“Conservatives” Are Single-Largest Ideological Group
Percentage of “liberals” higher this decade than in early ’90s by Lydia Saad
PRINCETON, NJ -- Thus far in 2009, 40% of Americans interviewed in national Gallup Poll surveys describe their political views as conservative, 35% as moderate, and 21% as liberal. This represents a slight increase for conservatism in the U.S. since 2008, returning it to a level last seen in 2004. The 21% calling themselves liberal is in line with findings throughout this decade, but is up from the 1990s.
These annual figures are based on multiple national Gallup surveys conducted each year, in some cases encompassing more than 40,000 interviews. The 2009 data are based on 10 separate surveys conducted from January through May. Thus, the margins of error around each year's figures are quite small, and changes of only two percentage points are statistically significant.
To measure political ideology, Gallup asks Americans to say whether their political views are very conservative, conservative, moderate, liberal, or very liberal. As has been the case each year since 1992, very few Americans define themselves at the extremes of the political spectrum. Just 9% call themselves "very conservative" and 5% "very liberal." The vast majority of self-described liberals and conservatives identify with the unmodified form of their chosen label.
There is an important distinction in the respective ideological compositions of the Republican and Democratic Parties. While a solid majority of Republicans are on the same page -- 73% call themselves conservative -- Democrats are more of a mixture. The major division among Democrats is between self-defined moderates (40%) and liberals (38%). However, an additional 22% of Democrats consider themselves conservative, much higher than the 3% of Republicans identifying as liberal.
True to their nonpartisan tendencies, close to half of political independents -- 45% -- describe their political views as "moderate." Among the rest, the balance of views is tilted more heavily to the right than to the left: 34% are conservative, while 20% are liberal.
Gallup trends show a slight increase since 2008 in the percentages of all three party groups calling themselves "conservative," which accounts for the three percentage-point increase among the public at large.