American Culture /

Social Conservatism Reaches Highest Rate in Decade

'Greater social conservatism may be fostering an environment more favorable to passing conservative-leaning social legislation,' stated Gallup

The number of Americans who report holding a conservative position on social issues has reached the highest rate since 2012, according to a new study.

The newly released Gallup survey also found that fewer people report taking liberal positions on social issues.

The survey found 38% of Americans say they are conservative or very conservative on social issues – a 5% increase from 2022. The last time 38% of the population identified as conservative or very conservative was 2012. Since 2000, the greatest number of people who identified as conservative or very conservative (42%) was in 2009.

The number of Americans who reported being liberal or very liberal on social issues increased during the last year, falling from 33% to 29%. Between 2000 and 2023, the percentage of Americans who identify as liberal or very liberal was at its highest in 2021 and 2022 at 34%.

Gallup notes that its 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,” said Gallup.

Republicans reported a 14% increase between 2021 and 2023 while independents reported a 5% increase during the same time frame. A higher percentage of independents (29%) identified as conservative and liberal (23%) for the first time since 2021. In both 2021 and 2022, more independents leaned liberal on social issues.

Gallup also found increases in conservative views on social issues among most age groups between 2021 and 2023, including a 6% increase among 18-29-year-olds, a 13% increase among 30–49-year-olds, and an 11% increase among 50-64-year-olds.

The researchers summarized:

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.

The enactment of more conservative legislation is a serious concern for left-leaning advocacy groups. The Gallup survey was released on June 8, two days after the Human Rights Campaign declared a national “state of emergency for LGBTQ people. 

The organization warned that “more than 75 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been signed into law this year alone, more than doubling last year’s number, which was previously the worst year on record.” The HRC said 220 pieces of legislation introduced in 41 states were designed to target transgender-identifying people.

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