Wyoming and Mississippi are the two most conservative states in the country, and the District of Columbia and Rhode Island have the highest proportion of liberals, according to a new Gallup poll.
The poll doesn't gauge objective political positions on issues such as health care reform or federal spending, but rather asks respondents to define themselves as conservative or liberal on their own terms. The pertinent data is compiled from Gallup's daily tracking polls between January and June, and finds that 53 percent of residents in Wyoming and Mississippi describe themselves as conservative. The top 10 also included Utah at 51 percent, South Dakota at 50 percent, and Alabama and North Dakota each at 49 percent. The map shown ranks the nation by conservative ideology, ranging from higher concentrations of self-identified conservatives in the darkest green to the lowest in the lightest.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from Wyoming and Mississippi: 42 percent of D.C. residents identify as liberal, as do 32 percent of Rhode Island. Connecticut and Vermont tied for third, with 29 percent of residents describing themselves as liberal.
The list of most conservative states — where conservatives outnumber liberals by 30 percentage points or more — includes five Southern states, three Western states and three Midwestern states. The country's more liberal states, mostly in the Northeast and West, include Colorado, a battleground state in 2010.
The overall drift of political self-identification has favored conservatives over the past few years, Gallup notes: "On average, conservatives outnumber liberals by about 20 percentage points across all states." But before Republican campaign operatives start popping open champagne ahead of the November midterms, they should probably recall that these categories are a long way from ironclad predictors of actual voting behavior. For one thing, liberal and conservative political leanings don't map clearly onto party registration trends, where Democrats still hold a national edge — albeit a fast-diminishing one. For another, after trailing badly in generic party identification, Democrats recently reclaimed a lead in such polling. The challenge ahead for the GOP is to turn this broad shift in ideological sympathy into actual votes — which would then presumably turn yet more states into a darker shade of green.