A New Look At Ideology

Over the last few months in focus groups we have started hearing respondents make important distinctions between candidates they deem “liberal” and those they see as “progressive.”  The latter are described as being “forward-thinking” and “ahead of the curve,” while more traditional liberals often viewed as a thing of the past.

As a response to this trend, the Public Opinion Strategies team began experimenting with a revised ideology question, providing respondents with options beyond the traditional conservative, moderate, liberal framework.  We have now tested this question on multiple national surveys and are beginning to track attitudinal and demographic data for these “new” ideological categories which will help to inform how we approach the 2020 election cycle.

On our most recent adult omnibus in late April*, we tested the following question language:

Thinking some more about politics and current issues… do you consider yourself to be: (RANDOMIZE) a conservative, a moderate, a liberal, a libertarian, a progressive…or…a socialist?

Importantly, when we re-allocate the categories to approximate the traditional three-part categorization, the responses reflect recent national data.

Demographic Profiles:

(Due to smaller sample sizes for libertarians, progressives and socialists, the data below shows average demographic data from our early April* and late April national adult surveys.)

A few takeaways from the demographic profiles:

  • Younger voters make up a significant portion of adults identifying with the “new” ideological classifications. Fully, 40% of libertarians, 41% of progressives and 60% of socialists are between the ages of 18-34.  Conversely, seniors are much less likely to place themselves in these categories.
  • Among the left-leaning audiences, there is a bit of a gender gap between those who identify as liberals and those who describe themselves as progressives. Two-thirds (66%) of liberals are women and 34% are men, while progressives are more male (57% are men, 43% are women).
  • There are significant differences in educational attainment among the left-leaning groups. Half (50%) of progressives have college degrees, compared to 39% of liberals and 27% of socialists.
  • In 2016, left-leaning subgroups largely backed Clinton. While Trump consolidated support among conservatives (82%), libertarians were divided on the ballot.
  • Geographically, conservative and moderate voters look a bit different than the other four ideological categories.

On our late April survey, respondents also had the option to select a second ideology category.  Close to half of conservatives (49%) had no second choice category; however, there is significant overlap in groups on the left of the spectrum.

Over the coming months our team will continue to monitor these “new” ideological subgroups to help our clients prepare for the 2020 elections.


* Methodology: 

Early April survey:  Telephone survey of N=800 adults nationally conducted April 1-4, 2019

Late April survey:  Internet survey of N=805 adults nationally conducted April 23-24, 2019

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