ND goes from one of top 10 conservative states to one of top 10 moderate states in Gallup polling
FARGO - The staunchly conservative ideology that holds sway in North Dakota appears to be mellowing into something more moderate, as measured by a tracking poll.
FARGO – The staunchly conservative ideology that holds sway in North Dakota appears to be mellowing into something more moderate, as measured by a tracking poll.
But the magnitude of any shift in political philosophy could hinge on what poll respondents meant when describing themselves as moderate, analysts said.
North Dakota ranked among the top 10 most conservative states in recent years, according to Gallup’s “State of the States” polling.
The percentage of North Dakota residents who described themselves as conservative ranged from 49 percent in 2010, when the state ranked sixth most-conservative by Gallup, to 48.6 percent in 2012, when it ranked second in a tie with Wyoming.
Then, in 2013, North Dakota respondents describing themselves as conservative dipped to 42.9 percent and the state fell out of the top 10, to 13th most-conservative in Gallup rankings.
The trend continued in 2014, when 41 percent called themselves conservative and 40.8 percent called themselves moderate.
That drift toward the ideological center was enough, in fact, for North Dakota to find itself among the top 10 moderate states in Gallup’s rankings, behind Delaware and Rhode Island and ahead of Wyoming and South Dakota.
“I think it is a fair question to say are these moderates really moderate?” said Lloyd Omdahl, a retired political science professor at the University of North Dakota. “What is a moderate?”
The confrontational conservative tea party movement is at odds with the “North Dakota nice” culture of seeking compromise, said Mark Jendrysik, a professor of political science at UND.
“You can call yourself a moderate and still be very conservative in North Dakota,” he said. “Moderate is a warm, fuzzy term” that might appeal to some more than conservative.
Liberals lag far behind conservatives and moderates in North Dakota. Last year, 13.5 percent of the Gallup poll respondents described themselves as liberal.
That gives the conservatives a 27.5 percent advantage over liberals, as gauged by Gallup, an affiliation that helps to explain the Republican Party’s stranglehold on elective statewide and legislative offices.
“Based on election results, you absolutely are seeing these two groups come together to keep the state going in the right direction,” said Jason Flohrs, executive director of the North Dakota Republican Party, referring to conservatives and moderates.
North Dakota does rank among the top 10 most solidly Republican states, according to Gallup.
Chad Oban, the executive director of the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party, said the gain among moderates is a result of extreme positions identified with conservatives in recent years.
“When you think about North Dakota, we’re not extreme on the right or left,” Oban said. “We’re pretty moderate.”
Kjersten Nelson, who teaches political science at North Dakota State University, agreed with Oban that conservative activism on certain polarizing social issues, including so-called “personhood” amendment proposals, could be a factor in the drop in respondents describing themselves as conservative.
“I think conservatism in North Dakota tends to be more libertarian than in some other states,” Nelson said.
Another possibility is the increasing population, including an influx from other states, she said.