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What is a social conservative?

Posted on by Kieran McGovern


In US politics, social conservatives are what are sometimes described as 'values voters'. They are predominately evangelical Christians (George W. Bush for example) or conservative Catholics (Rick Santorum in the current Primary process. Key issues include abortion (they are Pro-Life or anti abortion) and - in recent electoral cycles - gay marriage. Though in the past they were often found amongst Democrats in the southern states, they are now overwhelmingly associated with the Republican party. Not all Republicans are social conservatives - John McCain and Rudy Gulliani being recent exceptions - but no serious candidate can afford to alienate this wing of the party. 

The core voters of each party are known as the base. In the primary, or presidential candidate selection process, candidates appeal to base by emphasising their ideological convictions. This can clearly be seen in the current Republican primary where the three major candidates, Romney, Santorum and Gingritch, attempt to appeal to conservative voters. 

Romney's current policy positions appeal to social conservatives but many are wary of him. The key objection is his alleged 'flip-flopping': he started on the liberal wing of the party and is derided as a 'Massachusis liberal' by Gingritch. Some commentators also suspect religious objections amongst some evangelical Christians who traditionally view Mormonism as 'non-Christian' and a cult. Th

The big problem for Romney is that while social conservatism appeals to primary voters it may alienate the critical independent (non-aligned) voters.Traditionally, candidates then 'pivot to the centre' for the general election in order to appeal to the broader electorate. The current drawn-out primary process is making this difficult

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