Plunkett: Latest “State of the States” Data Shows Opportunity for Conservative Revival Starts in Mississippi

From United Conservatives Fund:

BY: B. Keith Plunkett | UCF Staff

The latest ‘State of the States’ reports by Gallup are out this week and the findings show what most already knew about Mississippi: we identify ourselves as the most conservative state in the nation, retaking that distinction from neighboring Alabama.


However, as in years past in the Gallup rankings, the Magnolia State is a not solidly Republican. This provides a unique opportunity for a conservative revival in our state that has the potential to spread across the South into neighboring states.

Attempts to maintain the GOP brand as synonymous with conservatism–and therefore no need to drill down into serious policy issues–are falling on deaf ears. Recent elections in 2014 uncovered a growing divide. Conservatives in Mississippi are beginning to question whether the policies promoted by Republican elected officials fits the bill, and are finding them wanting.

While Mississippi tops the list for number of self-identified conservatives, it doesn’t even break into the top ten for self-identified Republicans (We’re at number 12 behind Alaska).


It is this void that the United Conservatives Fund will fill, bringing a much needed conservative conscience back first to Mississippi politics, and then beyond.

Gallup reports that:

Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana are the most right-leaning states in the union, with between 46% and 49% of residents in each identifying as politically conservative.

Mississippi was the most conservative state in 2008 and remains the most conservative in 2014, with 49% of residents identifying as conservative in both years. Three states — Louisiana, Oklahoma and Montana — were not in the top 10 list in 2008 but are in 2014, while South Dakota, Wyoming and Texas dropped out of the top 10 list over the past seven years.

It is interesting to note in the data that while the states of South Dakota, Wyoming and Texas dropped in rank as conservative states, they maintained nearly identical percentages of people who identify as Republicans as in 2013. This shows how the GOP has moved left on the political spectrum, and away from right-leaning voters.

In other words, if GOP policies were truly conservative, then the number of self-identified Republicans would better correlate with those who are self-identified conservatives. The data shows that shift is not happening. Conservatives simply don’t trust the current Republican Party apparatus.

Further enforcing the lack of trust, the Gallup numbers on Economic Confidence show that Mississippians rank the states economy fourth from the bottom.


It is also telling that Mississippi moved back up to take the title of “most conservative” for the year of 2014, while adding less than a percentage point to its total from 2013.

Conservatives here in Mississippi aren’t so easily swayed by party affiliation and political promises. Even in an election year of monumental proportions as was the case in 2014, Mississippians are solidly and consistently conservative. The take-away is simple, Mississippi conservatives want to hear a conservative message, and see conservative policies enacted by Republicans.

The opportunity for growth to spread outside Mississippi is also evidenced in the Gallup numbers:

Six of the top 10 most conservative states are located in the South (Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee and South Carolina). Three others are in the Mountain West (Utah, Wyoming and Idaho), and one is Oklahoma — straddling the Midwest/southern border.

Keith Plunkett is the Policy and Communications Director for the United Conservatives Fund. He has worked on communications and policy issues with a range of public officials from aldermen to Congressmen, and a variety of businesses, government agencies and non-profits. He serves or has served as a board member of several non-profit, civic and political organizations. Contact him by email at or follow him on Twitter @Keithplunkett



  1. says:

    This is a clear case of needing to consider the source. (1) MS is the most conservative state in the US, but this indicates the potential for a consevative renewal. That stands reason on its head. (2) MS is not solidly Repbublican. Let’s see every state office, except Attorney General, 3 of 4 Congressional seats, and both Senate seats are held by Republicans. But the state is not solidly Republican. Right. (3) Three conservative states have slipped in conservative ranking, and this proves the Republican Party has moved left. How does that make sense? And, btw, when since 1950 has the GOP been more conservative than it is now? Hint: at no time. Perhaps it is the writer’s youth or his wishful thinking, but the GOP was not more conservatve in the past. We do have to remembrer that this piece is really PR for the UCF, but really what kind of logic is this?

    • 1. Mississippi is the most SELF-IDENTIFIED conservative state in the nation. but not the most self-identified Republican state. That shows the opportunity for conservative organization that doesn’t currently exist under the party structure.

      2. Mississippi is not solidly Republican because people aren’t as solidly SELF-IDENTIFIED as Republicans. Just because there are Republicans in office doesn’t mean anything except conservatives have picked the lesser of two evils.

      3. 3 states have slipped in the conservative rankings, but have maintained their identified Republican rankings. This is proof that conservatives are tuning out and not getting the GOP message that the party is somehow synonymous. It shows the division.

      It’s math. Not that difficult.

      • It is true that Mississippi has long been mismatched between self-identified conservatives and self-identified Republicans, and I’ll leave the future implications of that for others to discuss. However, the discussion on this point could be furthered by an examination of long-term Republican trends in Mississippi. I don’t believe the mismatch is anything new or entirely caused by a leftward drift on the part of the Republican party. Rather, as in much of the South, Mississippi was Democratic for decades, and at the local level, most people voted for the Democratic Party, whatever their party affiliation. Slowly, the Republican Party gained strength at the local level to the point where they now control even the state legislature. As recently as the very early 2000s, Phil Bryant (then state auditor) and the two senators at the time were the only Republican state-wide elected officials (the other seven were Democrats). I have no doubt, that, even then, many more Mississippians self-identified as conservative than voted consistently Republican. Back then, though, they voted Democratic at the local level and Republican at the national. In short, fluidity of party identification was present long before current Tea Party-Republican debates. Whether all of this means that another conservative party infrastructure could compete with the Republican Party is something that can be legitimately debated and the possibility of such an occurrence certainly exists. But the ideological mismatch has been there for a long time, and if election results are to be believed, the Republican Party is stronger in the state now than it has ever been. It may or may not have peaked, but I think it important to remember that, so far, we don’t see a Republican Party in decline after conservatives who used to be Republican left the Party, but rather, we’ve seen a Republican Party that has grown stronger as conservatives began to vote for the Party.

  2. says:

    Keith, I’m sorry but this is not about math. It’s about logic, and in this case you argue in an illogical fashion.

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