Trump Seen as Less Conservative Than Prior GOP Candidates

Trump Seen as Less Conservative Than Prior GOP Candidates

Trump Seen as Less Conservative Than Prior GOP Candidates

The FINANCIAL -- Donald Trump's political views, in the eyes of U.S. registered voters, are the least conservative of GOP presidential candidates in recent history. About six in 10 registered voters have viewed recent Republican nominees as conservative or very conservative, with George W. Bush's 68% in 2004 the highest. Trump stands out from the rest of the group with less than half of voters (47%) describing him as conservative or very conservative.

These results come from a Sept. 14-18 Gallup poll, conducted prior to last week's presidential debate. Respondents were asked to describe the presidential candidates' views as "very liberal," "liberal," "moderate," "conservative" or "very conservative." Gallup has asked voters to rate the presidential candidates and themselves using the same five-point ideology scale in most presidential elections since 1992.

The 58% of voters describing Hillary Clinton's views as liberal or very liberal is similar to Barack Obama's 60% in 2012 and 62% in 2008. Voters were somewhat less likely to perceive John Kerry in 2004 (48%) and Bill Clinton in 1992 (42%) as liberal, according to Gallup.

Nearly One in Five Voters Describe Trump as Liberal

While about half of registered voters describe Trump as conservative or very conservative, 22% describe him as moderate and 19% as liberal or very liberal.

Roughly equal proportions of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (51%) and Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (47%) perceive the GOP candidate's views as conservative or very conservative. At the same time, Republicans and Republican leaners (33%) are three times as likely as Democrats and Democratic leaners (11%) to describe Trump as a moderate.

About one in five registered voters say Trump is liberal or very liberal, including 16% of Republicans and 21% of Democrats.

Perceptions that Trump is liberal could be related to his former left-leaning stances on issues such as abortion, gun rights and healthcare. His current views on trade often align with liberal economists. It's worth noting that while only 5% of registered voters don't have an opinion on the ideology of Clinton's political views, 12% have no opinion on Trump's views.

About Six in 10 Voters Say Clinton Is Liberal

U.S. voters are most likely to describe Clinton as liberal (31%) or very liberal (27%). One in four consider her a political moderate (25%), while much smaller percentages describe her as conservative (9%) or very conservative (3%).

Perceptions of Clinton's ideology differ sharply by voters' partisan identification or leanings. More than three-quarters of registered voters who identify as Republicans or as Republican-leaning independents (77%) describe Clinton as liberal or very liberal, compared with 41% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents.

And while few Republicans and Republican leaners describe Clinton as either conservative or very conservative (6%), a sizable minority of Democrats and Democratic leaners (17%) describe Clinton's political views this way.

Half of Voters Say Clinton Is More Liberal Than They Are

While about half of registered voters describe Clinton's political views as "a lot more liberal" or "somewhat more liberal" than their own, they are divided as to whether Trump is more conservative (35%) or more liberal (31%) than they are.

One in four Americans describe themselves as very liberal (8%) or liberal (17%), while more than one in three say their political views are moderate (37%). Thirty-six percent describe their political views as conservative, including 9% who say they are very conservative.

Gallup combined voters' self-reported ideology and their ratings of the candidates to compute political difference scores indicating how each candidate compares with the respondent's own political views.

Bottom Line

Clinton is slightly more likely than Trump to represent the ideology often associated with each candidate's respective party, as 58% consider her a liberal versus 47% calling Trump a conservative. At the same time, slightly more voters consider Trump a liberal than call Clinton a conservative. As a result, the two receive about equal ratings as "moderates."

When comparing these perceptions with voters' own political views, similar proportions of voters -- between 22% and 24% -- place themselves and the candidate at the same point on the left-right ideological continuum. Nearly half of voters place Clinton to the left of themselves, while smaller, similar proportions put Trump to the left and to the right of their own views.

Trump stands out more from a historical perspective, however, as he is less likely to be considered a conservative than any other recent Republican presidential candidate.

Meanwhile, Clinton -- who has been accused by some on the left of not being liberal enough -- will have to work to win over those who may feel her views are too far to the left of their own. However, perceptions of Clinton as being liberal are about the same as the man she hopes to succeed as president.