It’s a familiar image: Conservatives, liberals, and moderates. Those ideological categories seem to define our politics and separate us into rigidly entrenched camps. But it’s not quite that simple. A new analysis of American voters finds that these broad categories don’t capture the nuances of a person’s beliefs, and they can change over time.
The political ideology of Liberalism is rooted in a belief that people can only achieve true freedom and equality (made possible by government) if they have access to the basic services and opportunities that society provides, such as healthcare and education. Liberalism also promotes a strong social safety net and governmental regulations that aim to protect workers and the environment.
Those ideological labels have a strong correlation to voting patterns: The vast majority of liberals vote for Democrats while the same is true of Republicans. However, moderates are less locked in to their parties and are more likely to shift between the two parties depending on what they think is best for them. For example, during the coronavirus pandemic, most moderates voted for Hillary Clinton, but they’re now gravitating towards Joe Biden.
The most important difference between the Democratic-aligned groups is how they view the size of government. The most liberal-oriented group, Progressive Left, favors a larger government providing more services; all the other groups in the typology prefer smaller government. Progressive Left also tends to be more concerned about racial injustice and believes that the country needs tougher policing.