Public Backs "Progressives" Over "Liberals"
Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. Nisbet studies the role of communication and advocacy in policymaking and public affairs, focusing on debates over over climate change, energy, and sustainability. Among awards and recognition, Nisbet has been a Visiting Shorenstein Fellow on Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, a Health Policy Investigator at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a Google Science Communication Fellow. In 2011, the editors at the journal Nature recommended Nisbet's research as “essential reading for anyone with a passing interest in the climate change debate,” and the New Republic highlighted his work as a “fascinating dissection of the shortcomings of climate activism."
Has the effort by liberals to re-brand themselves as progressives been successful? What about Republicans who no longer describe themselves as a conservative but rather as a "Reagan Republican"? Rasmussen released a survey last week that reveals some interesting findings:
Just 20% said they consider it a positive description to call a candidate politically liberal while 39% would view that description negatively. However, 35% would consider it a positive description to call a candidate politically progressive. Just 18% react negatively to that term. Those figures reflect a huge swing, from a net negative of nineteen points to a net positive of 17 points.
On the other side of the ideological spectrum, being called politically conservative is considered a positive description by 32% and negative by 20%. It's much better for a candidate to be described as being like Ronald Reagan--44% consider that a positive description and 25% negative. That swing is meaningful, but not as dramatic as the difference between liberal and progressive. Being called conservative generates a net 12 point positive response that jumps to 19 points when someone is said to be like Reagan.
"Progressive" is even a bit more palatable among Republicans. Within this group, 7% say the term liberal is a positive description, but that number jumps to 26% for the term progressive.