- 38% say they are conservative on social issues, up from 33% last year
- Highest percentage saying they are socially conservative since 2012
- 44% say they are economically conservative, also highest since 2012
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- More Americans this year (38%) say they are very conservative or conservative on social issues than said so in 2022 (33%) and 2021 (30%). At the same time, the percentage saying their social views are very liberal or liberal has dipped to 29% from 34% in each of the past two years, while the portion identifying as moderate (31%) remains near a third.
The last time this many Americans said they were socially conservative was 2012, during a period when consistently more U.S. adults identified as conservative rather than liberal on social issues.
The results are based on Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs survey, conducted May 1-24. The survey comes at a time when many states are considering policies regarding transgender matters, abortion, crime, drug use and the teaching of gender and sexuality in schools.
The increase in conservative identification on social issues over the past two years is seen among nearly all political and demographic subgroups. Republicans show one of the largest increases, from 60% in 2021 to 74% today. Independents show a modest uptick of five percentage points, from 24% to 29%, while there has been no change among Democrats (10% in both 2021 and 2023).
Since 2021, there have been double-digit increases in conservative social ideology among middle-aged adults -- those between the ages of 30 and 64. At the same time, older Americans’ ideology on social issues has been stable, while there has been a modest increase in conservative social ideology among young adults.
Economic Conservatism Also Ticks Up
When Americans are asked to describe their views on economic issues, 44% identify as very conservative or conservative, 33% moderate and 21% very liberal or liberal. The percentage saying they are conservative averaged 40% between 2020 and 2022. The current figure is the highest since 46% in 2012.
Americans have consistently been more likely to say they are conservative on economic issues rather than liberal, by no fewer than 16 percentage points (in 2021).
During the poll’s field period, President Joe Biden and Congress debated legislation to raise the federal debt ceiling and cut federal spending.
Americans have been more likely to identify as economically conservative rather than liberal because Republicans overwhelmingly say they are conservative, but Democrats are not overwhelmingly liberal. In 2023, 79% of Republicans identify as conservative on economic issues, while 48% of Democrats say they are liberal. Additionally, more independents identify as economic conservatives (36%) than liberals (16%). About half of independents say they are moderate on economic matters.
Partisans’ ideology on economic issues has been steady in recent years. The modest shifts in economic ideology among national adults are instead driven by slight changes in political party identification among U.S. adults (from an average 29% Republican, 32% Democratic in the 2020 and 2021 surveys to 30% Republican and 29% Democratic in the 2023 survey).
For most of the past eight years, Americans were about as likely to say they were liberal as conservative on social issues. This year, there is a more obvious conservative advantage. The shift is mostly due to increasing social conservatism among Republicans, at a time when social issues such as transgender rights, abortion and other hot-button concerns are prominent in the national public debate.
Greater social conservatism may be fostering an environment more favorable to passing conservative-leaning social legislation, especially in Republican-dominated states. Indeed, in the past year, many Republican states have passed stricter constraints on abortions, limited choices for transgender youth in sports participation and healthcare, and placed prohibitions on what topics can be discussed in classroom settings.
Americans remain more likely to say they are conservative on economic issues. When asked to describe their political views overall, without reference to social or economic issues, 40% say they have conservative views, 31% moderate and 26% liberal. Overall ideological identification, thus, is less conservative than it is for economic issues but more conservative than for social issues, though closer to the social issue figures.
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