In simple polling, the majority (50-60%) of Americans have consistently self-identified as “conservative” since the early Reagan era. When asked to explore their actual beliefs and to state preferences the picture changes.
The all-time great boogeyman of American politics — Liberals — never make up more than 15-20% of Americans no matter whether self-identified or as identified through issue preferences.
In this study, however, the electorate is broken down using a more expansive five-point scale of political ideology that reflects the variety of approaches people ascribe to today. Employing this more calibrated measure, 34 percent of the country identifies as “conservative,” 29 percent as “moderate,” 15 percent as “liberal,” 16 percent as “progressive,” and 2 percent as “libertarian.” After moderates are asked which approach they lean toward, the overall ideological breakdown of the country divides into fairly neat left and right groupings, with 47 percent of Americans identifying as progressive or liberal and 48 percent as conservative or libertarian. The rest are unsure or scattered among moderate and other approaches.