Gallup poll released on January 31 shows that conservatives outnumber liberals in 47 states. Although liberal identification has reached a new high in the wake of Barack Obama’s reelection, conservatives still make up the largest ideological group in most states. Nevertheless, the average gap between conservatives and liberals shrank from 15.9 to 14.6 percent since 2012.
The three states in which liberals outnumbered conservatives were Hawaii, Massachusetts and Vermont. Other states that rounded out the liberal top ten were Delaware, New York, Oregon, Maine, California, and New Jersey. The District of Columbia is the most liberal “state” with 38 percent of its population identifying as liberal.
Wyoming is the most conservative state with 51 percent of its population considering themselves conservative. Mississippi, Idaho, Utah, Montana, Arkansas, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Alabama make up the rest of the conservative top ten, all with greater than 44 percent conservatives. Last year’s most conservative state, Alabama, fell to number 10.
The swing states from recent elections all boast a double-digit conservative advantage leading one to question why Florida, Virginia, Iowa, Colorado, and Ohio all voted for Barack Obama. According to Gallup, the answer lies with moderate voters.
Even though conservatives are the largest ideological group in most states as well as nationally, the fact that they make up less than 50 percent of the electorate means that Republicans need to reach out to moderate voters, something that they have had problems with in recent years. An Examiner analysis of exit polls from 2008 and 2012 found that moderates made up 44 and 41 percent of the electorate in the two elections. In both years, Barack Obama won moderates handily. In 2008, Obama won 60 percent of the moderate vote. In 2012, he won 56 percent. North Carolina was the only swing state in which Mitt Romney was able to eke out a victory even as he lost moderates.
Gallup notes that the percentage of liberals has been slowly increasing since the 1990s and suggests that the resurgence in liberal identification may be a result of Americans becoming comfortable with the term once again. After being popular in the civil rights era and 1970s, the term “liberal” fell into disfavor in the 1980s and early 1990s. Many liberals eschewed the label and chose to identify themselves as “progressives” or “moderates.”
Originally published on National Elections Examiner