The Difference Between Conservatives & Moderates


What are the differences between Conservatives and Moderates?

The main difference between moderates and conservatives lies in lies with each type’s commitments. On the face of it, one might confuse a moderate’s desire to resist political extremes for a conservative’s desire to preserve traditions and eschew immoderate behavior. Whereas moderates tend to think in narrow, pragmatic terms on a given issue, conservatives tend to defer to institutions they believe have embedded wisdom. In short, moderates tend to think in practical terms while conservatives hew more closely to principle.

How are Conservatives and Moderates similar?

There will be overlaps between conservatives and moderates to the extent that a moderate ‘leans conservative’ on an issue. Likewise, as we suggested above, both conservatives and moderates seem to resist extremes (albeit for different reasons). So although moderates and conservatives are different types, each can masquerade as the other. After a time though, principled conservatives might feel betrayed by moderates who seem to abandon their principles to “work with” other types.

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More About Conservatives

Conservatives score higher on economic freedom but lower on personal freedom. For example, conservatives generally support honest entrepreneurship and free enterprise but think that too much personal freedom breeds widespread immorality. Conservatives thus worry that excesses in personal freedom can lead to cultural or civilizational decline.

More About Moderates

Moderates (sometimes referred to as “centrists”) score neither particularly high nor particularly low on either economic or personal freedom. That’s because moderates tend to be pragmatists or otherwise think about issues on a case-by-case basis. As with any other type, moderates can ‘lean’ progressive, conservative, libertarian, or authoritarian -- it’s just that those leanings aren’t extreme.

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