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Difference Between Conservatives and Liberals

liberal_politicsConservatives vs Liberals

Within the framework of national politics, we can usually identify two different ways of thinking: a conservative approach and a liberal perspective. In theory, the two ideologies lie at opposite ends of the political spectrum; yet, the reality is much more blurred. Conservatives and liberals have different beliefs and opposing views on the structure of the society, the role of the government and, in general, on the progress of the nation. In fact, the main difference between the two lies in how much of the past – or of the present – should be maintained for the future 1 .


Socialism, Liberalism, Conservatism and Ecology

In general, conservatives are associated with right-leaning movements and are characterized by the firm belief that progress should be controlled and, in some instances, impeded in order to preserve traditional values. Conservatives are often part of the dominant group: why would they want to change things when they benefit from the current social/political/economic order?

Alternatively, if they are not part of the dominant group, they are worried about the consequences and the drastic changes brought about by progress. For instance, in the Western world, liberal movements have dominated the political scenario for the last few decades. Yet, with the threats posed by the spread of terrorism and by the growing wave of migration, many Westerners have begun to take a more conservative stance as far as immigration policies and border control are concerned. In the U.S, Republicans are the traditionally conservative party.

Conservatives believe in:

  • Limited government involvement in the private sphere;
  • Free markets;
  • Traditional values;
  • Religious values;
  • Strong personal responsibility;
  • Individual liberties; and
  • Strong national defense.


Liberals are left-leaning, open to progress and highly reliant in the government to solve problems. Originally, liberals were mainly part of minority groups striving for social changes, whereas today they may also be part of dominant groups. Liberals want to change existing structures and believe that strictly sticking to the tradition (and to traditional values) only slows the society down and impedes progress and development. In the United States, Democrats are considered the liberal party.

Liberals believe in:

  • Equal opportunities and equality;

  • Governmental involvement in the private sphere;

  • Civil liberties;

  • Inalienable human rights; and

  • Progress.

Economic, political and social issues

Conservatives and liberals – just as Republicans and Democrats – have opposing views on several key issues 2 . While the opposition between the two may resemble the dichotomy between Democrats and Republicans, these differences exist in (almost) al countries of the world.

  1. Abortion 3

Liberals believe that women have the right to decide what happens to their own body. Freedom of choice is the main pillar of the liberal perspective. Furthermore, liberals think that the government should provide financial and structural support to all women – even to the indigent ones – in order to ensure safe and legal abortion.

Conservatives believe that abortion is the murder of a human being with separate rights. Therefore, they only admit abortion in case of rape or when carrying on the pregnancy could seriously endanger the mother’s health.

  1. Death penalty

Liberals believe that death penalty should be abolished and that capital punishment should be commuted to life sentences. For liberals, every execution risks to kill an innocent person.

Conservatives believe that death penalty is the appropriate punishment for certain crimes, including murder and terrorist acts.

  1. Economy

Liberals believe that the government should interfere in and regulate the economy of the nation in order to protect citizens from corporate power. The support for governmental intervention is motivated by the belief that the government cares (or should care) about public interest.

Conservatives support free market and the capitalist system. In their view, the free market system produces more economic growth, greater welfare ad higher standards of living. Conservatives believe that the government should not regulate the economic system of the nation.

  1. Energy

Liberals believe that climate change – and consequently the use of fossil fuels – is a serious threat. Therefore, they think that the government should invest in alternative energy sources such as wind and solar power.

Conservatives believe that oil, coal and gas remain the most reliable sources of energy. While not all conservatives deny the problem of climate change, most of them believe that alternative resources could never replace oil and coal.

  1. Climate change

Liberals acknowledge the fact that climate change and global warming are caused and exacerbated by the use of fossil fuels and the subsequent production of carbon dioxide. As such, liberals believe that privates and companies should reduce carbon emissions and take all necessary steps to halt global warming and save the planet.

Conservatives believe that climate change and global warming are natural and that there is no proof that supports the assumption that the use of fossil fuels can aggravate or accelerate the change in global temperature. Unfortunately, several conservative scientists support this theory – thus providing the conservatives with scientific evidence that denies climate change.

  1. Euthanasia

Liberals believe that everyone has the right to die with dignity and by his/her own choice. As such, they support euthanasia and assisted suicide, and believe that the government should not deprive the citizens of the possibility of terminating their lives whenever their condition becomes unbearable or the suffering is too intense. Furthermore, they think that legalizing euthanasia would reduce health care costs.

Conservatives believe that euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal and immoral, and that it is unethical for a doctor to deliberately enable a person to terminate his/her life. Such perspective is supported by several religious beliefs that value human lives and prohibit suicide.

  1. Healthcare

Liberals believe that the government should provide low-cost and equal health care services for all citizens, regardless of their income and their ability to pay. Yet, liberals do not deny the possibility of having private healthcare systems running parallel to the public system.

Conservatives believe that the healthcare system should be privatized and, while everyone should be entitled to healthcare, the government should not interfere in nor control it.

  1. Immigration and security

Liberals support legal immigration but believe that illegal migrants should be facilitated in receiving valid residence permits. Liberals support softer policies as far as border controls and immigration laws are concerned, and believe that passenger profiling – in particular on ethnic bases – should be avoided.

Conservatives believe that soft policies regarding border controls and immigration gravely endanger the security of the country. As such, they only support legal immigration and believe that illegal migrants should not enjoy the same rights of all other citizens. Illegal aliens should go back to their country, either voluntarily or following deportation, as they represent a threat to national security.

  1. Same-se marriage

Liberals support same-sex marriage and believe that, in our changing and modernizing society, everyone should be entitled to marry the person he/she loves, regardless of his/her sex. Liberals advocate for equal rights for gay, lesbians, transgender and bisexual individuals.

Conservatives, strongly influenced by traditional and religious values, believe that the marriage should only exist between a man and a woman. According to their perspective, same-sex marriage are immoral and sinful.

  1. International community

Liberals believe that every country, while being a sovereign nation entitled to territorial integrity, is part of a wide international community. As such, individual countries should support international institutions such as the United Nations (UN) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and respect international law and international human rights law.

Conservatives believe that international institutions such as the UN and the NATO limit the freedom of action of individual countries and that the sovereignty of the nation should not be questioned by international organizations.

  1. Taxes

Liberals believe that wealthy people should pay higher taxes and that the government needs tax-money to address inequality within the society and to provide for all people, including the indigent.

Conservatives believe in lower taxes for everyone. In their view, lower taxes create incentive local investments and that government programs do not benefit economic growth.


The conservative approach and the liberal perspective lie at opposing ends of the political spectrum. Conservatives are right-leaning while liberals are left-leaning. While they have opposing views on a number of key issues (i.e. economy, abortion, death penalty, euthanasia, international involvement, taxes, same-sex marriage etc.), the main difference between the two is the attitude towards the future. Conservatives want to maintain the existing structure and to preserve traditional values, while liberals believe in progress and strive for modernity and development.

In the United States, the Republican Party is traditionally the conservative party while Democrats are more liberal. Yet, with the growing complexity of our modern society and the constant shifts in the political scenario, today it is hard to find “pure” conservatives and “pure” liberals, just as it is hard to identify “pure” Democrats and “pure” Republicans.

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  1. Mussolini, maybe the most famous fascist, was first socialist, ie a leftist. Hitler was certainly NOT a rightwinger – he lead a “people’s” movement to change the statist quo and business aligned with him to avoid destruction. This commonly promoted misconception of conservatism allied with fascism is shamefully inaccurate.

    • That’s absolutely not true. Fascism is considered by scholars to be on the far right of the left-right spectrum. “Fascism is a form of extreme right-wing ideology that celebrates the nation or the race as an organic community transcending all other loyalties” – http://www.publiceye.org/eyes/whatfasc.html

    • No, this article is completely accurate. Mussolini only switched back and forth in his proposed ideologies to appeal to the masses, not because of a moral conviction. Either way, he did SWITCH to far right for most of his reign. And as for Hitler, his political policies were built on anti-communist and anti-socialist ideals.

  2. I’ve followed American politics for fifty years as both a Democrat and a Republican.

    In the 1950’s, when a bill came up for a vote in Congress, the “no” votes had lots of both Democrats and Republicans, and the “yes” votes also had lots of both Democrats and Republicans. Over the years, I’ve seen a larger percentage of Democrats on one side of the vote, and a larger percentage of Republicans on the other side. Today, it’s almost all Democrats on one side of the vote and almost all Republicans on the other.

    The difference between Conservatives and Liberals has definitely INCREASED over the years — not decreased.

  3. Author clearly has no idea what the word ‘liberal’ means anywhere else besides America , nor any idea about British Politics.

    Both American political parties are more or less ‘liberal’ (belief in free capitalist market economy, personal freedoms etc..), seems more like a progressive liberal party vs conservative liberal party,
    as opposed to most other western nation such as UK Australia etc.., where the political spectrum is more ‘social democracy’ (labour) vs ‘liberal-conservatives’ (Tory)

  4. Right wing is the kid who listens to the teacher, does his homework every night and values good manners and knows what he wants out of life and works through obstacles to get it.
    Will probably have a relationship with someone of the opposite sex, open a savings account and drink once a week or less. Take their kids on holiday once a year, save up and buy and own their own house one day. Cry behind closed doors and smile in public for the most part. Probably get married before having children. Children will probably be taught to say please and thank you and be the same race as the parents. Abortion is okay in cases of sexual abuse, otherwise it is looked down on, euthanasia sometimes okay, sometimes not.

    Left wing is the defensive, lazy, ‘cool’ kid who messes about in class, expects to get life for free and wins the respect of other dossers by proclaiming his selflessness for being left wing when not really understanding anything at all or being particularly philanthropic. Will probably never accomplish much, probably won’t get a degree, probably never got smacked as a child and whines about trivial rubbish and hangs out with similar people. This includes people with facial piercings and gays and homeless people, people who dye their hair blue and get tattoos. Abortion acceptable multiple times after drunken one night stands, euathanasia for everyone who wants it. This is the Left wing.

    • Liberals when eating at a nice restaurant want some one else to pick up the tab. Conservatives when eating at a nice restaurant want to go dutch.

  5. Really? It is a name! Why can’t you put a “u” between “o” and “r”!? It is called “The Labour Party”, not “The Labor Party”.


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References :

[0]Conservative vs. Liberal Beliefs , available at https://www.studentnewsdaily.com/conservative-vs-liberal-beliefs/

[1]5 Examples Showing the Differences Between Liberals and Conservatives on “Religious Freedom”, available at https://forwardprogressives.com/5-examples-showing-difference-liberals-conservatives-religious-freedom/

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