Americans are now more likely to be socially liberal than conservative for the first time since Gallup started polling the question in 2001, the pollster reported Thursday, reflecting a broader trend of Americans becoming increasingly liberal on social issues over the past decade—though a far higher share of Americans still hold fiscally conservative views.
According to Gallup’s poll, which was conducted May 3-18 among 1,016 U.S. adults, 34% of adults now identify as socially liberal and 30% as socially conservative, though the largest share of respondents (35%) hold moderate views.
While there have been a few times in the past in which an equal share of respondents have held socially liberal and conservative views, in 2015 and 2018, typically more have identified as socially conservative, with 36% identifying as conservative in 2019 versus 28% as liberal.
Between 2001 and 2012, social conservatives had a 12-point advantage over social liberals on average, Gallup notes, which then narrowed to a single-digit difference starting in 2013.
While Americans’ social views are more evenly divided, a far more distinct majority (41%) identify as economically conservative, as compared with 34% who are moderate and 25% economically liberal.
That split is in line with historical trends over the past 20 years, as fiscal conservatives have always outnumbered liberals by double digits—though there has been a noticeable increase in the share identifying as economically liberal, rising to 25% from 18% in 2019.
The rise in social liberalism has been driven by Democrats who are identifying more as socially liberal than conservative, Gallup notes, along with college graduates increasingly identifying as socially liberal.
While younger Americans are far more likely to identify as socially liberal than older adults, all age groups have become increasingly socially liberal over the past 20 years. Adults ages 18-34 were largely split on social issues in 2001 and are now “substantially” more liberal in 2021, Gallup reports, while 35- to 54-year-olds have gone from “modestly conservative” to “slightly more liberal than conservative.” Those ages 55 and up have become “slightly less” socially conservative, though a majority still hold conservative views. Gallup also notes declines in socially conservative views have been “roughly equal” between white Americans and non-white Americans, though white Americans are still more likely to be both socially and economically conservative.
Gallup’s poll is in line with other polling showing Americans are getting increasingly on board with a number of socially liberal causes. Previous Gallup polls released this month have shown record numbers of Americans now believe abortion is “morally permissable” and support same-sex marriage, with a majority of Republicans now backing it for the first time. Majorities of Americans also now believe racism and police violence are serious issues, according to an Associated Press/NORC poll released in May, and a June 2020 poll conducted amid the protests over George Floyd’s death found 95% of Americans are in favor of some form of criminal justice reform.
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