I was thinking about ideology of Democrats and how it has changed. For example, we can go to the progressive movement started by the candidacy and unpopular election of Donald Trump. (By unpopular I mean he didn't get the most votes and his approval rating is consistently net negative.)

But this starts before the Trump candidacy. It has been building for about two decades. This graph shows it:

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The percentage of US Democrats identifying as liberal has consistently increased. It climbed 20 percentage points from 2001 to 2017, and climbed another 3 percentage points from 2017 to 2020.

Why have Democrats been consistently identifying as more liberal over time?

  • 5
    It's not just the Democrats, it's an ideological polarization of both parties. But it does look like the long-term trend has been a bit more consistent for the Democrats maybe: pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/07/…
    – Brian Z
    Commented Aug 19, 2020 at 11:51
  • Maybe actually be more extreme for Republicans in terms of elected officials themselves as opposed to the base of the party: politics.stackexchange.com/questions/27437/…
    – Brian Z
    Commented Aug 19, 2020 at 11:53
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    This is talking about the base not so much elected officials. The image on the second comment of Brian Z ended before "the Squad" took office. Image: i.sstatic.net/CaYV5.png Commented Aug 19, 2020 at 12:34

1 Answer 1


Liberalism goes all the way back to Teddy Roosevelt's Square Deal in 1901, and had a rich and vibrant history in America for eighty years. But when Reagan became the first president to embrace non-Keynesian economics (supply side/trickle-down), the GOP (with a new Southern formerly-Democrat majority) worked to make liberal a bad word, blaming it (and its regulation of industry/environmental laws) for the economic slowdown of that era. This characterization became so pervasive that even those with what we'd today call 'liberal' views refused to characterize themselves as such. 'Liberal' had become a dirty word.

Even when the Democrats regained power in the early 90's, they did so via the Third Way policy: taking the most moderate positions of Republicans as their own in order to slowly bleed off votes. It took the failed policies of George W. Bush via his 9/11 response, the Iraq War, and his contribution to the 2007 financial crisis for Democrats with liberal beliefs to begin to 'take back' the term 'liberal' from its negative connotations, and the term has been rising in prominence ever since.

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    'take back' the term 'liberal'. I wonder when conservatives are going to be able to do that. Not for a while I'm guessing. Commented Aug 19, 2020 at 15:25

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