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Evergreeners vs. Beaverites

Menzel TOM

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Listen up here all you liberal Evergreeners. It’s time to get back into the ring and fight! I know you’re a bit bruised and bloodied by the news, but you can still win this battle if you just do the right thing (actually, the left thing).

In case you haven’t heard the news, Washington The State came in an embarrassing sixth place in the battle for liberal supremacy in these United States, according to the infallible Gallup Organization. (Check it out: Not only that, but we had to share the sixth spot with Rhode Island, a state about the size of Franklin County where you can’t yet marry your same-sex sweetheart and you can only smoke weed legally with a prescription. Talk about demeaning.

But this story gets even worse. For crying out loud, we got beat by the Beaver State, which stands alone in the No. 3 position right behind The Other Washington and Massachusetts. (Slipping in at No. 4 is Vermont, followed by Delaware and Connecticut in a tie for fifth.) I’ll get to Idaho in a minute.

So what gives here? In Oregon they’re OK with weed, but still don’t allow same-sex marriage. Just a couple of months ago Evergreeners approved same-sex marriage and recreational pot simultaneously. We partied in the streets like it was New Years. Shouldn’t that catapult Washington into the No. 3 spot, at least? Nope, it doesn’t work that way. This isn’t an issue-driven poll. It’s about our perceptions of ourselves.

You see, Gallup called nearly 212,000 people in all 50 states and DC throughout 2012 and asked responders to “self-identify” their ideology. During that phone call you could admit to being conservative, moderate or liberal, which, of course, could depend on your mood on the day of the phone call. This is social science, not rocket science. Give Oregonians credit for feeling a teeny bit more liberal on the day of the Gallup phone call.

However, the numbers for both states pretty much break evenly into one-third portions for each category. While Oregonians claimed to be more liberal than Washingtonians by a 1% margin (29.3 to 28.3%), they said they were more conservative by a whopping 0.1% margin (33 to 32.9%). Evergreeners, meanwhile, felt a tad more moderate than the Beaverites on the day of the Gallup call (36% to 35.1), if you ignore the margin of error.

Liberals in both states shouldn’t get too giddy about their lofty national ranking. They still must cope with an underlying “conservative advantage,” which Gallup defines as “the percentage conservative minus the percentage liberal in each state.” In Oregon, conservatives have a 3.7-percent advantage. In Washington it’s 4.6. Gallup says that, overall, Americans in 2012 remained slightly more likely to call themselves conservative (38%) than moderate (36%) or liberal (23%), “a pattern that reflects the general consistency in ideological self-reports over recent years.”

But back to Oregon vs. Washington for a moment. When you come right down to it, these numbers could easily be bent in any direction you desire. Gallup points out that the margins of error for this annual poll are ±3% percentage points in most states, so go ahead and add or subtract a few points from any of the three categories as you see fit – whatever makes you feel better. This is a classic win-win for all of us.

Oh, by the way, if you add up the percentages for all three categories you’ll find that 2.6% of poll respondents in Oregon and 2.8% in Washington don’t think they fit into any of the three categories – or just plain don’t give a damn. My kind of people.

Finally, what about those intrepid liberals in Idaho? It should come as no surprise that the Gem State stayed true to its colors (better red than dead), proudly claiming its place as the seventh most conservative state at 47.1%. You’ll find a few friends in Idaho if you’re a moderate (32.6%), but you could get pretty lonely at times as a liberal (17%). Conservatives in Idaho who are bummed out by the seventh place finish can take heart, however. The margin of error could very well vault the state toward the top of the conservative heap, which is led by Alabama at 50.6%.

Tom Menzel, of Hansville, Washington, is a communications consultant, community volunteer and former newspaper editor.

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