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Reason Foundation

So, Can We Date Conservatives Again?

Michael Flynn
March 2, 2009, 7:06am

This past weekend, the American Conservative Union hosted its annual CPAC meeting. Attended by thousands of young self-identified conservative activists from around the country, it’s a good place to get the pulse of that movement. Every year they conduct a straw poll of attendees, identifying their top issues. Looking over the results of the last four straw polls, it almost looks like conservatives are trying to win me back. (Full Straw Poll results for 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009)

In each straw poll, participants were asked which of two statements most closely matched their beliefs. They could pick either,

My most important goal is to promote individual freedom by reducing the size and scope of government and its intrusion into the lives of its citizens; or,

My most important goal is to promote traditional values by protecting traditional marriage and protecting the life of the unborn.

And the results:

2006 51% Freedom 45% Values

2007 50% Freedom 30% Values

2008 59% Freedom 22% Values

2009 74% Freedom 15% Values

Starting in 2007, the poll also asked respondents their top two issues. Combining the responses, the poll provided a good proxy of the issues priorities for conservatives. The top five for each year, in order:

2007

War on Terrorism
War in Iraq
Reduce Government Spending
Illegal Immigration
Lowering Taxes

2008

War on Terrorism
Illegal Immigration
Reduce Size of Government
War in Iraq
Reduce Government Spending

2009

Reduce Size of Government
Reduce Government Spending
War on Terrorism
Lowering Taxes
Doing away with abortion

Now, obviously a lot of this reflects the news of the day. Last week, President Obama gave us all 3.6 trillion reasons to worry about government spending. Still, it seems like a big shift toward our point of view. After all, it was only in 2006 that 37% of CPAC attendees said Americans had to sacrifice some freedoms for security.

What say you? On paper, we have a lot in common with conservatives. And, we had some good times together. But, we also had this, this and this. Is the CPAC straw poll just setting me up for another heartbreak?

Go here for Reason magazine's coverage of the conservative/libertarian split


Michael Flynn is Director of Government Affairs


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