Conservatives outnumber liberals 2 to 1, Gallup finds

Gallup finds voters in greater numbers call themselves conservative. The biggest shift is among registered independents.

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Conservatives continue to outnumber liberals by a wide margin, with moderates nearly as numerous as conservatives, according to data from 16 separate Gallup surveys.

Meanwhile, public opinion on a variety of specific issues shifted rightward in 2009, Gallup says. More American adults hold conservative views than did in 2008, saying they see too much government regulation of business, want less influence by labor unions, favor laws that are less strict on the sale of fire arms, desire less immigration, consider themselves pro-life, and believe reports of global warming are exaggerated.

Issues in which public opinion has not moved to the right since 2008 include the death penalty, gay marriage, the Iraq war, and Afghanistan.

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The latest information on the growing number of conservatives confirms a finding Gallup reported in June. The polling organization says 40 percent of Americans describe themselves as conservatives, 36 percent as moderate, and 20 percent as liberal. The figures represent a change from the period 2005-2008, when moderates were tied with conservatives as the most prevalent group.

Unapologetically conservative

Writing in today’s Washington Post, conservative commentator William Kristol argues that the political implications of the data are clear.

“The GOP is going to be pretty unapologetically conservative. There aren't going to be a lot of moderate Republican victories in intra-party skirmishes. And – with the caveat that the political world can, of course, change quickly – there will be a conservative Republican presidential nominee in 2012.”

According to Gallup, conservatives overtook moderates because more independents now view themselves as conservative. The share of independent voters who say that rose from 29 percent in 2008 to 35 percent now.

Unified Republicans

Republicans tend to hold unified political views, Gallup found. Some 72 percent of Republicans say they are conservatives, and 24 percent identify themselves as moderate. Independents as a group are more fractured, with 43 percent saying they are moderate, 35 percent saying they are conservative, and the rest saying they are liberal. Democrats are roughly evenly divided, with 39 percent calling themselves moderates, 37 percent liberals, and the balance conservative.

The greater numbers of self-identified conservatives could help Republicans pick up seats in the 2010 election. But power in the party will remain elsewhere, commentator Kristol wrote.

“Even if Republicans pick up the House in 2010, the party's big ideas and themes for the 2012 presidential race will probably not emanate from Capitol Hill," he wrote. "The center of gravity, I suspect, will instead lie with individuals such as [Sarah] Palin and [Mike] Huckabee and [Newt] Gingrich, media personalities like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, and activists at town halls and tea parties.”

The Gallup data are based on a sample of 16,321 adults surveyed between January and September 2009. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 1 percentage point.

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