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Why Do Most US Voters Prefer Politicians Who Disagree with Their Values and Policies?

The Contradictions of the American Electorate

by ERIC ZUESS

Pollingreport.com has the results of hundreds of recent polls on just about every political subject imaginable; and the results on the vast majority of the polling questions produce liberal responses.

For example, when the Pew Research Center polled during Feb. 12-26 on the question “Do you think the use of marijuana should be made legal or not?” 54% said “Yes,” and only 42% said “No.”

When Quinnipiac University polled during March 26-31 on “Do you approve or disapprove of the way the Republicans in Congress are handling their job?” 18% said “Approve,” but when that same poll asked “Do you approve or disapprove of the way Democrats in Congress are handling their job?” 30% said “Approve.”

When Bloomberg polled on March 7-10 on ”In thinking about the gap between the rich and everyone else, do you think it would be better for the government to implement policies designed to shrink that gap, or better for the government to stand aside and let the market operate freely even if the gap gets wider?” a bare plurality of 45% chose “Government implement policies,” while a bare minority of 43% chose “Let market operate freely.”

When that same poll asked, “please tell me if you favor or oppose the idea” of ”Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 over the next three years,” 69% chose “Favor,” and only 28% chose “Oppose.” When that same poll asked about, ”Extending unemployment benefits beyond the current term,” 52% chose “Favor,” and 45% “Oppose.”

When the CNN poll asked on January 31-Feb. 2, ”Do you think the policies of Barack Obama and the Democrats, or George W. Bush and the Republicans, are more responsible for the country’s current economic problems?” 34% blamed “Obama, Democrats, while 44% blamed “Bush, Republicans.”

When that same poll asked, “Do you think abortion should be legal under any circumstances, legal only under certain circumstances, or illegal in all circumstances?” only 20% chose the Republican position, “Aways illegal.” 51% chose the Democratic position, “Sometimes legal. And 27% chose the position “Always legal,” which would go beyond both the Supreme Court’s Roe-Wade decision and the Democratic Party’s position.

When the Gallup poll on March 7-10 asked ”Do you think the U.S. government is doing too much, too little, or about the right amount in terms of protecting the environment?” 47% said “Too little” (the Democratic position) and only 16% said “Too much” (the Republican position: “Drill, baby drill!”).

When the CBS/NYT poll on Feb. 19-23 asked, ”In general, do you think laws covering the sale of guns should be made more strict, less strict, or kept as they are now?” 54% said “More strict (the Democratic position), and only 9% said “Less strict” (the Republican position).

However, on a few issues, Americans choose the conservative position:

For example, when the Quinnipiac poll on 28-31 July 2013 asked ”Some states have a law that says a person is legally entitled to fight back with deadly force if they feel threatened, even if they could retreat instead. Do you support or oppose this law for your state?” 53% chose the Republican position, “Support,” and only 40% chose the Democratic position, “Oppose.”

On the vast majority of polled questions, Americans show that they favor the liberal or Democratic position, and oppose the conservative or Republican position.

If the public were rational, Democrats would overwhelmingly control the U.S. Government. Even on polled support or self-identification by voters regarding the two Parties, Democrats have always had a lead, usually a substantial lead. On 8 January 2014, Gallup bannered “Record-High 42% of Americans Identify as Independents: Republican identification lowest in at least 25 years,” and reported that, “Republican identification fell to 25%, the lowest over that time span. At 31%, Democratic identification is unchanged from the last four years but down from 36% in 2008.”

However, Republicans win most “elections”; and most predictions for this November are for Republicans to win control in the Senate and expand their control in the House. Why is this?

On January 10th, Gallup bannered, “Liberal Self-Identification Edges Up to New High in 2013,” and reported that 38% of Americans self-identified as “Conservative,” and only 23% self-identified as “Liberal.” 43% of Democrats said they were “Liberal,” but 70% of Republican self-identified as “Conservative.” Ever since Ronald Reagan, conservative self-identification is much stronger.

For decades, most voters self-describe as “Conservative” and yet most voters also self-describe as “Democrat,” though those two identities oppose each other, and though Americans are actually overwhelmingly liberal on the issues.

So, perhaps one explanation for Republicans winning most political contests is that most Americans are voting their ideological self-identity instead of their Party self-identity and their actual policy-positions and policy-values — which are liberal. If that’s so, then one might say that the conservative mystique ever since the time of Ronald Reagan overwhelms voters’ Party affiliation and policy-positions and thus determines their actual voting, more than anything rational actually does.

Perhaps part of this conundrum is also a result of Americans being heavily inundated with conservative propaganda from the aristocracy, who are overwhelmingly conservative.

For example, a study, to appear in the Fall 2014 issue of the academic journal Perspectives on Politics, finds that the U.S. is no democracy, but instead an oligarchy, meaning profoundly corrupt, ruled by an aristocracy, so that the answer to the study’s opening question, “Who governs? Who really rules?” in this country, is:

“Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But, …” and then they go on to say, it’s not true, and that, “America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened” by the findings in this, the first-ever comprehensive scientific study of the subject, which shows that there is instead “the nearly total failure of ‘median voter’ and other Majoritarian Electoral Democracy theories [of America]. When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”

To put it short: The United States is no democracy, but actually an oligarchy.

The authors of this historically important study are Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, and their article is titled “Testing Theories of American Politics.” The authors clarify that the data available are probably under-representing the actual extent of control of the U.S. by the super-rich:

“Economic Elite Domination theories do rather well in our analysis, even though our findings probably understate the political influence of elites. Our measure of the preferences of wealthy or elite Americans – though useful, and the best we could generate for a large set of policy cases – is probably less consistent with the relevant preferences than are our measures of the views of ordinary citizens or the alignments of engaged interest groups. Yet we found substantial estimated effects even when using this imperfect measure. The real-world impact of elites upon public policy may be still greater.”

Nonetheless, this is the first-ever scientific study of the question of whether the U.S. is a democracy. “Until recently it has not been possible to test these contrasting theoretical predictions [that U.S. policymaking operates as a democracy, versus as an oligarchy, versus as some mixture of the two] against each other within a single statistical model. This paper reports on an effort to do so, using a unique data set that includes measures of the key variables for 1,779 policy issues.” That’s an enormous number of policy-issues studied.

What the authors are able to find, despite the deficiencies of the data, is important: the first-ever scientific analysis of whether the U.S. is a democracy, or is instead an oligarchy, or some combination of the two. The clear finding is that the U.S. is an oligarchy, no democratic country, at all. American democracy is a sham, no matter how much it’s pumped by the oligarchs who run the country (and who control the nation’s “news” media). The U.S., in other words, is basically similar to Russia or most other dubious “electoral” “democratic” countries. We weren’t formerly, but we clearly are now. Today, after this exhaustive analysis of the data, “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” That’s it, in a nutshell.

And that’s why most Americans are actually liberals who call themselves conservatives and who vote for conservative politicians that favor policies and values those voters actually oppose.
Are most voters mental zombies who are actually manipulated by oligarchs? That seems to describe today’s American “democracy.”

Eric Zuesse is an investigative historian and the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.