Which sectors of the economy do Americans think are liberal and conservative?

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
April 19, 2023, 10:08 PM GMT+0

Within the past year, YouGov has explored the industries that Americans have positive and negative views of, as well as the industries Americans think should be more and less regulated. In both instances, we've found that political identity plays a large role in shaping Americans' views on various sectors of the U.S. economy, with Democrats and Republicans holding vastly different opinions on industries such as mining, higher education, and news media.

In our latest poll of 1,000 U.S. adult citizens about economic sectors, we look at how Americans perceive the political ideology of workers within American industries. We asked whether people in the U.S. employed in 30 sectors are very or somewhat liberal, very or somewhat conservative, or equally conservative and liberal. The results show that workers in certain sectors — such as cannabis and entertainment — are viewed by most Americans as predominantly liberal, while workers in other sectors — such as firearms, oil, and gas — are more likely to be viewed as conservative.

The five sectors from the list of 30 whose workers Americans are most likely to say are "mostly liberal" or "more liberal than conservative":

  • Cannabis
  • Entertainment
  • Fashion
  • Higher education
  • Education

The five sectors from the list of 30 whose workers Americans are most likely to say are "mostly conservative" or "more conservative than liberal":

  • Firearms
  • Oil and gas
  • Agriculture
  • Mining and natural resources
  • Trucking

We also find that a person's own ideology shapes their views on the ideology of workers in various industries, with Americans generally being more likely to say a sector's workers belong to the ideology opposite to their own. For example, Americans who identify as conservatives are more likely than liberals to describe sectors as either "mostly liberal" or "more liberal than conservative," with the largest gaps in perceptions existing for news media and government.

Americans who describe themselves as liberal, on the other hand, are more likely than conservatives to say workers in certain sectors are "mostly conservative" or "more conservative than liberal." This is especially true for banking and finance, as well as health insurance and pharmaceuticals.

Despite some large differences on the magnitude of their estimates, liberals and conservatives generally agree on their ranking of sectors by the political ideology of workers.


— Carl Bialik and Linley Sanders contributed to this article

See the results for this YouGov poll

Methodology: This poll was conducted online on March 21 - 23, 2023 among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Each respondent was asked about a randomly selected sample of 20 of the 30 sectors. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to March 15, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 28% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 4%.

Image: Adobe Stock (diter)

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