Albion Monitor /News

Liberal Demos Favored Over Moderates

by Jeff Elliott

95% of liberal incumbents won, compared to 74% of moderates

Although many claimed after the 1994 elections that Democrats lost because they were too liberal, a new study suggests the opposite -- that being a liberal incumbent enhanced a candidate's chance of winning that year.

The statistical analysis, produced by two professors at Manchester College in Indiana, found that 95 percent of liberal incumbents won reelection, compared to 74 percent of moderate Democrats seeking another term.

Comparing both Democratic moderates and liberals who won in 1994, the study found that the liberals also won by a greater margin. A full 35 percent of liberals enjoyed strong support from voters, while only 9 percent of moderates won easily.

Conventional wisdom debunked

These conclusions surprised the researchers, who did not expect to find such strong support for liberal politicians in a year when Republicans claimed that the voters had given them a mandate.

"Our goal was to look at what happened in 1994 and see if there was any correlation in political ideology, says Leonard Williams, a professor of history and political science at the college. "I was skeptical, but I'm now convinced that conventional wisdom isn't all that wise."

Also, says Williams, it is ironic that the report was completed at a time when the Democratic Leadership Council, as well as former Clinton advisor James Carville, are telling Democratic candidates that they must sound like Republicans to win 1996 elections. "Our findings suggest that there's another side. Especially at the Congressional level, people are more appreciative of liberal candidates."

Williams and co-author Neil Wollman, who has written on the application of psychology to the political process, also found their research debunked another popular notion: that liberal Democrats win only in "safe" districts, and moderate ones in "marginal" districts. In areas without strong Democratic party allegiance, 85 percent of liberals won reelection, compared to 43 percent of the moderates.

The researchers used ratings by the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) to determine whether a candidate was liberal, moderate, or conservative. To be considered liberal, a score of 76 or higher was required.

Also found by the team was that the 15 percent of Democrats rated as conservative even won more often than moderates. Says Williams, "Maybe this means, at least for Democrats, 'moderation in all things' is not necessarily a wise policy when seeking re-election to the U.S. Congress."

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Albion Monitor March 30, 1996 (

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