Over the past few years, liberals have launched a campaign to call themselves “progressive” because the liberal label had earned a negative connotation. Prominently, during a Democratic presidential primary YouTube debate back in 2007, Hillary Clinton was asked whether she would describe herself as a liberal, and she responded that she preferred the term progressive. More recently, during her confirmation hearings, Elena Kagan said, “My political views are generally progressive.”
Today, Gallup released the results of a recent poll which quantifies why so many on the left have eschewed the liberal label in favor of progressive. It finds that while just 12 percent of Americans say they would describe themselves as “progressive” and 31 percent say they would not, a majority of 54 percent are unsure about the meaning of the term. Thus, by using the word to describe their politics, Democrats can send a signal to small percentage of the population that embraces the term, while it will go over the heads most people — many of whom would be uncomfortable with a politician who described themselves as liberal.