 20 "conservative" assertions:
    America has taken too large a role in solving the world's problems and should focus more at home.
    And this "progressive" assertion scored lowest of all "progressive" assertions, getting a neutral 5.0:
    America should spend more to help meet the basic economic, health, and education needs of people around the world.
    Not even a survey designed by "progressives" can sell this particular flavor of interventionism.

  • Libertarians will find plenty to moan about. This scored a solid 7.0 agreement:
    There should be stronger regulation of sex and violence in popular culture and on the Internet.
    And even this scored on the "agree" side (5.1):
    It is unpatriotic to criticize our government leaders or our military during a time of war.

  • On the other hand, libertarians can cheer themselves up by looking at the 6.8 agreement with:
    Free trade is good for America because it creates new markets for our goods and services and lowers costs for consumers.
    This one got a 6.5:
    Government spending is almost always wasteful and inefficient.
    Also with a 6.5:
    Free market solutions are better than government at creating jobs and economic growth.
    And I was kind of surprised that even this scored well, with a 6.1:
    Social Security should be reformed to allow workers to invest some of their contributions in individual accounts.
    57% of respondents agreeed with this, as opposed to only 24% on the "disagree" side. If you buy that, it leads one to wonder how inept George W. Bush had to be in order to lose on this issue.

Well, I could go on, but you get the idea. An interesting idea, poor execution, nevertheless interesting results. If you want to do this sort of thing to yourself, I recommend the World's Smallest Political Quiz. Probably just as slanted, but much faster to complete.

URLs du Jour


  • Earth Hour approacheth. My pictorial comment:

    [Lights out, pal]

    (Click for a bigger version and an explanation, if necessary.)

    Inspired by similar comments from Harvey at IMAO.

  • Jennifer Rubin—can she really be just one person? Here she is commenting on the Obama Administration's vague proposals to play Big Brother with executive salaries paid by (what used to be known as) private companies.

    Apparently the game plan is to freak out everyone who works for any financial institution and encourage them to pursue other lines of work. Good thing we don't have to rely on these institutions for our economic recovery. Oh wait.

    And this was posted at 4:08am on Sunday morning; how, exactly, does Jennifer manage to make more sense at that hour than the Administration does during the normal work day?

  • At Big Hollywood, Jeffrey Jena translates what it means when a politician says he or she "takes full responsibility" for some recent f-up.

    Generally speaking it means; "I have been caught and there is so much evidence against me that only the feeble of mind would buy my defense, so I admit it was my fault. Can we now forget about it?"

    You might want to keep that handy by the chair in which you typically watch TV news.

Last Modified 2012-10-08 1:22 PM EST