Data on the growing conservatism of the American public

A number of commentators have explored recent data from Gallup regarding America’s increasing conservatism. Richard Florida takes a stab at the data here. Here are Florida’s conclusions:

Conservatism, at least at the state level, appears to be growing stronger. Ironically, this trend is most pronounced in America’s least well-off, least educated, most blue collar, most economically hard-hit states. Conservatism, more and more, is the ideology of the economically left behind.  The current economic crisis only appears to have deepened conservatism’s hold on America’s states. This trend stands in sharp contrast to the Great Depression, when America embraced FDR and the New Deal.

Liberalism, which is stronger in richer, better-educated, more-diverse, and, especially, more prosperous places, is shrinking across the board and has fallen behind conservatism even in its biggest strongholds. This obviously poses big challenges for liberals, the Obama administration, and the Democratic Party moving forward.

But the much bigger, long-term danger is economic rather than political. This ideological state of affairs advantages the policy preferences of poorer, less innovative states over wealthier, more innovative, and productive ones. American politics is increasingly disconnected from its economic engine.  And this deepening political divide has become perhaps the biggest bottleneck on the road to long-run prosperity.

Interesting thoughts. A few questions about this:

1. Is this a long-term trend or a relatively recent development that could be reversed relatively quickly?

2. How might these demographics tied to each party interact with the public image of the parties that suggests Republicans are about the wealthy and Democrats are on the side of the working class?

3. Does this suggest that the economic engines of America are primarily in Democratic areas (which I assume Florida would see as being located in central cities and the surrounding areas)? Is this the case because of particular Democratic policies or is this the result of other factors?

4. What would an analysis beyond correlations reveal? How do these different factors interact?

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