Thursday, January 27, 2005
The statistics came from a data set on North American values collected by a Canadian polling firm over the last decade – and what they showed was that, quite simply, this country is deeply conservative and getting more so. The battle of values has been won, at least for the moment, and not by us. For instance, what percentage of Americans do you suppose would agree with the following statement: "The father of the family must be a master in his own house"?
- 1992: 42 percent of Americans agreed
- 1996: 44 percent
- 2000: 49 percent
- 2004: 52 percent
Across 105 different values – everything from "concern for appearance" and "joy of consumption" to "acceptance of violence" and "xenophobia" – they found that over the past decade, an already generally conservative country has been making a beeline in the direction of status and security. A decade ago, 30 percent of Americans thought men were naturally superior; now the number is 40 percent. No matter what you ask, be it whether "to relieve tension a little violence is OK," or "it's important that people admire things I own," the numbers show a nation almost inconceivable to your average card-carrying Sierra Clubber. A decade ago, 17 percent of Americans thought that pollution was necessary to preserve jobs; now the number is 29 percent. In 1992, 66 percent of Americans said they "discussed local problems with people in my community," a number that has since dropped to 39 percent.
In other words, the sweet notion that we still live in a world where most people more or less agree with a worldview congenial to environmentalism – and particularly to the difficult changes required to deal with global warming – is simply wrong. Dorothy, we're not in 1978 anymore. Or, as Nordhaus and Shellenberger put it, there's been a "Fundamental Political Realignment."