In a poll we completed among self-identified conservatives just before the 2010 elections,“efficient” and “effective” government clearly beat “less” and “smaller” government. For conservatives, this debate is less about size than about results, along with a demand that elected officials demonstrate accountability and respect for the taxpayer, regardless of whether they’re spending $1 million or $1 trillion. They are rallying behind the budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) not simply because it cuts the size of government, but because it cultivates accountability.
It used to be that conservatives supported smaller government on theoretical grounds: The bigger the government, the smaller the citizen; government should only do for people what they truly cannot do for themselves; government isn’t the solution, it is the problem. You’ve heard such comments from conservatives, and they’re the mantra of the tea party movement. They’re still part of conservative orthodoxy — which is why Republican candidates invoke them — but the underlying conservative belief system is shifting.
2. Conservatives want to deport all illegal immigrants.
Conservatives don’t want to round up all the illegal immigrants and deport them. They believe in the American dreamand understand that immigrants built our country. That’s why conservatives embrace legal immigration. A solid majority believe that there should be an eventual path to earned legal status.
According to our polling in November, seven in 10 conservatives agree with the following statement: “America’s immigration policy should consist of tall fences and wide gates. We need to aggressively prevent illegal immigration, but let those stay that have worked hard and demonstrated a real, measurable commitment to this country through military or public service.”
Yes, conservatives want effective border control right away. And more than 80 percent are dissatisfied with America’s immigration system. But only a tiny fraction would support a shortsighted (and fiscally unfeasible) blanket policy of deporting the illegal immigrants already here.
3. They worship Wall Street.
While the left may perceive and portray the right as a bunch of greedy Gordon Gekkos, the truth is that conservatives are highly critical of Wall Street and wholeheartedly celebrate Main Street. The business leaders that conservatives respect most are entrepreneurs, not chief executives; conservatives value small-business owners above big bankers.
In a poll I conducted early this year, I asked conservatives whom they most trusted to get our country on the right economic track. By nearly two to one, they chose small-business owners over corporate America (only “political leaders” did worse). They believe that our economy will be rebuilt by hard work on Main Street, not by book-cooking on Wall Street.