Poll: Majority Of Americans Not Quite Sure What ‘Progressive’ Means

For years, pundits and politicians on the left have been calling themselves “progressives” to avoid the apparent stigma of the word “liberal.” But a USA Today/Gallup poll released today indicates that a majority of Americans still aren’t sure what “progressive” really means.

According to the poll, 54% percent of adults are unsure if the word “progressive” describes their political views. Fifty-seven percent of self-identified liberals, 65% of moderates, and 45% of conservatives just don’t know if the word aptly characterizes their political outlook.Gallup notes that although the term is becoming more popular in national politics, relatively few Americans embrace it. While 12% of adults nationwide say “progressive” describes their views, 31% say it doesn’t. Twenty-six percent of liberals, 11% of moderates, and 7% of conservatives say “progressive” describes their politics. By contrast, 17% of liberals, 23% of moderates, and 48% of conservatives say the word isn’t a good fit.

The USA Today/Gallup poll also finds that self-described “progressives” vary widely in their understanding of the term. While 45% of “progressives” separately identify as “liberal” or “very liberal,” a full 32% identify themselves as “moderate,” and 22% identify as “conservative” or “very conservative.”

For progressives — the liberal kind — this confusion may come with a silver lining. As Gallup points out, the word has avoided being “pigeonholed,” and the scant opposition it receives from political moderates may indicate that, unlike “liberal,” it hasn’t become a dirty word.

The poll, which surveyed 1,014 adults, was conducted June 11-13. Its margin of error is ±4.0.