February 26, 2015

5 facts about consistent conservatives

The annual Conservative Political Action Conference begins this week, a three-day event hosted by the American Conservative Union where activists, officeholders, campaign consultants and others will hear from a dozen or so potential Republican presidential candidates – among them Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Rand Paul, Chris Christie and Ted Cruz.

Last year’s series of Pew Research Center reports on political polarization used a 10-item scale of ideological consistency to place Americans into five categories: consistently conservative or liberal, mostly conservative or liberal, and mixed. By that metric, 9% of the public overall is consistently conservative, including 20% of Republicans and Republican leaners; most of the remaining Republicans and leaners were “mostly conservative” (33%) or had a mixture of liberal and conservative views (37%).

Here are five facts drawn from our package of reports about consistent conservatives:


1Consistent conservatives participate in politics at higher rates than most other ideological groups. Political engagement tends to be highest among the most consistent conservatives and liberals, the Pew Research survey found. Half of consistent conservatives, for example, said they had contacted an elected official within the past two years – the highest level of any of our five groups. (The corresponding figure for all Americans, by the way, was 28%.) Consistent conservatives also ranked high on other measurements of political engagement, such as donating money (26%), attending campaign events (24%) and volunteering on a campaign (12%).

2Conservatives had outsize influence in the November midterm elections. Although consistent conservatives make up only about 9% of the total adult population, they vote at higher rates than people elsewhere on the ideological spectrum: 78% said they always vote, compared with 49% of the general public. Consequently, a report we published a few weeks before the 2014 midterms estimated that consistent conservatives would make up 17% of the November 2014 electorate.

3Conservatives would rather live in small towns or rural areas than anywhere else. Our research found an overwhelming preference among the most conservative Americans for nonurban lifestyles: 41% of consistent conservatives said they would live in a rural area if they could live anywhere in the U.S., and 35% picked a small town; just 4% said they’d prefer a city.

Similarly, three-quarters of consistent conservatives said they’d rather live in a place where “the houses are larger and farther apart, but schools, stores and restaurants are several miles away,” and just 22% said they’d choose to live where “the houses are smaller and closer to each other, but schools, stores and restaurants are within walking distance.”

4When it comes to raising children, conservatives prioritize responsibility, faith and hard work. When we asked our American Trends Panel about the three most important traits to teach children, 61% of consistent conservatives cited “being responsible,” and about as many (59%) identified religious faith as particularly important; hard work was chosen by 44%. While responsibility led among all five ideological groups, and hard work was among the top three for all but consistent liberals, religious faith was chosen by significantly more consistent conservatives than all other groups.

5Conservatives gravitate toward Fox News. A separate Pew Research report on polarization and media habits found that 47% of consistent conservatives (and 31% of people with mostly conservative views) cited Fox News as their main source for news about government and politics; no other news source came close. And 88% of consistent conservatives said they trusted Fox News – by far the highest level of trust by any ideological group of any single news source among the 36 we asked about.

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Political Attitudes and Values, Political Polarization

  1. Photo of Drew DeSilver

    is a senior writer at Pew Research Center.


  1. Anonymous1 year ago

    I took the survey and was ranked Solid Liberal, but I am really concerned about the methodology. Each question posed a hard left or hard right option. There were none that might be considered moderate or pragmatic. No wonder the survey results show such a high degree of polarization.

  2. Bob Mitchell2 years ago

    Being in the middle I find the two ends of the spectrum are close minded, intolerant, lack empathy, and act like school yard bullies. Your glee at being able to use the power of the state to walk on each other is discusting and scary.

  3. Obomination2 years ago

    6 There are very few conservatives in Washington DC.

  4. mikie2 years ago

    I believe that the “Persistent Conservative” has the best access to mega-money and that exponentially increases their ability to sway elections. I totally believe that they are the current danger to our way of life with their views on abortion, homosexuality, immigration and the assortment of other narrow views they espouse. It is a big mystery to me how the voting public can be induced to vote for people that are against their own best interests. It makes me weep.

    1. john2 years ago

      I weep for you mikie … you are delusional if you think there is no “big money” influencing YOU with liberal media propaganda … brainwashing you into the belief that being conservative means being sexist + homophobic + racist. Change the channel away from CNN once in a while and really try to listen to common sense devoid of hatred.

  5. Dean2 years ago

    Sad that religious faith is not even on the radar for the consistently liberal when religious faith has been such a key ingredient of America’s history and what some would argue has been the very source of our founding principles. Also of interest is the urban/rural divide on the liberal versus conservative…. is liberalism a result of living too close to too many people or conservatism the result of clean air and open vistas?

  6. Maryw2 years ago

    Only consistent liberals think it’s important to instill curiosity in their children. That is very sad.

  7. albert lodato2 years ago

    I enjoy CBS in the morning and evening with Fox in the mid-day. I fall into mostly Conservative.

  8. Barbara Griffith2 years ago

    I am a conservative too and I also watch Fox News, the news show consistently stays on target as to what is really going on in the world. That is the reason they are leaving CNN in the dust.

  9. Mike F2 years ago

    The prime question that is not addressed in this poll is who qualifies as a member of each of these liberal and conservative groups.

  10. Stuart2 years ago

    These 5 facts on conservatives, given I am one, are on target!

    1. John2 years ago

      Ditto! Sure would like our numbers to increase, as the BHO path is destroying the prosperity of the USA.