skip to main content

Trump Seen as Less Conservative Than Prior GOP Candidates

Trump Seen as Less Conservative Than Prior GOP Candidates
by Justin McCarthy

Story Highlights

  • 47% say Trump is conservative -- less than Romney, McCain and Bush
  • Voters split on Trump being more conservative, liberal than they are
  • Nearly one in five registered voters describe Trump as liberal

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Donald Trump's political views, in the eyes of U.S. registered voters, are the least conservative of GOP presidential candidates in recent history. About six in 10 registered voters have viewed recent Republican nominees as conservative or very conservative, with George W. Bush's 68% in 2004 the highest. Trump stands out from the rest of the group with less than half of voters (47%) describing him as conservative or very conservative.

Voters' Views of Republican Presidential Candidates, 1992-2016
How would you describe the political views of [candidate]: very liberal, liberal, moderate, conservative or very conservative?
Total liberal Moderate Total conservative
% % %
2016
Views of Donald Trump 19 22 47
2012
Views of Mitt Romney 11 21 60
2008
Views of John McCain 9 26 62
2004
Views of George W. Bush 8 18 68
1992
Views of George H.W. Bush 9 20 59
Gallup

These results come from a Sept. 14-18 Gallup poll, conducted prior to last week's presidential debate. Respondents were asked to describe the presidential candidates' views as "very liberal," "liberal," "moderate," "conservative" or "very conservative." Gallup has asked voters to rate the presidential candidates and themselves using the same five-point ideology scale in most presidential elections since 1992.

The 58% of voters describing Hillary Clinton's views as liberal or very liberal is similar to Barack Obama's 60% in 2012 and 62% in 2008. Voters were somewhat less likely to perceive John Kerry in 2004 (48%) and Bill Clinton in 1992 (42%) as liberal.

Voters' Views of Democratic Presidential Candidates, 1992-2016
How would you describe the political views of [candidate]: very liberal, liberal, moderate, conservative or very conservative?
Total liberal Moderate Total conservative
% % %
2016
Views of Hillary Clinton 58 25 12
2012
Views of Barack Obama 60 22 12
2008
Views of Barack Obama 62 24 11
2004
Views of John Kerry 48 32 15
1992
Views of Bill Clinton 42 32 15
Gallup

Nearly One in Five Voters Describe Trump as Liberal

While about half of registered voters describe Trump as conservative or very conservative, 22% describe him as moderate and 19% as liberal or very liberal.

Roughly equal proportions of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (51%) and Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (47%) perceive the GOP candidate's views as conservative or very conservative. At the same time, Republicans and Republican leaners (33%) are three times as likely as Democrats and Democratic leaners (11%) to describe Trump as a moderate.

About one in five registered voters say Trump is liberal or very liberal, including 16% of Republicans and 21% of Democrats.

Voters' Perceptions of Donald Trump's Political Views, by Party ID
How would you describe the political views of Donald Trump: very liberal, liberal, moderate, conservative or very conservative?
All voters Republicans/Leaners Democrats/Leaners
% % %
Very liberal 8 3 12
Liberal 11 13 9
Moderate 22 33 11
Conservative 31 38 26
Very conservative 16 9 25
Gallup, Sept. 14-18, 2016

Perceptions that Trump is liberal could be related to his former left-leaning stances on issues such as abortion, gun rights and healthcare. His current views on trade often align with liberal economists. It's worth noting that while only 5% of registered voters don't have an opinion on the ideology of Clinton's political views, 12% have no opinion on Trump's views.

About Six in 10 Voters Say Clinton Is Liberal

U.S. voters are most likely to describe Clinton as liberal (31%) or very liberal (27%). One in four consider her a political moderate (25%), while much smaller percentages describe her as conservative (9%) or very conservative (3%).

Perceptions of Clinton's ideology differ sharply by voters' partisan identification or leanings. More than three-quarters of registered voters who identify as Republicans or as Republican-leaning independents (77%) describe Clinton as liberal or very liberal, compared with 41% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents.

And while few Republicans and Republican leaners describe Clinton as either conservative or very conservative (6%), a sizable minority of Democrats and Democratic leaners (17%) describe Clinton's political views this way.

Voters' Perceptions of Hillary Clinton's Political Views, by Party ID
How would you describe the political views of Hillary Clinton: very liberal, liberal, moderate, conservative or very conservative?
All voters Republicans/Leaners Democrats/Leaners
% % %
Very liberal 27 49 6
Liberal 31 28 35
Moderate 25 10 40
Conservative 9 4 13
Very conservative 3 2 4
Gallup, Sept. 14-18, 2016

Half of Voters Say Clinton Is More Liberal Than They Are

While about half of registered voters describe Clinton's political views as "a lot more liberal" or "somewhat more liberal" than their own, they are divided as to whether Trump is more conservative (35%) or more liberal (31%) than they are.

One in four Americans describe themselves as very liberal (8%) or liberal (17%), while more than one in three say their political views are moderate (37%). Thirty-six percent describe their political views as conservative, including 9% who say they are very conservative.

Gallup combined voters' self-reported ideology and their ratings of the candidates to compute political difference scores indicating how each candidate compares with the respondent's own political views.

Voters' Political Views vs. Those of Presidential Candidates
Figures are computed by combining registered voters' self-reported ideology with their ratings of the ideology of each candidate.
Hillary Clinton Donald Trump
% %
A lot more liberal than self 34 13
Somewhat more liberal 15 18
Same views 24 22
Somewhat more conservative 15 14
A lot more conservative than self 6 21
No opinion/Undesignated 5 12
Gallup, Sept. 14-18, 2016

Bottom Line

Clinton is slightly more likely than Trump to represent the ideology often associated with each candidate's respective party, as 58% consider her a liberal versus 47% calling Trump a conservative. At the same time, slightly more voters consider Trump a liberal than call Clinton a conservative. As a result, the two receive about equal ratings as "moderates."

When comparing these perceptions with voters' own political views, similar proportions of voters -- between 22% and 24% -- place themselves and the candidate at the same point on the left-right ideological continuum. Nearly half of voters place Clinton to the left of themselves, while smaller, similar proportions put Trump to the left and to the right of their own views.

Trump stands out more from a historical perspective, however, as he is less likely to be considered a conservative than any other recent Republican presidential candidate.

Meanwhile, Clinton -- who has been accused by some on the left of not being liberal enough -- will have to work to win over those who may feel her views are too far to the left of their own. However, perceptions of Clinton as being liberal are about the same as the man she hopes to succeed as president.

Historical data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Sept. 14-18, 2016, with a random sample of 931 registered voters, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of registered voters, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

Gallup


Gallup http://news.gallup.com/poll/196064/trump-seen-less-conservative-prior-gop-candidates.aspx
Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030