Conservatives Outnumber Liberals in 49 of 50 States

Mississippi is more conservative than Massachusetts is liberal.

Annie Lowrey tweets,”Thing I learned today: Most-liberal D.C. is not as liberal as most-conservative Mississippi is conservative.”

She links to a Gallup survey from February headlined “Mississippi Most Conservative State, D.C. Most Liberal.“ The topline results:

So, yes, the states that we naturally think of as “conservative” all contain majorities or near-majorities who self-identify as “conservative” whereas even the most liberal states register only a quarter who self-identify as “liberal.”

But that’s hardly surprising.  Going back at least three decades, “liberal” has been something of a dirty word. Indeed, liberals now mostly eschew the label altogether, preferring instead to resurrect the term “progressive” from a century ago.  How far does this go?

Only in the District of Columbia and Massachusetts did liberals outnumber conservatives.

That’s pretty stunning; but it likely tells us as much about labeling as ideology. Additionally, though, there’s the religiosity factor. While DC’s African American population is the most reliable Democratic voting bloc in the country, a huge chunk of them are avid church goers and Alabama-level conservative on some of the social issues, notably such hot button issues as gay marriage.

FILED UNDER: Public Opinion Polls, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. TooManyJens says:

    Going back at least three decades, “liberal” has been something of a dirty word.

    Decades of smears and lies about how liberals hate families and America, and are objectively pro-terrorist, and want to take your money and give it to “those” people will do that.

  2. SKI says:

    It is also more complicated than a simple label.

    For example, I am a fiscal conservative – which is why I typically support the Democrats who actually make some efforts to pay for spending rather than the Republicans who believe, against all fact, reason and experience, that tax cuts magically pay for themselves.

    Well that and I am decidedly not a social conservative that wants to use government to control other people’s morality…

  3. al-Ameda says:

    There you go, the term “liberal” is still a pejorative.

    For the record, California is 25% “liberal” yet not one statewide government position is held by a Republican (i.e. “conservative.)

  4. Rob in CT says:

    Ah, yes, self-identification using fuzzy words.

    Of course, if you look at polls on issue positions, all of a sudden the public is magically far more liberal.

  5. bk says:

    You made a mistake when you chose headlines for your posts. THIS is the “misleading chart of the day”.

  6. A says:

    @bk:

    Haha. I was just coming to say that.

  7. Kylopod says:

    I’ve discussed this topic so many times that I finally did a whole post about it earlier this year. I brought up the phenomenon of “liberal” being treated as a dirty word, but I believe there’s more to it than that. Here is the post:

    http://kylopod.blogspot.com/2012/02/americas-liberalism-and-gop-propaganda.html

  8. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Well, this dichotomy itself is misleading. A lot people who self-identify as “liberal” are not actually liberal nor “progressive,” many of whom, if you went over issues with them line item by line item, and perhaps to their shock and amazement, are well to the right of center. Hell, even actual liberals are not really all that liberal, if their own businesses, their own families, their own wallets, their own neighborhoods, their own school systems, their own taxes, their own investments, are at issue. Then there’s the obvious fact that liberals at age 20 can and often do grow up to be conservatives by or before age 40. Very few adults out there sufficiently are detached from reality to be liberals for all purposes. We’re talking about a fringe of a fringe.

    On the issues alone this is a very conservative country. Always has been. Always will be. But there is a colossal disconnect between the issue-based opinions of the electorate and pure partisan politics. The Democrat Party label attracts an enormous number of reflexive votes. Largely that’s a function of tradition, identity politics and the biased national media.

  9. Nikki says:

    While DC’s African American population is the most reliable Democratic voting bloc in the country, a huge chunk of them are avid church goers and Alabama-level conservative on some of the social issues, notably such hot button issues as gay marriage.

    Which goes to show just how (stupid? greedy? power-hungry? racist?) the Republican party is in its willingness to demonize those who are really its ideological brothers.

  10. James Joyner says:

    @bk: Well, in fairness, this is actually a misleading chart from February. I just hadn’t seen it until it got tweeted.

    @Nikki: I’ve made the argument for years that black and white social conservatives should be a united force. And, occasionally, they are (I recall a statewide referendum on an Alabama lottery years ago). But I think a combination of inertia and positions on some tangential issues makes it next to impossible to change courses in the near term.

  11. Rob in CT says:

    On the issues alone this is a very conservative country.

    Can you actually back this up with issue position poll data? Because everything I’ve seen suggests a population that is significantly more liberal than conservatives believe (if also more conservative than liberals would like).

  12. Rafer Janders says:

    On the issues alone this is a very conservative country.

    Cite please? Some statistical back-up for this completely unsourced assertion?

  13. Rafer Janders says:

    On the issues alone this is a very conservative country.

    Which is why the conservative candidate has lost the popular vote in four out of five of the last presidential elections, with the upcoming election looking to make it five out of six.

  14. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    But I think a combination of inertia and positions on some tangential issues makes it next to impossible to change courses in the near term.

    Sure, that’s what’s causing it. It’s inertia, not racism. Absolutely.

  15. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Sure, that’s what’s causing it. It’s inertia, not racism. Absolutely.

    Heh.

  16. Even my definition of “liberal” (which I consider myself) is vastly different than what is normally accepted. My definition involves a lot more liberty than the Bloomberg crowd.

  17. James in LA says:

    Talkaboutcher nothing burgers. Next we’ll be told that the grass is green and Mitt Romney loves money.

  18. An Interested Party says:

    Very few adults out there sufficiently are detached from reality to be liberals for all purposes. We’re talking about a fringe of a fringe.

    And yet, you have shown yourself to be detached from reality and existing as a fringe of a fringe but you aren’t liberal…what’s your excuse?

    On the issues alone this is a very conservative country.

    Uh-huh…try to end Social Security and Medicare and see how “conservative” the people of this country supposedly are…try to actually balance the budget by having real spending cuts and real tax increases and see how “conservative” the people of this country supposedly are…some continue to live in a fantasy world where this is supposedly a “center-right” country and yet, the facts tell a different story…as someone upthread mentioned, this country is neither as conservative nor as liberal as many would like it to be…

  19. bk says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    The Democrat Party label

    Listen to Rush much?

  20. PJ says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Which is why the conservative candidate has lost the popular vote in four out of five of the last presidential elections, with the upcoming election looking to make it five out of six.

    Add to that that the people who vote are more conservative than those who don’t.
    So, the country as a whole is less conservative than those voting.

  21. al-Ameda says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    The Democrat Party label attracts an enormous number of reflexive votes. Largely that’s a function of tradition, identity politics and the biased national media.

    The Democrat Party gets no support, is the subject of no media bias, and does not exist.

    The Democratic Party gets no more reflexive votes than does the Republican Party. As for media bias? That’s a common conservative complaint, but what else is new, conservatives are the most victimized people in America.

  22. bill says:

    @Nikki: nobody demonizes any race, the “black vote” et al can’t seem to get past the entitlement crowd and vote their conscience. blacks are also the most religious voting bloc by race, yet liberals continue to bash religion at every level- and they turn a blind eye.
    at the end of the day, 12% of the vote isn’t worth the agony when free thinking blacks are starting to vote their own way. sucks for people like you.