Social conservatism is a political philosophy and a variety of conservatism which places emphasis on traditional power structures over social pluralism.[1][2] Social conservatives organize in favor of duty, traditional values and social institutions, such as traditional family structures, gender roles, sexual relations, national patriotism, and religious traditions.[3][4] Social conservatism is usually skeptical of social change, instead tending to support the status quo concerning social issues.[4]

Social conservatives also value the rights of religious institutions to participate in the public sphere, thus often supporting government-religious endorsement and opposing state atheism, and in some cases opposing secularism.[5][6][7]

Social conservatism, as a movement, is largely an outgrowth of traditionalist conservatism. The key difference is that traditional conservatism is broader and includes philosophical considerations, whereas social conservatism is largely focused on just moralism.

Social conservatism and other ideological views

There is overlap between social conservatism and paleoconservatism, in that they both support and value traditional social forms.[8][self-published source]

Social conservatism is not to be confused with economically interventionist conservatism, where conservative ideas are combined with Keynesian economics and a welfare state as practised by some European conservatives (e.g. one-nation conservatives in the United Kingdom, Gaullists in France). Some social conservatives support free trade and laissez faire market approaches to economic and fiscal issues, but social conservatives may also support economic intervention where the intervention serves moral or cultural aims. Historian Jon Wiener has described social conservatism as historically the result of an appeal from "elitist preservationists" to lower-class workers to 'protect' wealth from immigration.[1][9]

Many social conservatives support a balance between protectionism 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.[10]

Social conservatism by country

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Further information: Conservatism in Australia

Mainstream conservatism in Australia generally incorporates liberalism, hence liberal conservatism being the primary ideology of the major centre-right coalition in Australia, the Liberal-National Coalition. Therefore, the Coalition, while having members with some socially conservative views, is not considered socially conservative. However, both social conservatism and right-wing populism are present among right-wing minor parties, such as Pauline Hanson's One Nation, the United Australia Party (UAP) and Katter's Australian Party (KAP) amongst others.

Nevertheless, the National Right (also known as the "Conservative" faction or the "Right" faction) serves as the party's social conservative faction, although the party is still considered a broad church conservative party and factions do collaborate with each other; for example, the New South Wales Liberal Party often chooses a leadership team consisting of both a member of the more centrist Moderate faction and a member of the Right.

Social conservatives in Australia often need to take a broad church stance while governing, for example when Dominic Perrottet, a conservative Catholic was the party's state leader in New South Wales (as well as the state's Premier), despite voted against legalising same-sex marriage in 2018 and is an opponent of abortion, he backed a ban on gay conversion therapy (following Labor leader Chris Minns announcing his support for banning it),[11] whilst also vowing to protect religious freedom and preaching.[12]

During the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey of 2018, which successfully sought to legalise same-sex marriage in Australia, the government was a Coalition government (led by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull). The Coalition allowed its members a conscience vote on the issue and while many members (including Turnbull) supported it, some were opposed to it (but supported holding a plebiscite on the issue). Federal Coalition MPs who opposed same-sex marriage during the debate included former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Peter Dutton, Scott Morrison and many others. However, when the plebiscite was successful (with 61.6% in favour), a vote needed to be held in both chambers of Parliament. The Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017 was tabled in the Senate and was subsequently passed in the House of Representatives, with just three votes against (excluding the members who abstained). Due to their respective electorates delivering a majority "yes" vote (as well as the entire country), members such as Dutton (who voted "no" in the plebiscite) voted in favour of the bill after his seat of Dickson voted 65.16% in favour.


Main article: Social conservatism in Canada

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 is seen as being more prominent in rural areas. It is also a significant influence on the ideological and political culture of the western provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia.[citation needed]

Compared to social conservatism in the United States, social conservatism has not been as influential in Canada. The main reason is that the neoconservative style of politics as promoted by leaders such as former Prime Ministers such as Paul Martin and Stephen Harper have focused on fiscal conservatism, with little or no emphasis on moral or social conservatism.[13] Without a specific, large political party behind them, social conservatives have divided their votes and can be found in all political parties.[14]

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.[15] 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 had no intention to repeal same-sex marriage or abortion laws.[16]


Chiang Kai-shek, a former president of Republic of China, could be seen as a social conservative who was critical of liberal values and defended the union of Confucian traditions and modernism. Under his rule, the Kuomintang led the New Life Movement.

After the Chinese Communist Revolution, social conservatism in China increased due to the rise of New Confucianism and others after the 1970s to 1980s during the Chinese economic reform.

President Xi Jinping has adopted a more conservative social view since he began his third presidency. He reflects traditional and patriarchal views of women in speeches and policies. This is related to China's low birth rate problem.[17]

Islamic world

Further information: Sharia and Conservatism in Islam

Most Muslim countries are somewhat more socially conservative (such as Tajikistan and Malaysia) than neighbouring countries that are not Muslim. However, due to their interpretation of Islamic law also known as Shariah, they have some differences from social conservatism as understood in the nations of West Europe, North America and Oceania.[citation needed]

Arab world

Further information: Arab world, Islam, and Censorship

The Arab world has recently[when?] been more conservative in social and moral issues due to the Arab spring.[citation needed]


Hindu social conservatism

Further information: Shiv Sena, Bharatiya Janata Party, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Hindu nationalism, and Hindutva

Hindu social conservatism in India in the twenty first century has developed into an influential movement, represented in the political arena by the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party. Hindu social conservatism, also known as the Hindutva movement, is spearheaded by the voluntary non-governmental organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The core philosophy of this ideology is nativism, and it sees Hinduism as a national identity, rather than a religious one. Due to an inclination towards nativism, much of its platform is based on the belief that Islamic and Christian denominations in India are the result of occupations, and, therefore, these groups should be uprooted from the Indian subcontinent by converting their members back to Hinduism.

In terms of political positions, Hindu social conservatives in India seek to institutionalize a Uniform Civil Code (which is also a directive under Article 44 of the Constitution of India) for members of all religions,[18] over the current scheme of different personal laws for different religions. For instance, polygamy is legal for Muslims in India, but not Hindus.

Muslim social conservatism

Further information: Lakshar-e-Taiba

There are several socially conservative Muslim organisations in India, ranging from groups such as the Indian Union Muslim League which aim to promote the preservation of Indian Muslim culture as a part of the nation's identity and history.[citation needed]

South Africa

Social conservatism had an important place in Apartheid South Africa ruled by the National Party. Pornography,[19] gambling[20] and other activities that were deemed undesirable were severely restricted. The majority of businesses were forbidden from doing business on Sunday.[21]

United States

Main article: Social conservatism in the United States

Social conservatism in the United States is a right-wing political ideology that opposes social progressivism. It is centered on the preservation of what adherents often call 'traditional' or 'family values', though the accepted aims of the movement often vary amongst the organisations it comprises, making it hard to generalise about ideological preferences. There are, however, a number of general principles to which at least a majority of social conservatives adhere, such as opposition to abortion and opposition to same-sex marriage.[1][22][23][24] Sociologist Harry F. Dahms suggests that Christian doctrinal conservatives (anti-abortion, anti-same-sex marriage) and gun-use conservatives (such as supporters and members of the National Rifle Association of America (NRA)) form two domains of ideology within American social conservatism.[25]

The Republican Party is the largest United States political party with socially conservative ideals incorporated into its platform. Other socially conservative parties include the American Solidarity Party, the Constitution Party and the Prohibition Party.

Social conservatives are strongest in the South, where they are a mainstream political force with aspirations to translate those ideals using the party platform nationally. Supporters of social conservatism played a major role in the political coalitions of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.[26]

Other areas

There are also social conservative movements in many other parts of the world, such as Latin America, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, the Caucasus, Central Europe, Mediterranean countries, Southeast Asia, and Oceania.

List of social conservative political parties

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Bosnia and Herzegovina










Czech Republic


El Salvador


Faroe Islands























New Zealand


North Macedonia



- Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal Coalition:










South Africa

South Korea





United Kingdom


Northern Ireland

United States

Social conservative factions of political parties

See also


  1. ^ a b c Wiener, Jonathan (Spring 1973). "Review: The Politics of Unreason: Right-Wing Extremism in America, 1790-1970". The Journal of Interdisciplinary History. MIT Press. 3 (4): 791–793. doi:10.2307/202704. JSTOR 202704 – via JSTOR.
  2. ^ Cooper, Melinda (2019). Family Values: Between Neoliberalism and the New Social Conservatism. Zone Books.
  3. ^ Smith, Robert B. (2014). Harry F. Dahms (ed.). Social Conservatism, Distractors, and Authoritarianism: Axiological versus instrumental rationality. Emerald Group Publishing. p. 101. ISBN 9781784412227.
  4. ^ a b "Social Conservatism". Populism Studies. Retrieved 17 August 2022.
  5. ^ Dean, John W. (11 July 2006). Conservatives Without Conscience. Penguin Publishing Group. p. 77. ISBN 9781101201374.
  6. ^ Wald, Kenneth D.; Calhoun-Brown, Allison (2007). Religion and Politics in the United States. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 240. ISBN 9780742540415.
  7. ^ Booten, Matthew (11 May 2020). "19 different types of conservatives". Politic-Ed. Social conservatism often opposes state-atheism, however not necessarily atheism itself. They believe that if we allow states to stop believing in God, that societal order will simply break down as a result.
  8. ^ Rowland, Howard S. (2010). Things to Think About. Xlibris Corporation. p. 171. ISBN 9781453571286.[self-published source]
  9. ^ West, Ed (2020). Small Men on the Wrong Side of History: The Decline, Fall and Unlikely Return of Conservatism.
  10. ^ Robin, Corey. The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Donald Trump. Oxford University Press.
  11. ^ "NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet agrees to gay conversion therapy ban".
  12. ^ "NSW election 2023: Perrottet puts caveats on gay conversion law".
  13. ^ John Middlemist Herrick and Paul H. Stuart, eds. Encyclopedia of social welfare history in North America (2005) p. 143
  14. ^ David M. Haskell, Through a lens darkly: how the news media perceive and portray evangelicals (2009) p 57
  15. ^ Murray Dobbin, Preston Manning and the Reform Party (1991)
  16. ^ "Same-sex marriages declared legal and valid by federal justice minister Rob Nicholson". National Post. 13 January 2012.
  17. ^ "Facing Population Decline, China's Xi Promotes 'Childbirth Culture' for Women". Time. 31 October 2023.
  18. ^ Press Trust of India (2 August 2003). "Muslim leaders oppose uniform civil code". Express India. Archived from the original on 25 September 2012. Retrieved 18 August 2014.
  19. ^ JCW Van Rooyen, Censorship in South Africa (Cape Town: Juta and Co., 1987),
  20. ^ Bet and board in the new South Africa. (legalisation of gambling could lead to growth of casinos, lotteries)(Brief Article)The Economist (US) | 5 August 1995
  21. ^ Apartheid mythology and symbolism. desegregated and re-invented in the service of nation building in the new South Africa: the covenant and the battle of Blood/Ncome River
  22. ^ Riley, Jim. "Liberalism & Conservatism". Archived from the original on 14 November 2017. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  23. ^ Farney, James Harold (2012). Social Conservatives and Party Politics in Canada and the United States. University of Toronto Press. ISBN 9781442612600.
  24. ^ Cramer, Clayton E. (2016). Social Conservatism in An Age of Revolution: Legislating Christian Morality in Revolutionary America.
  25. ^ Smith, Robert B. (2014). Harry F. Dahms (ed.). Social Conservatism, Distractors, and Authoritarianism: Axiological versus instrumental rationality. Emerald Group Publishing. p. 101. ISBN 9781784412227.
  26. ^ Darren Dochuk, From Bible Belt to Sun Belt: Plain-Folk Religion, Grassroots Politics, and the Rise of Evangelical Conservatism (W.W. Norton & Company; 2010) shows how migrants to Southern California from Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas provided evangelical support for social conservatism.
  27. ^ Il programma del Popolo della Famiglia di Mario Adinolfi Archived 18 January 2017 at the Wayback Machine (intelligonews)
  28. ^ Programma Archived 7 March 2017 at the Wayback Machine (Italia Cristiana)
  29. ^ Parties and Elections in Europe Archived 15 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 24 August 2013.
  30. ^ Piero Ignazi (2008). Partiti politici in Italia. Il Mulino, Bologna. p. 58.
  31. ^ Inada, Miho; Dvorak, Phred. "Same-Sex Marriage in Japan: A Long Way Away?" Archived 16 June 2016 at the Wayback Machine. The Wall Street Journal. 20 September 2013. Retrieved 31 March 2014.
  32. ^ Lockhart, Charles (2010). Protecting the Elderly: How Culture Shapes Social Policy. Penn State Press. p. 84. ISBN 978-0-271-02289-5. Retrieved 22 November 2020.
  33. ^ Magara, Hideko; Sacchi, Stefano, eds. (2013). The Politics of Structural Reforms: Social and Industrial Policy Change in Italy and Japan. Edward Elgar Publishing. p. 95. ISBN 978-0-85793-292-1. Retrieved 22 November 2020.
  34. ^ Pekkanen, Robert J.; Scheiner, Ethan; Reed, Steven R., eds. (2016). Japan decides 2014: the Japanese general election. Springer. pp. 104, 106. doi:10.1057/9781137552006. ISBN 978-1-349-56437-8. Retrieved 22 November 2020.
  35. ^ Lucien Ellington, ed. (2009). Japan. ABC-CLIO. p. 168. ISBN 9781598841626. ... Because of this political strength, the Liberal Democratic Party has in recent years included the moderate to socially conservative Komeito Party in coalition governments.
  36. ^ "Philippines". World Encyclopedia of Political Systems and Parties. Facts On File. 1999. p. 887.
  37. ^ Perron, Louis (2009). Election Campaigns in the Philippines. Routledge. p. 361.
  38. ^ "Gay Marriage Bill In Northern Ireland Blocked Again By Socially Conservative Democratic Unionist Party". 27 April 2015. Retrieved 9 January 2019.


Further reading