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Conservative-Leaning States Drop From 44 to 39

Conservative-Leaning States Drop From 44 to 39

Story Highlights

  • 39 states were more conservative than liberal in 2017
  • Number of conservative states down from 44 in 2016
  • Nine states now lean left, with liberals outnumbering conservatives

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- While all 50 states were right-leaning as recently as 2010, the number of net-conservative states was 44 in 2016 and dropped to 39 in 2017, with Rhode Island, California, Oregon, Maryland and Washington all scoring as net-liberal for the first time. Since 2013, Vermont and Massachusetts consistently have had more liberal than conservative identifiers. Connecticut and New York have also leaned left the past two years.

20180205_Ideology_net2@2x

Gallup measures political ideology by asking respondents whether their political views are very conservative, conservative, moderate, liberal or very liberal. Nationally, in 2017, a combined 35% of adults identified themselves as conservative and 26% as liberal, resulting in a nine-percentage-point conservative advantage. This is down from 11 points in 2016, 15 points in 2008 and 19 points in 1992, Gallup's baseline year for this measure.

With another 35% of Americans identifying as politically "moderate," neither liberals nor conservatives dominate in any state. Rather, these are minority-sized groups that affect the ideological balance of each state at the margins.

The 2017 results are based on 180,106 Gallup Daily tracking interviews conducted in the U.S. throughout the year. Interviews were conducted with at least 493 adults in every state and with 1,000 or more residents in 40 of the states. Each sample of state residents was weighted to ensure it is demographically representative of the state's adult population.

In line with the drop in conservative-leaning states, net-conservative scores have declined in all but four states since 2008 -- the first year Gallup produced state-level estimates. The three exceptions where net-conservatism has increased are Wyoming, North Dakota and Montana; Kansas remains the same.

Eight states have seen declines of at least 10 points in net conservatism since 2008: Georgia, California, Oregon, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Vermont and Delaware.

Net-Conservative Scores by State
% Conservative minus % Liberal
2008 2017 Change
U.S. average +17 +9 -8
Increased/No change
Wyoming +28 +33 +5
North Dakota +19 +24 +5
Montana +18 +21 +3
Kansas +20 +20 0
Biggest decreases
Delaware +16 0 -16
Vermont -1 -14 -13
New Mexico +19 +7 -12
Massachusetts -2 -13 -11
Maryland +10 -1 -11
Oregon +7 -3 -10
California +7 -3 -10
Georgia +25 +15 -10
Annual averages
Gallup Daily

Wyoming Still Most Conservative; Vermont, Massachusetts Still Most Liberal

Wyoming in 2017 was the most politically conservative state in the U.S. for the second consecutive year. Forty-six percent of Wyoming residents identified as conservative and 13% as liberal, yielding a net-conservative score of +33. At the other end of the spectrum, Vermont and Massachusetts were the least conservative states, with liberals outnumbering conservatives by double-digit margins.

The map below indicates how each state's net-conservative score compares with the national average of +9.

20180205_Ideologymap@2x
  • Fourteen states' net-conservative scores are within five points of the 2017 average (between +4 and +14), including the important electoral states of Pennsylvania, Virginia, Michigan, Ohio and Florida.

  • Seven states are a bit more conservative than average, with net-conservative scores ranging from +15 to +19. These are primarily in the South, with Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, Kentucky and West Virginia among them. Alaska (West) and Missouri (Midwest) are the exceptions to the Southern makeup of this group.

  • Fifteen states -- scattered throughout the South, Midwest and West -- make up a highly conservative group, with net-conservative scores of +20 or higher. With the exception of Tennessee, these are generally small states by population, including Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana, which all rank among the 10 least populous.

  • Five states -- Illinois, Colorado, New Jersey, Delaware and Hawaii -- have scores that are less conservative than average.

  • Nine states are more liberal than conservative. Within this group, Maryland, Washington and Connecticut barely lean that way, while Massachusetts and Vermont have double-digit liberal advantages.

The full set of 2017 ideology figures for each state is available for review here.

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Ideology Map Similar to Party ID, but Some Differences

The 2017 net-conservative state rankings largely correspond with how the states rank from most to least Republican.

However, a few states rank significantly higher on the net-conservative list than they do on the net-Republican list. These are Alaska, Idaho, Arizona and Oregon. A handful of other states -- Mississippi, North Carolina, Louisiana and Arkansas -- rank significantly lower on net-conservatism than they do on net-Republicanism.

Bottom Line

As the U.S. political landscape shifted slightly left in 2017, net-conservatism within most states also fell. In the process, the most and least conservative states remained largely the same, but a few states fell out of the net-conservative column for the first time.

Nationally, conservatism was on the lower end in 2017 after varying in a narrow range over the past two decades, while liberalism has steadily increased. What happens next isn't highly predictable, except to say that it may partly depend on how Americans view the leader of the party most associated with political conservatives -- Republican President Donald Trump. His subpar job approval rating in 2017 may have starved conservatism of the political fuel needed to thrive while helping to feed liberalism.

However, bigger forces are also at work, including demographics -- with younger liberal adults replacing older conservatives in the population -- as well as increasing support for liberal positions on same-sex marriage, marijuana legalization and a host of other social issues possibly changing how some Americans define their broader ideological and political views.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 20-Dec. 30, 2017, on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with a random sample of 180,106 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point at the 95% confidence level.

Margins of error for individual states are no greater than ±6 percentage points and are ±3 percentage points in most states. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% cellphone respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

Learn more about how the Gallup U.S. Daily works.

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