Conservatism in the Era of Trump

Conservatism in the Era of Trump

by Michael BarberBrigham Young University and Jeremy C. Pope, Brigham Young University

What does the rise and election of Donald J. Trump as president mean for the future of conservatism? Republican elites continue to argue about whether Trump is changing the definition of conservatism for better or worse, although many Republicans seem content to let him shape the issues, direction, and brand of the traditional party of conservatism. We examine the ideological characteristics of different groups of Republican voters across three types of ideology: symbolic, operational, and conceptual. We find distinct differences between Republicans who consistently supported Trump and other groups that either supported him in the general election only and those who never supported him. The Never Trump camp stands out as a group that is less symbolically and operationally conservative but also better able to articulate what it means to be a conservative than do Trump’s core supporters, who look very much the opposite. These results suggest a contemporary Republican Party that is far from unified in what it means to be a conservative.

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