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Social conservative

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Social conservative

Social conservatism is a political ideology that focuses on the preservation of what are seen as traditional values. The accepted goals and ideologies related to preserving traditions and morality often varies from group to group within social conservatism. Thus, there are really no policies or positions that could be considered universal among social conservatives. There are however a number of general principles to which at least a majority of social conservatives adhere, such as support for morality and traditional family values.


In the United States during the mid to late 20th century, the notion of preserving traditional values was seen by many social conservatives as an ideal that had been gradually eroded by a number of federal legislative passages and US Supreme Court decisions. This resulted in a shift in mainstream social conservatism typified by an increase in grassroots activism and lobbying efforts in an attempt to preserve traditional values at the federal level. This ideology generally saw social change as suspicious, and believed in returning what were referred to as fundamental values. A second meaning of the term social conservatism developed in the Nordic countries and continental Europe. There it refers to liberal conservatives supporting modern European welfare states. Social conservatism is distinct from cultural conservatism which focuses on cultural aspects of the issues, such as protecting one's culture, although there are some overlaps.

Social conservatism and other ideological views

There is no necessary link between social and fiscal conservatism; some social conservatives such as Mike Huckabee,[1] George W. Bush,[2] and Michael Gerson[3] are otherwise apolitical, centrist or liberal on economic and fiscal issues. Social conservatives may sometimes support economic intervention where the intervention serves moral or cultural aims. Many social conservatives support a balance between fair trade and a free market . This concern for material welfare, like advocacy of traditional mores, will often have a basis in religion. Examples include the Christian Social Union of Bavaria, the Family First Party and Katter's Australian Party, and the communitarian movement in the United States.

There is more overlap between social conservatism and paleoconservatism, in that they both have respect for traditional social forms.

Karen Stenner has argued that social conservatism is seen as a form of authoritarianism, in contrast with traditionalist conservatism.[4] This position was echoed in John Dean's Conservatives Without Conscience.[5] Social conservatism is often associated with the position that the government should have a greater role in the social affairs of its citizens, generally supporting whatever it sees as morally correct choices and discouraging or outright forbidding those it considers morally wrong ones.[6]

Social conservatism in different countries


In Canada, social conservatism, though widespread, is not as prominent in the public sphere as in the United States. It is prevalent in all areas of the country but in seen as being more prominent in rural areas.

Compared to social conservatism in the United States, social conservatism has not been as influential in Canada. The main reason being that the neoliberal politics as promoted by leaders such as Paul Martin and Prime Minister Stephen Harper have focused on economic conservatism with little or no emphasis on moral or social conservatism.[7] Without a specific large political party behind it, social conservatives have divided their votes and can be found in all political parties.[8] In fact, many Canadians politicians who hold socially conservative views on a personal level often choose not to pursue them in their political life, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Social conservatives often felt that they were being sidelined by officials in the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada and its leadership of so-called "Red Tories" for the last half of the twentieth century and therefore many eventually made their political home with parties such as the Social Credit Party of Canada and the Reform Party of Canada. Despite the Reform Party being dominated by social conservatives, leader Preston Manning, seeking greater national support for the party, was reluctant for the party to wholly embrace socially conservative values. This led to his deposition as leader of the party (now called Canadian Alliance) in favor of social conservative Stockwell Day.[9] The party's successor, the Conservative Party of Canada, despite having a number of socially conservative members and cabinet ministers, has chosen so far not to focus on socially conservative issues in its platform. This was most recently exemplified on two occasions in 2012 when the current Conservative Party of Canada declared they have no intention to repeal same-sex marriage or abortion laws.[10]

United States

Main article: Social conservatism in the United States

Social conservatism is generally focused on the preservation of family values, primarily within the family but also with respect to society as a whole. Today's mainstream social conservatives, in contrast to "small-government" conservatives and "states-rights" advocates, have increasingly appealed to federal legislators and Presidential candidates with the notion that the federal government should bear the responsibility to overrule the states in order to preserve their stated ideal of traditional values; this is not to take away from the fact that a significant portion of "small-government" and "states-rights" conservatives also share many of the ideals of mainstream social conservatives. The exception in how these conservative groups differ tends to be with respect to the role of the federal government versus the role of local government, where the "states-rights" conservatives tend to advocate for social reform and/or preservation of traditional values at the state and local levels.

Social conservatives emphasize traditional views of social units such as the family, church, or locale. Social conservatives would typically define family in terms of local histories and tastes. Social conservatism may entail support for defining marriage as between a man and a woman (thereby banning same-sex marriage) and laws placing restrictions on abortion.

The Republican Party (United States) is the largest political party with some socially conservative ideals incorporated into its platform.

Social conservatives are strongest in the South, where they are arguably considered a mainstream political force on a national level. In recent years, the supporters of social conservatism played a major role in the political coalitions of Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush.[11]

List of social conservative political parties









and, including far right and nationalist ideas













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United Kingdom

United States

Social conservative factions of political parties

See also

conservatism portal


Further reading

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