No new news: the economy remains the central issue in politics at every level: local, state and national. Winning elected office in 2012 requires a finely tuned understanding of where a particular electorate stands on fiscal issues. Success also means avoiding the zero-sum game. Winning a higher percentage of a small ideological group might not get the job done. Attaining or retaining office could be a matter of earning the vote of a smaller percentage of a large ideological group.

In 2012, understanding the numbers around fiscal ideology across the spectrum from Conservative to Liberal has never been more important. Some would say there is no spectrum, just two opposing camps: Conservatives and Liberals.

We’ve monitored the values of the electorate through a fair number of election cycles. Like most we look at voters across the spectrum from Liberal to Moderate and Conservative. More important today we dive deeper to uncover values surrounding fiscal and social issues. The nightly news attests to the health and vigor of Fiscal Conservatives and Social Liberals. Now in November 2011, it’s hard to believe there are any Moderates worth mentioning or that those who stand in the middle will move to the voting booth.

We think differently. Since November 2010 there has been a shift away from both Fiscal Conservative and Fiscal Liberal positions. Values around the economy are on the move.It’s time to meet this new, unknown group of potential voters: the Fiscal Moderates.1

Fiscal Ideology Comparison  2010 vs. 2011

Fiscal Moderates

Source: Resonate Surveys 2010 and 2011

We aren’t going to waste time on the possible reasons American citizens re-think their positions. We leave that to the pundits. We are just the folks with the facts.

What does the rise of the Fiscal Moderate mean to politicians? Again, let’s just concentrate on the numbers.The number of Fiscal Moderates looks remarkably close to the number of Fiscal Conservatives even possibly a few more. We are talking the difference between 68 million Fiscal Conservatives to 67 mllion Fiscal Moderates and less than 30 mllion Fiscal Liberals. The meaning of those numbers is simple: more people means more potential votes and that equals importance to political campaigns.

Some strategists suggest that Moderates in general don’t care enough to vote in the numbers needed to count in an election.Thus, their traditional focus has been on energizing the base. Humm, for todays Fiscal Moderates, maybe not so much?

Voter Participation by Fiscal Ideology

Resonate Surveys 2010 and 2011

Source: Resonate Survey September 2011

These new Fiscal Moderates are not the same Moderates that strategists have felt free to ignore, 79% of over 70 million people is a number difficult to discount. This year they actively changed their position and their inclination to vote. Gone is the traditional explanation for Moderate voter apathy. While disenchanted with previous ideologies they are not frozen in place. More than a few will bring the intensity of their former ideological allegiances to their new Fiscal Moderate position.

It seems illogical and foolhardy to assume that  these voters won’t be able to find their local polling place. A high likelihood they’ve been there in the past.

The math shows that Fiscally Liberal candidates need to attract a strong number of Moderates to win, while Fiscally Conservative candidates can’t afford to ignore them, though their needs are much smaller. It is safe to say that a candidate who consistently flies the Fiscally Moderate flag, would have significant advantages over a Fiscally Conservative or Liberal candidate.

Everyone give a big HELLO to the new Fiscal Moderates: a group of voters who shifted their ideological position on the most important issue in the 2012 campaign. The new Fiscal Moderate may be as much a nightmare for a political strategist as his/her own candidate’s latest gaff. They are Moderates who may actually go to the polls and there are quite a lot of them. Figuring out why they shifted and what they need to hear from a candidate should score high on every campaign’s MUST DO TO WIN list.

You may remember our whitepaper Ideology Matters that we released in 2010 which this blog is a follow up to.

1Fiscal ideology is self-identified within the Resonate sample