Thursday, December 18th, 2014

Archive of fact-check on Marco Rubio and "The majority of Americans are conservative."

This is an archive of a fact-check originally published Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 at 8:59 a.m. The ruling has since been revised.

"The majority of Americans are conservatives."
Marco Rubio on Thursday, February 9th, 2012 in a speech at the CPAC conference

Liberals may want to argue with Sen. Marco Rubio’s remarks at the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.

But they don’t have the evidence to argue with this statement: "The majority of Americans are conservatives."

Rubio had some fun riffing on that at CPAC.

"You know, somebody asked me: ‘How do you know that? How do you know Americans are majority conservative?’ Here’s why: How come liberals never admit that they are liberals? They never admit it. They’ve now come up with a new word called progressive, which I thought was an insurance company, but apparently it’s a label."

A few minutes later, he noted that Republicans argue over who is most like Ronald Reagan. But, he added, "the Democrats never fight about who is more like Jimmy Carter."

We’ll leave aside that point to focus on Rubio’s claim that the majority of Americans are conservatives.

The Gallup Poll has been regularly asking Americans about their political ideology since 1992, and they compile the results of many polls each year and release an annual report.

For 2011, Gallup found that the largest group of Americans identify as conservative, at 40 percent. Another 35 percent identify as moderate, while 21 percent identify as liberal.

That trend has fluctuated a bit over the years, with moderates sometimes slightly outnumbering liberals. But liberals have consistently numbered much less. (See Gallup’s chart for the clear contrast.)

We have two nits to pick with Rubio’s statement, though.

First, he said a majority of Americans are conservatives. In Gallup’s poll, the number has never crossed the 50 percent threshold. Technically, he would be more accurate if he said a plurality of Americans are conservative.

Second, we should note that while more Americans identify as conservative, that has not redounded to the good fortune of the Republican Party.

More Americans than ever identify as political independents, at 40 percent. Republicans don’t even come in at second -- that would be the Democratic Party, claiming the allegiance of 31 percent of Americans. Republicans get third place, with 27 percent claiming the GOP label.

And here’s another wrinkle: When you ask people which party they lean toward, the independents split up so that the country is almost evenly divided. For the year of 2011, Gallup reported that 45 percent of Americans identified as Republicans or leaned that way, while 45 percent identified as Democrats or leaned that way.

Rubio said that the majority of Americans are conservative. A respected ongoing poll from Gallup shows that conservatives are the largest ideological group, but they don’t cross the 50 percent threshold. So we rate his statement Mostly True.

About this statement:
Published: Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 at 8:59 a.m.

Subjects: Polls and Public Opinion

Sources:

Sen. Marco Rubio, remarks at CPAC, Feb. 10, 2012

Gallup, Conservatives Remain the Largest Ideological Group in U.S., Jan. 12, 2012

Gallup, Record-High 40% of Americans Identify as Independents in '11, Jan. 9, 2012

Gallup, Mississippi Most Conservative State, D.C. Most Liberal, Feb. 3, 2012

Written by: Angie Drobnic Holan
Researched by: Angie Drobnic Holan
Edited by: Amy Hollyfield