New Gallup Poll: Social Conservatism in U.S. Highest in About a Decade

This year, 38% more Americans say they are conservative or very conservative on social issues than responded the same 33%; in 2022 and 2021, 30%. Simultaneously, the percentage saying their social views are liberal or very liberal has fallen to 29% from 34% in the past two years, while the number identifying as moderate, 31%, remains around a third.

The last time this many Americans claimed to be socially conservative was in 2012, a period when more adults in the U.S. consistently identified they were more conservative than liberal on social issues.

The poll results are based on Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs survey, conducted May 1-24. The survey comes during a period when many states are considering policies regarding crime, transgender matters, drug use, abortion, and the teaching of sexuality and gender in schools.

Over the past two years, the increase in the identification of conservative beliefs on social issues has been seen among almost all demographic and political subgroups. Republicans show one of the most significant increases, from 60% in 2021 to today, where it stands at 74%. Independents showed a more modest uptick of five percentage points, from 24% to 29%, while Democrats saw no change and were at 10% in 2021 and 2023.

Since 2021, there have been increases in the double-digits in conservative social ideology among middle-aged adults between the ages of 30 and 64.

At the same time, Americans in older age brackets have remained stable in their ideology on social issues, while there has been a modest increase in conservative social ideology among young adults.

When asked to describe their views on economic issues, only 21% consider themselves as liberal or very liberal, 33% say they are moderate, and 44% identify themselves as conservative or very conservative. The percentage claiming to be conservative averaged 40% between 2020 and 2022. The current figure is the highest seen since 46% in 2012.

Americans have consistently been more likely to confirm that they are conservative on economic issues rather than liberal, always by no fewer than 16 percentage points, in 2021.

Partisans’ ideology on economic issues has remained steady in recent years. The relatively modest shifts in economic ideology among adults are instead driven by minor changes in political party identification among adults — from an average of 32% Democrat and 29% Republican in the 2020 and 2021 surveys to 30% surveys to 29% Democrat and 30% Republican in the 2023 survey.

So, what’s the bottom line?

For most of the past eight years, Americans were just as likely to say they were conservative as liberal on social issues. However, this year there is a more apparent conservative advantage. The shift is likely due to an increasing social conservatism among the GOP during a time when social issues such as abortion, transgender rights, and other hot-button concerns are at the forefront of the national public debate.

Increasing social conservatism may foster an environment more favorable to passing conservative-leaning social legislation, particularly in GOP-dominated states.

Americans remain more likely to say they are conservative on issues relating to the economy than on social issues. When asked to describe their overall political views, 40% say they have conservative views, 31% claim to be moderate, and 26% say they are liberal.