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Conservatives Dominate Republican Party, Skew Older

Conservatives Dominate Republican Party, Skew Older

Editor's note: This is an updated version of the original story which incorrectly stated that "independents who lean Republican" were included in the Republican group; they are not.

PRINCETON, NJ -- Gallup Daily tracking thus far in 2010 finds 18% of Republicans describing their political views as very conservative and 53% as conservative while 29% are moderate or liberal.

Political Views of Republicans -- Very Conservative, Conservative, Moderate, Liberal, or Very Liberal, Jan. 2-Sept. 23, 2010

There are few demographic differences between Republicans who call themselves "very conservative" and those identifying as simply "conservative." However, both conservative groups differ significantly by religious identification and by age from moderate and liberal Republicans, more so than on any other demographic characteristic analyzed.

Seventy-three percent of very conservative Republicans are Protestant, as are 66% of conservative Republicans. In contrast, 59% of moderate/liberal Republicans are Protestant. Moderate/Liberal Republicans are also more likely than conservatives to have no religious affiliation.

Age separates conservative and moderate/liberal Republicans as well. Forty-three percent of very conservative Republicans and 42% of conservative Republicans are 55 or older, compared with 34% of moderate/liberal Republicans. A relatively small 16% of very conservative Republicans are aged 18 to 34, compared with 27% of moderate/liberal Republicans.

Demographic Makeup of Republicans, by Political Ideology -- Religion and Age, Jan. 2-Sept. 23, 2010

These findings are based on an aggregate of Gallup Daily tracking data collected thus far in 2010, and encompass interviews with more than 78,000 Republicans nationwide.

Related to the age and religious differences between the different Republican factions, Gallup finds conservative Republicans much more likely than moderate/liberal Republicans to say religion is very important in their lives, and to say they attend their church or other place of worship weekly. In fact, those who are very conservative are nearly twice as likely as moderates/liberals to attend weekly -- 61% vs. 32% -- with conservatives falling about midway between the two, at 46%. This relationship between religiosity and conservative political values is as strong within the Republican Party as it is among Americans more generally.

Conservative Republicans are also generally more likely to be white and male than their moderate/liberal counterparts. And very conservative Republicans are more likely to live in the South -- 40% of them do -- than are conservatives (36%) and moderates/liberals (33%).

Demographic Makeup of Republicans, by Political Ideology -- Race, Gender, and Geographic Region, Jan. 2-Sept. 23, 2010


As reported on earlier this year, the conservative bloc may be growing in influence in the Republican Party. Whereas 62% of core Republicans called themselves conservative in 2000, the figure has been 70% or higher each year since 2008, including 71% thus far in 2010 (through Sept. 23). That exceeds the 67% Gallup found in 2006 and the 62% in 2002 -- the last two midterm election years.

Among Republicans today, conservatives are more likely to be Protestant, much more likely to be religious, and are, on average, older than moderate/liberal Republicans. They also consist more heavily of men, whites, and those living in the South -- but the differences here are not as pronounced.

In that voter turnout is generally much greater among middle-aged and older Americans than among younger adults, it is likely that conservative (and religious) Republicans have had an even greater voice in Republican Party primaries this year than their numbers suggest. Coupled with the expanded proportion of conservatives within the Republican ranks over the past decade, this may help explain the success of several Tea Party-backed GOP candidates this year against establishment Republicans. It also highlights the turnout advantage conservatives will likely have in the upcoming general elections.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking Jan. 2-Sept. 23, 2010, with a random sample of 262,075 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is less than ±1 percentage point.

For results based on the total sample of 78,556 Republicans, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is less than ±1 percentage point.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each daily sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, cell phone-only status, cell phone-mostly status, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2009 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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