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Archive for Thursday, February 8, 1996

BROWNBACK MAPS KU POLITICAL SPECTRUM

February 8, 1996

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Kansas' 2nd District congressman was surprised a bit Wednesday by results of his impromptu poll at KU.

Taking chalk in hand, U.S. Rep. Sam Brownback wrote the words "Liberal" and "Conservative" on opposite ends of the chalkboard.

As about 300 Kansas University students in the Wescoe lecture hall looked on, Brownback chalked a long line between the two terms.

There is a wide spectrum between the two philosophies, he told the "Introduction to U.S. Politics" class.

To demonstrate, Brownback, a conservative Republican from Topeka, started at the Liberal end of his chalked line.

He asked students who shared the liberal philosophy -- of wanting more government involvement to solve social ills -- to raise their hands. A few hands went up around the room.

As he moved to the center, many more hands went up. And as he moved closer to the Conservative side -- those who want the government to stay out of their lives -- many more hands went up. Only a smattering of students claimed to be hard-line conservative.

"I think most people in America are fiscal conservatives and social moderates," he said.

The problem is that it's hard to find middle ground on issues like abortion or on the death penalty, he said.

"We've got so much divisiveness, and it centers on social issues," he said.

Brownback speculated that if a similar poll were taken in a classroom during the 1970s, many more of the students would have been on the liberal side.

"There are more hard liberals than hard conservatives here," he said. "But it's nowhere near like what it was in the mid-'70s. So the American political landscape has changed."

That's part of the reason for the new Republican majority in Congress, after 40 years in the hands of Democrats.

"Part of the shift is the merging of fiscal and social conservatives," he said.

After his talk, Brownback said he was a little surprised by his poll.

"College students are still a little more liberal than what I thought they would be," he said. "It was interesting that when we did the spectrum, it was pretty evenly split all the way across."

Older voters in his district are more conservative, he said.

"Sixty-five percent would say, `I'm someplace to the right of center,'" he said.

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