Political Ideology Definitions

Questions often arise as to what is a liberal ? What is a conservative ? What does it mean to support the Left ? Or the Right ? What does a certain political party stand for? Although positions change over time and it's never good to make generalizations about what a certain group thinks, this section tries to clarifies some of the basic ideological definitions. Politicians have a wide range of opinions; thus, any particular leader doesn't necessary fit neatly into these categories.

The original definition of a
liberal was someone who advocated change, new philosophies, and new ideas. A conservative was someone who avoided change, instead preferring to stick to the tried and true. In modern times, these definitions have expanded to include a wide set of political beliefs (which are defined below). To be Leftist or agree with the Left political point of view is synonymous with being liberal. To be Rightist or agree with the Right political point of view is synonymous with being conservative. The Left and Right terms were created because political ideology is viewed on a continuum; most people generally hold views somewhere in the middle. For example, if you agree more with liberal ideas, you're considered more Leftist in your thinking. The graphic below illustrates the continuum:

Liberal (Left) <------------------- Moderate (Middle) -------------------> Conservative (Right)

Generally speaking , the Democratic party follows a more liberal platform; the Republican party follows a more conservative platform. The following table summarizes the current ideology of the parties (the links section gives more detail on what each party stands for).

  Liberal (i.e. Left) Conservative (i.e. Right)
Representative Party Democrats Republicans
Abortion Pro-choice Pro-life
Affirmative Action For (i.e. maintain race-based preferences) Against (i.e. ban race-based preferences)
ANWR Drilling Prevent the Alaska drilling Pursue this and other domestic oil sources
Balanced Budget Amendment Opposed In Favor of
Business Increase regulation and worker protection Ease regulation and keep government out of business
Crime Protect the rights of the accused first and foremost Provide maximum punishment and protect the rights of the victim first and foremost
Death Penalty Ban Maintain
Defense Spending Decrease or maintain  Increase
Embryonic Stem Cell Research Use federal funding for the research Don't use federal funding for the research
Government Size Increase the government and use more socialistic policies Reduce the government and use more capitalistic, free-market policies
Gun Control Ban all gun ownership by civilians, especially handguns and assault rifles Protect gun ownership
Health Care Make 100 percent government controlled De-regulate and introduce free market reform
Immigration Grant amnesty to illegal aliens; don't build a fence along the Mexican border; allow illegal aliens to obtain driver's licenses; prevent the creation of a national ID card & database to track people in the country.  Prevent amnesty for illegal & driver's licenses for illegal aliens; construct a Mexican border fence; create a national ID card & database to track people in the country. Increase or maintain legal immigration only.
Kyoto Treaty Sign this environmental treaty Don't sign this environmental treaty
Malpractice Lawsuits Do not cap punitive & pain/suffering damage amounts Cap punitive & pain/suffering damage amounts
Mexican Border Fence Do not build the fence Build the fence
Minimum Wage Increase Lower or eliminate altogether
Missile Defense Scrap this program Pursue this program
Personal Responsibility Government needs to protect people from themselves People should be responsible and be held accountable for their own actions
Physician- Assisted Suicide Allow Prevent
Religion Maintain separation of church and state; prevent faith-based government initiatives Introduce more religion in schools; allow faith-based government initiatives
Same-Sex Marriage Legalize Ban
School Vouchers End the program Expand the program
Social Security Increase age of beginning eligibility (e.g. 68 or 70); increase salary limits subject to tax Privatize; i.e. allow citizens control over their own money and allow stock investments
Social Spending Increase Decrease or maintain
Taxes Increase taxes, especially on the rich Cut taxes, especially on businesses that invest and hire
Three Strikes Law Overturn this law Maintain and expand these laws
Unions Workers should be unionized wherever possible, even if it means mandatory joining of a union to work at a place Unionization should be limited, and workers should never be forced to join
World Peace Negotiate first and only take military action if sanctioned by the U.N. and other world organizations Work with world bodies and use negotiation, but take unilateral pre-emptive action if necessary to protect America

Leading Democratic 2012 Presidential Candidates

Leading Republican 2012 Presidential Candidates

Barack Obama Herman Cain
Hillary Clinton Newt Gingrich
  Rick Perry
  Rick Santorum
  Mitt Romney
  Michele Bachmann
  Ron Paul

View All Potential 2012 Republican/Democrat/Independent Candidates in a Nutshell

For a more humorous look at the parties, check out this
Democratic-Republican comparison .

"Democracy is being allowed to vote for the candidate you dislike least."--Robert Byrne.

"I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts."--Will Rogers

Last Updated:
Written By: Joe Messerli