Only District of Columbia has more liberals than conservatives
PRINCETON, NJ -- Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana are the most conservative states, with just under half of the residents in each identifying as politically conservative. Massachusetts and Vermont -- along with the District of Columbia -- have the greatest percentage of self-identified liberals.
The top 10 liberal states are all in the Northeast or the West, with the exception of the District of Columbia. Half of the top 10 conservative states are in the South. The full data for each state are available in Gallup's "State of the States" interactive.
These findings are based on aggregated data from Gallup's 2009 Daily tracking survey. Gallup asked nearly 300,000 Americans last year to describe their political views as very liberal, liberal, moderate, conservative, or very conservative. The results here use the collapsed very liberal/liberal and very conservative/conservative figures.
"While there is a good deal of overlap between the 10 most conservative and the 10 most Republican states, as well as the 10 most liberal and the 10 most Democratic ones, it is not a perfect correspondence."
Nationwide, conservatives outnumbered liberals by nearly 2 to 1, 40% to 21%, in 2009, with 36% identifying as moderates. Although the proportion of self-identified liberals has increased in recent years, it still ranks well below the proportion of conservatives or moderates in the United States.
Consequently, only in the District of Columbia did more residents identify as liberal than as conservative in 2009. The accompanying table shows the relative strength of conservative versus liberal self-identification in each state. Again, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi top the list as having the greatest conservative-versus-liberal advantage, with the District of Columbia, Vermont, and Massachusetts near the bottom as having the smallest conservative advantages.
Gallup reported earlier this week on party identification by state. Generally, there is a strong relationship between political ideology and party identification, but the two are not precisely parallel. Whereas all states (excluding the District of Columbia) have more conservatives than liberals, Democrats have a numerical (if not a statistical) advantage in most states.
While there is a good deal of overlap between the 10 most conservative and the 10 most Republican states, as well as the 10 most liberal and the 10 most Democratic ones, it is not a perfect correspondence. Utah and Wyoming had the greatest Republican strength in 2009, but Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana had the most conservatives (Mississippi and Alabama ranked among the 10 most Republican states, but Louisiana did not; Utah was among the top 10 conservative states, while Wyoming was not). A total of 5 states appear in both the Republican and conservative top 10s.
The District of Columbia tops both the liberal and Democratic lists. But Rhode Island -- one of the most Democratic states -- does not rank in the top 10 liberal states (though, because of its high proportion of moderates, it does rank among the 10 least conservative states). In all, 6 states appear in both the Democratic and the liberal top 10.
Conservatives outnumber liberals nationally and in all U.S. states; only in the District of Columbia did more residents identify as liberal than as conservative in 2009. The more liberal states in the union tend to be in the Northeast or the West, while many of the most conservative states are from the South, including the three most conservative ones -- Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
While there is much overlap in how states rank according to party and ideology, the two are not the same. What is instructive, though, is the fact that most U.S. states lean conservative ideologically at the same time most lean Democratic politically. This helps explain why political leaders often have difficulty governing from either pole of the ideological spectrum, and why policies that gravitate more toward the ideological center can have more public appeal.
Gallup's "State of the States" series reveals state-by-state differences on political, economic, and wellbeing measures Gallup tracks each day. New stories will be released throughout the month of February.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 291,152 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted in 2009 as part of Gallup Poll Daily tracking. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point.
The margin of error for most states is ±2 percentage points, but is as high as ±5 percentage points for the District of Columbia. For the most populous states, the margin of error is ±1 percentage point.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones and cellular phones.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.