What do moderates want?

May 20th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Molly Ball writes at The Atlantic:

It often seems there’s no center in American politics anymore. Increasingly polarized camps on the right and left hold diametrically opposed, irreconcilable views on seemingly every issue.

And yet more than a third of American voters call themselves neither liberal or conservative but moderate, indicating a substantial chunk of dissenters from the left-right paradigm. Are they just confused? Are they closet ideologues with strongly partisan opinions but a distaste for labels? Are they politically disconnected? What, in short, is their deal?

The folks at Third Way, a Democratic think tank that urges moderate positions, decided to find out. They commissioned a poll of 1,500 American registered voters, asking detailed questions about a variety of issues to find out whether those who called themselves moderate were a distinct group and what sets them apart. The Democratic pollster Peter Brodnitz of the Benenson Strategy Group conducted the inaugural “State of the Center” poll last month; it carries an overall margin of error of 2.5 percentage points in either direction.

What the poll found is fascinating. Moderates, according to the poll, aren’t tuned-out or ill-informed, but they tend to see both sides of complex issues—for example, they want the government to do more to help the economy, but they worry that it may be ineffective or counterproductive. 

Is a very sensible position – want to do more, but sceptical it will be effective.

Moderates’ perspective on the role of government has elements in common with both liberals and conservatives. Only 23 percent of moderates favor a larger government that provides more services (compared to 54 percent of liberals and 13 percent of conservatives); 37 percent favor a smaller government with fewer services (compared to 12 percent of liberals and 62 percent of conservatives).

So moderates are sceptical of government, but not hostile to it. While many on the left have a belief that there is nothing Government can’t do.

Liberals overwhelmingly (75 percent) worry government isn’t involved enough in the economy, while conservatives mostly (60 percent) worry government is too involved in the economy; moderates lean toward the liberal side of the argument, with 53 percent saying not enough involvement to 40 percent who cite too much. Still, more moderates fear big government (52 percent) than big business (41 percent). Two-thirds of moderates think government often gets in the way of economic growth, and a majority (54 percent) think that if government is involved in something, it often goes wrong.

Moderates are, well, moderate.

Majorities of moderates believe government should play a role in creating equal opportunity and that a strong safety net is important even if “a few lazy people game the system,” but moderates also largely believe the government has created incentives for poor people not to work. Most interestingly, even as they see society as unequal, seven in 10 moderates disagree with the idea that “the deck is stacked against people like me.” In fact, it was conservatives who were most likely to see themselves as victims: 35 percent said the deck was stacked against them, versus 28 percent of liberals and moderates.

Interesting.

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43 Responses to “What do moderates want?”

  1. Pete George (22,754 comments) says:

    As a ‘moderate’ my main wish is for competence across the spectrum. Competent MPs are more likely to evaluate each issue/bill on it’s merits and make sensible decisions without being blinkered by ideological straightjackets.

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  2. EAD (578 comments) says:

    Just about everything a government does actually destroys an economy, nothing more so than the distortions caused by monetary policy.

    The labour-lite Nats should remember the age old maxim – “That government is best which governs least”, but no….. they’re always busy with their Orwellian “giving boosts”, “helping hard working Kiwis” or “investing in the future”. I mean apart from protecting private property and upholding the rule of law nothing the government does can be described as “moderate”. I mean, what is moderate about stealing the fruits of a persons labour under threat of imprisonment to give to someone else because they voted themselves to other peoples money?

    Breitbart London which is increasingly becoming the home of many Conservatives and Libertarians worldwide had an enjoyable article on this very phenomenon from it’s Editor James Delingople today. As a bonus it referenced Thomas Sowell and Ronald Reagan who both realised that Government is incapable of improving things by becoming ever bigger and more intrusive with Big Ronnie uttering this immortal quote one of to his bureaucrats “Don’t just do something. Stand there”!

    http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-London/2014/05/19/A-government-that-does-nothing-Sign-me-up

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  3. Judith (7,486 comments) says:

    YAY !! Someone at long last acknowledging the ‘moderates’.

    I would go so far as to suggest that most of the swinging voters are moderates. With no fixed alliances, they swing their vote towards those that offer policies to match their ‘moderate’ ideals.

    Moderates Rule ! – or at least make the decision that matters most.

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  4. EAD (578 comments) says:

    And before someone asks “but who would build the roads”, read this:

    http://dollarvigilante.com/blog/2013/7/17/if-one-more-person-asks-me-who-will-build-the-roads.html

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  5. kowtow (7,584 comments) says:

    Conservatives are victims.

    They work,they pay taxes,they own property,they save,they invest…….you get the picture.

    Just about everyone else and particularly government milk conservatives to bribe a universalist electorate to get into power, to retain power and to increase its own power.

    Conservatives “own” the government in the sense they pay for its operations.But the government constantly and increasingly steals from its owners.

    It’s a crime and conservatives are the victims.

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  6. mikenmild (10,618 comments) says:

    Conservatives are voters too. What a pity that there aren’t enough of them to have it all their own way.

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  7. RRM (9,427 comments) says:

    You’ve got to be on the red team or the blue team over there. The tribe has spoken.

    New Zealand is getting increasingly like that though, you see a lot of otherwise smart people unquestioningly parroting stupid stupid shit because it’s what their political tribe espouses….

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  8. ROJ (81 comments) says:

    We still need to watch out for conflating the social and fiscal positions by use of words. They use liberal and conservative as a single spectrum – whereas here (for example) I see National as fiscally responsible and socially liberal, and the Conservatives as that socially, but dangerously populist around finances.

    As to moderates – Aristotle advised his readers that whoever ruled, they needed the support of the middle, so that the constitution remained stable and unlikely to be overthrown. I think I see that happening.

    Unfortunately, I don’t see many media commentators seeing the middle – only sides

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  9. Ryan Sproull (7,027 comments) says:

    What do moderates want?

    MODERATION!

    When do they want it?

    SOONISH!

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  10. tom hunter (4,369 comments) says:

    The folks at Third Way, a Democratic think tank that urges moderate positions, decided to find out.

    Sure they did, just like they did as the 1994 mid-term elections drew closer and the unthinkable – that the Democrats would lose control of the House for the first time in 40 years – became more likely. Or during the reign of Bush II up to 2006 when total control of the Government allowed unspeakable things to be done just because the GOP had the votes.

    This desire for “moderation” in the USA comes up every time it looks like the Democrats will lose power. I heard nothing of moderation during 2009 from them. No, during that time all I heard was that the elections of 2006, and even more so 2008, were the wave of the future and parties of old, Southern White Men had better just get out of the way of an almost scientifically inevitable future. Purely partisan votes? Pah. That’s democracy.

    Bah humbug.

    Special pleading aside there are very good reasons why this whole call for “moderation” is often a crock:

    Let’s take taxes as an example; a moderate might say that taxes are good as long as they are not too much or too little. A liberal would say that taxes are essential to maintain proper safety nets for people so whatever taxes are necessary to do that are proper. A conservative would say that society works best with minimum government and that most social problems can be solved by keeping the government out of the problem.

    Both liberal and conservative positions are based on some basic principles and logic. One might be wrong, but the correct one will eventually surface as the problem is continually studied by voters. The moderate is never right or wrong. He is just along for the ride. Much of today’s problems are the result of our representatives taking a moderate position rather than thoroughly investigating both sides.

    There’s also the simple fact that even trying to define what’s moderate is a crock, as explained in The Radical Political Center That Somehow Never Rises:

    That’s not true for voters. As the circle in the center of the graph shows, there are some people who are moderate on both dimensions, but quite a few people are moderate on one dimension but extreme on another. That is, there are some people who are pretty non-committal about economic issues but feel very strongly about their social views.

    How does a moderate political party rise to power with the help of moderate voters when so-called moderate voters are actually quite extreme on one dimension?

    It’s not impossible to be a true moderate on all the major issues of the day, but such people are rare, and the candidate that professes such beliefs will alienate more people than she wins over. In other words, the radical center never rises because, to a large extent, it doesn’t exist.

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  11. Captain Pugwash (89 comments) says:

    The thing about “moderates” or people who can look at all sides of the story, is that they tend to make up their own minds. This is generally something political parties don’t approve of, they’d prefer blind faith. I blame the education system, keep em dumb and they’ll do as they’re told!

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  12. Ryan Sproull (7,027 comments) says:

    A lot of danger of the fallacy of the golden mean here, too. It is certainly possible for someone to be aware of “both sides” of all issues and still be decidedly “right-wing” or “left-wing”.

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  13. jacob (16 comments) says:

    The Onion had something to say about this a while back
    http://www.theonion.com/articles/new-breeding-program-aimed-at-keeping-moderate-rep,27371/

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  14. dime (9,368 comments) says:

    “Conservatives are voters too. What a pity that there aren’t enough of them to have it all their own way.”

    thats cause its not EASY to be one. far easier to be a piece of shit and live off handouts while blaming the rich for all your woes.

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  15. Pete George (22,754 comments) says:

    A good thing about being a non-aligned ‘moderate’ is you can be (occasionally) as radical as you like whenever you see fit.

    It is certainly possible for someone to be aware of “both sides” of all issues and still be decidedly “right-wing” or “left-wing”.

    Yes, and be pragmatic. John Key and Helen Clark managed this to an extent. This is more understood by those who have to deal with the practicalities of being in Government.

    Those unaware of or unwilling to consider “both sides” tend to be frustrated ‘activists’ flailing futilely.

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  16. dime (9,368 comments) says:

    What weighting to these moderates give to different issues?

    Are they all nuts like “the PM misled me on a personal matter, so im voting communist next time even though im against all of their economic policies”.

    Dime has always voted for whats best for the country. Fiscal issues trump social issues. Im a socially liberal dude but would vote for the conservative party if it meant keeping the economy on track..

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  17. ROJ (81 comments) says:

    Dime has announced he is never likely to vote Conservative …

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  18. Ed Snack (1,733 comments) says:

    Pity we don’t see more of this “moderate” influence in the media. the ability to see (critically) both sides of an issue would be very useful in a mass media outlet. However the US is rather badly served in that respect. There are a lot of issues around the interventions that the current administration has made, but very little critical reporting of it.

    NZ is mostly better served to a degree, but there is still it seems to me a lack of reasoned critiques in general. Though to be sure, that may be because I don’t think they represent my views very well. Humans in general are notorious for seeing “balance” as “believing what I believe”; we’re all so moderate, even when we’re not !

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  19. simonway (371 comments) says:

    I read the entire report and they seem to draw a lot of unwarranted conclusions. There is nothing in it that indicates to me that the group of “moderates” is not just a group of liberals plus a group of conservatives who are all lumped together because they self-describe using the same label.

    On most issues, the percentages of “moderates” who supported a position was halfway between the percentage of liberals and the percentage of conservatives… which is the same result you would get if you polled a group of 50% self-identified liberals and 50% self-identified conservatives!

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  20. dime (9,368 comments) says:

    ROJ – if craig stands in my electorate he will get my vote.

    This election is simple – continue our slow ass recovery (fuck id love to see em go thermonuclear on spending) OR vote for economic destruction at the hands of a chinless, spineless, no friends fuck partnered with a lisping ginga, a morbidly obese thing wrapped in an expensive jacket with HUGE self esteem issues, along with the shit head stalker of young journoalists with his wind tunnel tested hair cut, the maori guy who hates all white mother fuckers and the town drunk who loves himself.. and the maori party. urgh

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  21. Pete George (22,754 comments) says:

    My guess is the majority of swing voters judge far more on personality, perceived competence, behaviour (usually turned off by negative) and past performance than on ideology or left/right pigeonholes.

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  22. Fentex (857 comments) says:
    they want the government to do more to help the economy, but they worry that it may be ineffective or counterproductive.

    Is a very sensible position – want to do more, but sceptical it will be effective.

    An obvious suspicion that such opinion, voiced by people selected because they opt out of dominant divisive politics, is that they want wise actions but fear the only possible acts will be ideologically driven.

    Which means they may not be so sceptical of active intervention as they are of the motives and ambitions of any interveners.

    They may as a whole prefer what happened to Belgium when it couldn’t form a government for forty months – steady operation without disruption during a troubling period of economic uncertainty where the certainty of no government action led to uninterrupted business.

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  23. kowtow (7,584 comments) says:

    A moderate at the pub.

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  24. gump (1,474 comments) says:

    I’m a political moderate, which simply means that I support evidence based management and policy making.

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  25. stephieboy (2,154 comments) says:

    Consideration of things moderate made me think of Christopher Hitchens on the rather seriously “immoderate ” Libertarianism,

    “I have always found it quaint and rather touching that there is a movement [Libertarians] in the US that thinks Americans are not yet selfish enough.”

    Sensible observations, gump. Exactly what this present government of the center right ( moderation ) is precisely attempting to do.

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  26. dime (9,368 comments) says:

    “My guess is the majority of swing voters judge far more on personality, perceived competence, behaviour (usually turned off by negative) and past performance than on ideology or left/right pigeonholes.”

    well thats terrifying.

    or is economic policy a pigeonhole? smh

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  27. Redbaiter (7,522 comments) says:

    The Progressive’s attack on marriage sanctity was no example of moderation.

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  28. J Bloggs (158 comments) says:

    Dime: Economic policy falls under perceived competence…. :)

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  29. stephieboy (2,154 comments) says:

    dime, could you apprise us briefly of Conservative party economic policy . ?
    I understand its a remarkably interventionist Keynesian kind of thing.?

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  30. dime (9,368 comments) says:

    stephieboy – its MMP> couldnt give a fuck. all i know is he wont prop up shithead communists.

    any wins he gets from national will most likely be bullshit tokens.

    either way, ill take the risk of a National/ACT/Conservative govt over the garbage on the left that will eat itself, but destroy us in the process.

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  31. stephieboy (2,154 comments) says:

    dime, at 0.08 % Collin Craig wont be propping up anything I would say and the rate ACT is going it’s going to have to be a National Party exclusive.
    What a charming disciple Colin Craig and his party have.!

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  32. dime (9,368 comments) says:

    “What a charming disciple Colin Craig and his party have.!”

    Thanks.

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  33. Yoza (1,523 comments) says:

    So we’re all in agreement? Come the revolution the moderates are first against the wall!

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  34. RightNow (6,646 comments) says:

    Yes Yoza. “Freedom for Tooting!”

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  35. UglyTruth (3,954 comments) says:

    The label “moderate” ignores the fundamentally important political axis of statism vs libertarianism. States are typically oppressive, pro-war, and expansionist, while libertarians have a more functional ethical compass.

    The principle function of the state is the defence of its citizens, but the rise of electronic communications now performs a similar function to dissuade a potential aggressor state through public opinion. National defence interests can be effectively served without a state, typically through a national militia network.

    Consequently there is more reason to abandon the state, athough this doesn’t have to be an all or nothing position. Civil disobedience is a technique which can be applied strategically to show opposition to particular state policies. Tax avoidance or evasion, non-payment of rates, or the service of trespass notices to agents of the state are all actions, that with enough popular support, can bring a state to its knees.

    When a state supports terrorist activity, eg military co-operation with a known terrorist state, then the people of that state have a responsibility to take such action. State terrorism is typically carried out under a banner of virtue, eg the killing of civilians by drone strikes is couched as collateral damage in the context of eliminating security threats.

    The extent of state terrorism is difficult to quantify because of the tinfoil-hat label which is applied to people who point out cases of high level conspiracy. A common feature of state terrorism is the running of security exercises which mimic corresponding occurrences of false flag terrorism, eg 9/11 NY, 7/7 London, and the Boston Bombing.

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  36. stephieboy (2,154 comments) says:

    UT, ignoring you fatuous nonsense re false flag 9/11 .London and Boston… for a moment , your first two sentences are interesting especially ” …, while libertarians have amore functional ethical compass.”
    Examples of this in action or elaborate if you can.?

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  37. stephieboy (2,154 comments) says:

    Yoza, against the wall.? That was the reality when the Bolsheviks took over with their hated more moderate rivals the Mensheviks.

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  38. UglyTruth (3,954 comments) says:

    UT, ignoring you fatuous nonsense re false flag 9/11 .London and Boston

    STFU idiot.

    http://911research.wtc7.net/planes/defense/wargames.html
    http://infowars.net/articles/april2009/060409Power.htm
    http://www.naturalnews.com/040898_boston_marathon_false_flag_terror_drills.html

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  39. stephieboy (2,154 comments) says:

    UT, I do not prose to waste my time in respect of your links but I will deal with that one from “Natural News” where the allegations of a “false flag ” attack is raised in regard to the Boston Globe reports of drill preparation etc in anticipation of such a bombing . It is easily refuted blow by blow and point by point by the following link. It includes also the utter garbage about the alleged presence of Navy Seals and their alleged insignia.that formed the basis of these spurious allegation.

    http://www.snopes.com/politics/conspiracy/boston.asp

    Its very worthwhile examining the Boston Bombing in some depth as it s a microcosm of how myths and lies are created by Conspiracy Theorists especially like the Paranoid Prince Alex Jones . There was an avalanche of tweets and fb posts with a plethora photos and videos from bystanders immediately after the Bombings leading to totally inane and stupid claims for the gullible and unthinking like you to swallow whole.

    PS. Do your seriously, seriously believe the guy in the wheel chair with his legs blown off was a crises actor.?

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  40. UglyTruth (3,954 comments) says:

    I will deal with that one from “Natural News” where the allegations of a “false flag ” attack is raised in regard to the Boston Globe reports of drill preparation etc in anticipation of such a bombing . It is easily refuted blow by blow and point by point by the following link.

    There is nothing from Snopes which refutes the central claim from natural news that a drill was running for the Boston Bombing.

    Like I said previously, STFU idiot.

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  41. stephieboy (2,154 comments) says:

    UT, the truth in that respect is more prosaic actually. Any major international sports event like the the Boston Marathon would naturally and understandably have a tight security preparation and training including so called ” drills”.
    I think the Boston Globe would be highly bemused and baffled at the significance and the conclusions Natural News and you arrived at.

    Once again, “do your seriously, seriously believe the guy in the wheel chair with his legs blown off was a crises actor.? “

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  42. stephieboy (2,154 comments) says:

    And this as well,

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  43. ChardonnayGuy (1,131 comments) says:

    People don’t conform exactly to stereotypes about left or right. Take me, for instance. Gay, middle-class professional now, devout multiculturalist, public service worker, supports Treaty of Waitangi, abortion rights, decriminalisation of pot, remedial measures to blunt the impact of climate change, stronger industrial relations protections for workers, opposes censorship except in the case of child porn, but also supports free trade, is open to greater severity in criminal justice policy where justifiable, likes the occasional Subway footlong Ham with sweet chili, Coke Zero or Pepsi Max, co-parent dad of feminist daughter, deeply ambivalent about euthanasia/assisted suicide, thinks New Zealand should spend more on cultural and economic contacts with China, doesn’t drink but not particularly a wowser about that. I get on quite well with liberal Nats and ACT members except in discussions where economics raises its ugly head. As for Labour sock cons, I don’t trust them and I wish they’d bloody well go away! I’d certainly never vote for one of the latter, despite my handle. I’ve never been faced with the situation where a liberal Nat or ACT candidate faces a sock con Labourite. Fortunately, the latter are almost extinct. I would have been deeply alienated from the Kirk era Labour Party, as much as most liberal Nats I know felt about Muldoon, for much the same reasons.

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