What Are Some Differences Between Liberals and Conservatives?

Key differences between liberals and conservatives focus on their differing views on ideal size of government, public spending, social policies and use of military force. In general, liberals prioritize programs and policies intended to provide social justice, while conservatives favor a free market without a high degree of government interaction.

Liberals tend to believe that policies that appropriate public funds to create solutions can address problems in society. Environmental preservation policies, universal health care, poverty relief and nutrition assistance programs are some major policies championed by liberal groups that demand a high level of public spending.

Conservatives believe the opposite — that government spending should remain minimal, and economic free markets should operate without heavy intervention from government forces. Many conservatives feel that the higher taxes asked by government to pay for large public programs are an interference in personal liberty, leading to a trend in conservative movements that favor private provision of services, such as education and energy markets.

Differing views on the role of government also play into both sides’ perspectives on the economy. Generally, liberals believe that government regulation is necessary to protect citizens from the self-interest of big business, which rarely serves the public. Conservatives see excessive regulations as stifling to business and believe the economy works best when the government stays out of the way.

Liberals and conservatives tend to clash on key social issues, such as abortion and same-sex marriage. Many conservative social views have roots in traditional values, while liberals value a more progressive society. Conservatives tend to favor war over diplomacy in cases of international relations, while liberals lean toward the opposite conclusion.