The enduring power of conservatism

Self-described conservatives outnumber self-described liberals nearly two to one nationwide.  If you look at this graph, it is easy to understand why the Republican candidates emphasize their conservatism, while Obama and the Democratic leaders emphasize their moderation.    Republicans can win nationally if they get all the conservative voters and a third of moderate voters.  But Democrats can’t win unless they get a large majority of moderates.

In the long run, the perceived lack of appeal of liberalism becomes self-reinforcing.  If liberals insist that they’re really moderates, and not all that liberal, how can anyone take liberalism seriously?  The “movement conservatives” don’t do that.  Even in 1964, when American conservatism seemed washed up, they stuck to their principles and eventually came back.

Click on Conservatives Remain the Largest Ideological Group in U.S. for more from Gallup and the source of the top chart.

Click on State of the States for more from Gallup and the source of the bottom chart.

[Added 3/6/12]  The following is the results of National Journal exit polls following the 2010 elections.

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