Conservatism (Latin: conservare, "to preserve") is a political and social philosophy that promotes the maintenance of traditional institutions and supports, at the most, minimal and gradual change in society. Some conservatives seek to preserve things as they are, emphasizing stability and continuity, while others oppose modernism and seek a return to "the way things were".  The first established use of the term in a political context was by François-René de Chateaubriand in 1819, following the French Revolution. The term, historically associated with right-wing politics, has since been used to describe a wide range of views.
Edmund Burke, an Anglo-Irish politician who served in the British House of Commons and opposed the French Revolution, is credited as one of the founders of conservativism in Great Britain. According to Hailsham, a former chairman of the British Conservative Party, "Conservatism is not so much a philosophy as an attitude, a constant force, performing a timeless function in the development of a free society, and corresponding to a deep and permanent requirement of human nature itself."
Whig history is liberal historiography, written to show the inevitable progress of mankind. Its opposite is conservative historiography or "Toryism." English historian A.J.P. Taylor explains, "Toryism rests on doubt in human nature; it distrusts improvement, clings to traditional institutions, prefers the past to the future. It is a sentiment rather than a principle."
English conservatism, which was called Toryism, emerged during the Restoration (1660–1688). It supported a hierarchical society with a monarch who ruled by divine right. However the Glorious Revolution (1688), which established constitutional government, led to a reformulation of Toryism which now considered sovereignty vested in the three estates of Crown, Lords, and Commons.
Conservatives typically see Richard Hooker as the founding father of conservatism, the Marquess of Halifax as important for his pragmatism, David Hume articulated conservative mistrust of rationalism in politics, and Edmund Burke was the leading early theorist. There is a debate in the historiography, because Hooker lived too early, Halifax did not belong to any party, Hume was not involved in politics, and Burke was a Whig. In the 19th century, Conservatives rejected Burke because of his defense of Catholic emancipation, and found inspiration in Bolingbroke instead. John Reeves, who wrote a Tory response to the French Revolution, is ignored. Conservatives also objected to Burke's support of the American Revolution, which the Tory Samuel Johnson, for example, attacked in "Taxation No Tyranny".
Conservatism developed in Restoration England from royalism. Royalists supported absolute monarchy, arguing that the sovereign governed by divine right. They opposed the theory that sovereignty derived from the people, the authority of parliament and freedom of religion. Robert Filmer’s Patriarcha: or the Natural Power of Kings, which had been written before the English Civil War, became accepted as the statement of their doctrine. Following the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the conservatives, known as Tories, accepted that the three estates of Crown, Lords, and Commons held sovereignty jointly. However Toryism became marginalized during the long period of Whig ascendency. The party, which was renamed the Conservative Party in the 1830s, returned as a major political force after becoming home to both paternalistic aristocrats and free market capitalists in an uneasy alliance.
Edmund Burke was the private secretary to the Marquis of Rockingham and official pamphleteer to the Rockingham branch of the Whig Party. Together with the Tories, they were the conservatives in the late 18th century United Kingdom. Burke's views were a mixture of liberal and conservative, with the crucial caveat that the meaning of these terms in this time period was markedly different from popular conceptions of the present day. He supported the American Revolution but abhorred the violence of the French Revolution. He accepted the liberal ideals of private property and the economics of Adam Smith, but thought that economics should be kept subordinate to the conservative social ethic, that capitalism should be subordinate to the medieval social tradition and that the business class should be subordinate to aristocracy. He insisted on standards of honor derived from the medieval aristocratic tradition, and saw the aristocracy as the nation's natural leaders. That meant limits on the powers of the Crown, since he found the institutions of Parliament to be better informed than commissions appointed by the executive. He favored an established church, but allowed for a degree of religious toleration. Burke justified the social order on the basis of tradition: tradition represented the wisdom of the species and he valued community and social harmony over social reforms.
In the 19th century, conflict between wealthy businessmen and the aristocracy split the British conservative movement, with the aristocracy calling for a return to medieval ideas while the business classes called for laissez-faire capitalism.
Although conservatives opposed attempts to allow greater representation of the middle class in parliament, in 1834 they conceded that electoral reform could not be reversed and promised to support further reforms so long as they did not erode the institutions of church and state. These new principles were presented in the Tamworth Manifesto which is considered by historians to be the basic statement of the beliefs of the new Conservative Party.
Some conservatives lamented the passing of a pastoral world where the ethos of noblesse oblige had promoted respect from the lower classes. They saw the Anglican Church and the aristocracy as balances against commercial wealth. They worked toward legislation for improved working conditions and urban housing. This viewpoint would later be called Tory Democracy. However since Burke there has always been tension between traditional aristocratic conservatism and the wealthy business class.
In the United States, conservatism developed after the Second World War when Russell Kirk and other writers identified an American conservative tradition based on the ideas of Edmund Burke. However many writers do not accept American conservatism as genuine and consider it to be a variety of liberalism.
See also: Latin Conservatism. Another form of conservatism developed in France in parallel to conservatism in Britain. It was influenced by Counter-Enlightenment works by men such as Joseph de Maistre and Louis de Bonald. Latin conservatism was less pragmatic and more reactionary than the conservatism of Burke. Many Continental or Traditionalist conservatives do not support separation of Church and state, with most supporting state recognition of and cooperation with the Catholic Church, such as had existed in France before the Revolution.
Eventually conservatives added patriotism and nationalism to the list of traditional values they support. German conservatives were the first to embrace nationalism, which was previously associated with liberalism and the Revolution in France.
Today, movements that use the name "conservative" have a wide variety of views.
Liberal conservatism is a variant of conservatism that combines conservative values and policies with classical liberal stances. As these latter two terms have had different meanings over time and across countries, liberal conservatism also has a wide variety of meanings. Historically, the term often referred to the combination of economic liberalism, which champions laissez-faire markets, with the classical conservatism concern for established tradition, respect for authority and religious values. It contrasted itself with classical liberalism, which supported freedom for the individual in both the economic and social spheres.
Over time, the general conservative ideology in many countries adopted economic liberal arguments, and the term liberal conservatism was replaced with conservatism. This is also the case in countries where liberal economic ideas have been the tradition, such as the United States, and are thus considered conservative. In other countries where liberal conservative movements have entered the political mainstream, such as Italy and Spain, the terms liberal and conservative may be synonymous. The liberal conservative tradition in the United States combines the economic individualism of the classical liberals with a Burkean form of conservatism (which has also become part of the American conservative tradition, such as in the writings of Russell Kirk).
A secondary meaning for the term liberal conservatism that has developed in Europe is a combination of more modern conservative (less traditionalist) views with those of social liberalism. This has developed as an opposition to the more collectivist views of socialism. Often this involves stressing what are now conservative views of free-market economics and belief in individual responsibility, with social liberal views on defence of civil rights, environmentalism and support for a limited welfare state. This philosophy is that of Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt. In continental Europe, this is sometimes also translated into English as social conservatism.
Conservative liberalism is a variant of liberalism that combines liberal values and policies with conservative stances, or, more simply, the right wing of the liberal movement.   The roots of conservative liberalism are found at the beginning of the history of liberalism. Until the two World Wars, in most European countries the political class was formed by conservative liberals, from Germany to Italy. The events such as World War I occurring after 1917 brought the more radical version of classical liberalism to a more conservative (i.e. more moderate) type of liberalism.
See main article: Libertarian conservatism. Libertarian conservatism describes certain political ideologies within the United States and Canada which combine libertarian economic issues with aspects of conservatism. Its five main branches are Constitutionalism, paleolibertarianism, neolibertarianism, small government conservatism and Christian libertarianism. They generally differ from paleoconservatives, in that they are in favor of more personal and economic freedom.
In contrast to paleoconservatives, libertarian conservatives support strict laissez-faire policies such as free trade, opposition to any national bank and opposition to business regulations. They are vehemently opposed to environmental regulations, corporate welfare, subsidies, and other areas of economic intervention. Many of them have views in accord to Ludwig von Mises. However, many of them oppose abortion, as they see it as a positive liberty and violates the non-aggression principle because abortion is aggression towards the fetus.
Fiscal conservatism is the economic philosophy of prudence in government spending and debt. Edmund Burke, in his 'Reflections on the Revolution in France', argued that a government does not have the right to run up large debts and then throw the burden on the taxpayer:
...[I]t is to the property of the citizen, and not to the demands of the creditor of the state, that the first and original faith of civil society is pledged. The claim of the citizen is prior in time, paramount in title, superior in equity. The fortunes of individuals, whether possessed by acquisition or by descent or in virtue of a participation in the goods of some community, were no part of the creditor's security, expressed or implied...[T]he public, whether represented by a monarch or by a senate, can pledge nothing but the public estate; and it can have no public estate except in what it derives from a just and proportioned imposition upon the citizens at large.
Green conservatism is a term used to refer to conservatives who have incorporated green concerns into their ideology. One of the first uses of the term green conservatism was by former United States Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich, in a debate on environmental issues with John Kerry.  Around this time, the green conservative movement was sometimes referred to as the crunchy con movement, a term popularized by National Review magazine and the writings of Rod Dreher. The group Republicans for Environmental Protection seeks to strengthen the Republican Party's stance on environmental issues, and supports efforts to conserve natural resources and protect human and environmental health.
The Conservative Party in the United Kingdom under David Cameron has embraced a green agenda:, including a tax on workplace car parking spaces, a halt to airport growth, a tax on 'gas-guzzling' 4x4s and restrictions on car advertising. The measures were suggested by The Quality of Life Policy Group, which was set up by Cameron to help fight climate change.
See main article: Cultural conservatism and social conservatism. Cultural conservatives support the preservation of the heritage of one nation, or of a shared culture that is not defined by national boundaries. The shared culture may be as divergent as Western culture or Chinese culture. In the United States, the term cultural conservative may imply a conservative position in the culture war. Cultural conservatives hold fast to traditional ways of thinking even in the face of monumental change. They believe strongly in traditional values and traditional politics, and often have an urgent sense of nationalism.
Social conservatism is distinct from cultural conservatism, although there are some overlaps. Social conservatives believe that the government has a role in encouraging or enforcing what they consider traditional values or behaviors. A social conservative wants to preserve traditional morality and social mores, often through civil law or regulation. Social change is generally regarded as suspect.
Social conservatives (in the first meaning of the word) in many countries generally favor the pro-life position in the abortion controversy and oppose embryonic stem cell research (particularly if publicly funded); oppose both eugenics and human enhancement (transhumanism) while supporting bioconservatism; support a traditional definition of marriage as being one man and one woman; view the nuclear family model as society's foundational unit; oppose expansion of civil marriage and child adoption rights to couples in same-sex relationships; promote public morality and traditional family values; oppose atheism, especially militant atheism, secularism and the separation of church and state;   support the prohibition of drugs, prostitution, premarital sex, non-marital sex and euthanasia; and support the censorship of pornography and what they consider to be obscenity or indecency.
Some conservatives also support harsh, eye for an eye-based punishment such as the death penalty and long prison terms over punishments that focus on rehabilitation. However, a significant minority of conservatives, including Ron Paul, oppose the death penalty, and some conservative Catholics and members of the peace churches  oppose the death penalty because of their beliefs in Christian forgiveness and the sanctity of life.
See also: Religious right (disambiguation), Christian Right and Fundamentalist Islam. Religious conservatives principally seek to apply the teachings of particular religions to politics, sometimes by merely proclaiming the value of those teachings, at other times by having those teachings influence laws.
See main article: Compassionate conservatism. Compassionate conservatism is a political philosophy that stresses dealing with social problems such as health care or immigration through private enterprise, charities and religious institutions rather than government. It emphasizes the weakness of human nature and our tendency towards sin and idleness to be overcome through personal responsibility and self-reliance, and optimistic assurance, rather than social action by the poor to assert their rights and fight social injustice.
It is associated with George H. W. Bush presidential advisor Doug Wead and author and editor Marvin Olasky  and was popularized by George W. Bush during his 2000 presidential campaign against Al Gore. The term is little used in the United States today. The idea has also been used in the United Kingdom by British Prime Minister David Cameron.
As of the 2012 presidential campaign at least two observers (journalists Jim Wallis in the Huffington Post, and Amy Sullivan in USA Today) have argued the idea has "virtually disappeared" from America's conservative Republican Party, replaced by competition to "take the hardest line in opposing government-funded programs to help the poor."
Conservative political parties vary widely from country to country in the goals they wish to achieve. Both conservative and liberal parties tend to favor private ownership of property, in opposition to communist, socialist and green parties, which favor communal ownership or laws requiring social responsibility on the part of property owners. Where conservatives and liberals differ is primarily on social issues. Conservatives tend to reject behavior that does not conform to some social norm. For many years, conservative parties fought to stop extension of voting rights to groups such as to non-Christians, non-whites and women. Modern conservative parties often define themselves by their opposition to liberal or labour parties. The United States usage of the term conservative is unique to that country.
According to Alan Ware, Belgium, Denmark, Iceland, Finland, France, Greece, Iceland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK retained viable conservative parties into the 1980s. Ware said that Australia, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malta, New Zealand, Spain and the US had no conservative parties, although they had either Christian Democrats or liberals as major right-wing parties. Canada, Ireland, and Portugal had right-wing political parties that defied categorization: the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada; Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and Progressive Democrats in Ireland; and the Social Democratic Party of Portugal. Since then, the Swiss People's Party has moved to the extreme right and is no longer considered to be conservative.
Klaus von Beyme, who developed the method of party categorization, found that no modern Eastern European parties could be considered conservative, although the communist and communist-successor parties had strong similarities.
In Italy, which was united by liberals and radicals (risorgimento), liberals not conservatives emerged as the party of the Right. In the Netherlands, conservatives merged into a new Christian democratic party in 1980. In Austria, Germany, Portugal and Spain, conservatism was transformed into and incorporated into fascism or the far right. In 1940, all Japanese parties were merged into a single fascist party. Following the war, Japanese conservatives briefly returned to politics but were largely purged from public office.
Louis Hartz explained the absence of conservatism in Australia or the United States as a result of their settlement as radical or liberal fragments of Great Britain. Although he said English Canada had a negligible conservative influence, subsequent writers claimed that loyalists opposed to the American Revolution brought a Tory ideology into Canada. Hartz explained conservatism in Quebec and Latin America as a result of their settlement as feudal societies. The American conservative writer Russell Kirk provided the opinion that conservatism had been brought to the US and interpreted the American revolution as a "conservative revolution".
Conservative elites have long dominated Latin American nations. Mostly this has been achieved through control of and support for civil institutions, the church and the armed forces, rather than through party politics. Typically the church was exempt from taxes and its employees immune from civil prosecution. Where national conservative parties were weak or non-existent, conservatives were more likely to rely on military dictatorship as a preferred form of government. However in some nations where the elites were able to mobilize popular support for conservative parties, longer periods of political stability were achieved. Chile, Colombia and Venezuela are examples of nations that developed strong conservative parties. Argentina, Brazil, El Salvador and Peru are examples of nations where this did not occur. The Conservative Party of Venezuela disappeared following the Federal Wars of 1858-1863. Chile's conservative party, the National Party disbanded in 1973 following a military coup and did not re-emerge as a political force following the subsequent return to democracy.
The conservative Union Nationale governed the province of Quebec in periods from 1936 to 1960, in a close alliance with English Canadian business elites and the Catholic Church. This period, known as the Great Darkness ended with the Quiet Revolution and the party went into terminal decline.
Founded in 1945 as the Christian People's Party, the Flemish Christian Democrats (CD&V) dominated politics in post-war Belgium. In 1999, the party's support collapsed and it became the country's fifth largest party.
See main article: Conservatism in Canada. Canada's Conservatives had their roots in the Loyalists - Tories - who left America after the American Revolution. They developed in the socio-economic and political cleavages that existed during the first three decades of the 19th century, and had the support of the business, professional and established Church (Anglican) elites in Ontario and to a lesser extent in Quebec. Holding a monopoly over administrative and judicial offices, they were called the "Family Compact" in Ontario and the "Chateau Clique" in Quebec. John A. Macdonald's successful leadership of the movement to confederate the provinces and his subsequent tenure as prime minister for most of the late 19th century rested on his ability to bring together the English-speaking Protestant oligarchy and the ultramontane Catholic hierarchy of Quebec and to keep them united in a conservative coalition.
The Conservatives combined pro-market liberalism and Toryism. They generally supported an activist government and state intervention in the marketplace, and their policies were marked by noblesse oblige, a paternalistic responsibility of the elites for the less well-off. From 1942, the party was known as the Progressive Conservatives, until 2003, when the national party merged with the Canadian Alliance to form the Conservative Party of Canada.
The Colombian Conservative Party, founded in 1849, traces its origins to opponents of General Francisco de Paula Santander's 1833-37 administration. While the term "liberal" had been used to describe all political forces in Colombia, the conservatives began describing themselves as "conservative liberals" and their opponents as "red liberals". From the 1860s until the present, the party has supported strong central government, and supported the Catholic Church, especially its role as protector of the sanctity of the family, and opposed separation of church and state. Its policies include the legal equality of all men, the citizen's right to own property and opposition to dictatorship. It has usually been Colombia's second largest party, with the Colombian Liberal Party being the largest.
Founded in 1915, the Conservative People's Party of Denmark. was the successor of Højre (literally "right"). In the 2005 election it won 18 out of 179 seats in the Folketing and became a junior partner in coalition with the Liberals. The party is preceded by 11 years by the Young Conservatives (KU), today the youth movement of the party. The Party suffered a major defeat in the parliamentary elections of September 2011 in which the party lost more than half of its seat and also lost governmental power.
The conservative party in Finland is the National Coalition Party (in Finnish Kansallinen Kokoomus, Kok). The party was founded in 1918 when several monarchist parties united. Although in the past the party was right-wing, today it is a moderate party. While the party advocates economic liberalism, it is committed to the social market economy.
Following the Second World War, conservatives in France supported Gaullist groups and have been nationalistic, and emphasized tradition, order, and the regeneration of France. Gaullists held divergent views on social issues. The number of Conservative groups, their lack of stability, and their tendency to be identified with local issues defy simple categorization. Conservatism has been the major political force in France since the second world war. Unusually, post-war French conservatism was formed around the personality of a leader, Charles de Gaulle, and did not draw on traditional French conservatism, but on the Bonapartism tradition. Gaullism in France continues under the Union for a Popular Movement. The word "conservative" itself is a term of abuse in France.
The main interwar conservative party was called the People's Party (PP), which supported constitutional monarchy and opposed the republican Liberal Party. It was able to re-group after the Second World War as part of a United Nationalist Front which achieved power campaigning on a simple anticommunist, ultranationalist platform. However, the vote received by the PP declined, leading them to create an expanded party, the Greek Rally, under the leadership of the charismatic General Alexandros Papagos. The conservatives opposed the far right dictatorship of the colonels (1967–1974) and established the New Democratic Party following the fall of the dictatorship. The new party had four objectives: to confront Turkish expansionism in Cyprus, to reestablish and solidify democratic rule, to give the country a strong government, and to make a powerful moderate party a force in Greek politics.
Founded in 1926 as the Conservative Party, Iceland's Independence Party adopted its current name in 1929. From the beginning they have been the largest vote-winning party, averaging around 40%. They combine liberalism and conservatism, supporting nationalization and opposed to class conflict. While mostly in opposition during the 1930s, they embraced economic liberalism, but accepted the welfare state after the war and participated in governments supportive of state intervention and protectionism. Unlike other Scandanivian conservative (and liberal) parties, it has always had a large working-class following.
Luxembourg's major conservative party, the Christian Social People's Party (CSV or PCS) was formed as the Party of the Right in 1914, and adopted its present name in 1945. It was consistently the largest political party in Luxembourg and dominated politics throughout the 20th century.
The Conservative Party of Norway (Norwegian: Høyre, literally "right") was formed by the old upper class of state officials and wealthy merchants to fight the populist democracy of the Liberal Party, but lost power in 1884 when parliamentarian government was first practised. It formed its first government under parliamentarism in 1889, and continued to alternate in power with the Liberals until the 1930s, when Labour became the dominant political party. It has elements both of paternalism, stressing the responsibilities of the state and of economic liberalism. It first returned to power in the 1960s.
Sweden's conservative party, the Moderate Party, was formed in 1904, two years after the founding of the liberal party. The party emphasizes tax reductions, deregulation of private enterprise, and privatization of schools, hospitals and kindergartens.
There are a number of conservative parties in Switzerland's parliament, the Federal Assembly. These include the largest, the Swiss People's Party (SVP), the Christian Democratic People's Party (CVP), represented in the Federal Council or cabinet by Doris Leuthard (in 2011), and the Conservative Democratic Party of Switzerland (BDP), which is a spliter of the SVP created after a failed attempt to expel Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf from the SVP.
The Swiss People's Party (SVP or UDC) was formed from the 1971 merger of the Party of Farmers, Traders, and Citizens, formed in 1917 and the smaller Swiss Democratic Party, formed in 1942. The SVP emphasized agricultural policy, and was strong among farmers in German-speaking Protestant areas. As Switzerland considered closer relations with the European Union in the 1990s, the SVP adopted a more militant protectionist and isolationist stance. This stance has allowed it to expand into German-speaking Catholic mountainous areas. The Anti-Defamation League has accused them of manipulating issues such as immigration, Swiss neutrality and welfare benefits, awakening anti-Semitism and racism. The Council of Europe has called the SVP "extreme right", although some scholars dispute this classification. Hans-Georg Betz for example describes it as "populist radical right".
Conservatism in the United Kingdom is related to its counterparts in other Western nations, but has a distinct tradition. Edmund Burke is often considered the father of conservatism in the English-speaking world. Burke was a Whig, while the term Tory is given to the later Conservative Party. One Australian scholar argues, "For Edmund Burke and Australians of a like mind, the essence of conservatism lies not in a body of theory, but in the disposition to maintain those institutions seen as central to the beliefs and practices of society."
The old established form of English and, after the Act of Union, British conservatism, was the Tory Party. It reflected the attitudes of a rural land owning class, and championed the institutions of the monarchy, the Anglican Church, the family, and property as the best defence of the social order. In the early stages of the industrial revolution, it seemed to be totally opposed to a process that seemed to undermine some of these bulwarks. The new industrial elite were seen by many as enemies to the social order. Robert Peel was able to reconcile the new industrial class to the Tory landed class by persuading the latter to accept the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846. He created a new political group that sought to preserve the old status quo while accepting the basics of laissez-faire and free trade. The new coalition of traditional landowners and sympathetic industrialists constituted the new Conservative Party.
Benjamin Disraeli gave the new party a political ideology. As a young man, he was influenced by the romantic movement and medievalism, and developed a devastating critique of industrialism. In his novels, he outlined an England divided into two nations, each living in perfect ignorance of each other. He foresaw, like Karl Marx, the phenomenon of an alienated industrial proletariat. His solution involved a return to an idealised view of a corporate or organic society, in which everyone had duties and responsibilities towards other people or groups. This "one nation" conservatism is still a significant tradition in British politics. It has animated a great deal of social reform undertaken by successive Conservative governments.
Although nominally a Conservative, Disraeli was sympathetic to some of the demands of the Chartists and argued for an alliance between the landed aristocracy and the working class against the increasing power of the middle class, helping to found the Young England group in 1842 to promote the view that the rich should use their power to protect the poor from exploitation by the middle class. The conversion of the Conservative Party into a modern mass organisation was accelerated by the concept of Tory Democracy attributed to Lord Randolph Churchill, father of Britain's wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
A Liberal-Conservative coalition during World War I, coupled with the ascent of the Labour Party, hastened the collapse of the Liberals in the 1920s. After World War II, the Conservative Party made concessions to the socialist policies of the Left. This compromise was a pragmatic measure to regain power, but also the result of the early successes of central planning and state ownership forming a cross-party consensus. This was known as Butskellism, after the almost identical Keynesian policies of Rab Butler on behalf of the Conservatives, and Hugh Gaitskell for Labour.
However, in the 1980s, under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher, and the influence of Keith Joseph, there was a dramatic shift in the ideological direction of British conservatism, with a movement towards free-market economic policies. As one commentator explains, "The privatization of state owned industries, unthinkable before, became commonplace [during Thatcher's government] and has now been imitated all over the world." Some commentators have questioned whether Thatcherism was consistent with the traditional concept of conservatism in the United Kingdom, and saw her views as more consistent with radical classical liberalism. Thatcher was described as "a radical in a conservative party", and her ideology has been seen as confronting "established institutions" and the "accepted beliefs of the elite", both concepts incompatible with the traditional conception of conservatism as signifying support for the established order and existing social convention.
See main article: Conservatism in the United States. The meaning of "conservatism" in America has little in common with the way the word is used elsewhere. As Ribuffo (2011) notes, "what Americans now call conservatism much of the world calls liberalism or neoliberalism." Since the 1950s conservatism in the United States has been chiefly associated with the Republican Party. However, during the era of segregation many Southern Democrats were conservatives, and they played a key role in the Conservative Coalition that controlled Congress from 1937 to 1963.
Major movements within American conservatism include support for tradition, law-and-order, Christianity, anti-communism, and a defense of "Western civilization from the challenges of modernist culture and totalitarian governments." Economic conservatives and libertarians favor small government, low taxes, limited regulation, and free enterprise. Social conservatives see traditional social values as threatened by secularism, so they support school prayer and oppose abortion and homosexuality. Neoconservatives want to expand American ideals throughout the world and show a strong support for Israel. Paleoconservatives, in opposition to multiculturalism, press for restrictions on immigration. Most U.S. conservatives prefer Republicans over Democrats, and most factions favor a strong foreign policy and a strong military. The conservative movement of the 1950s attempted to bring together these divergent strands, stressing the need for unity to prevent the spread of "Godless Communism", which Reagan later labeled an "evil empire". During the Reagan administration, conservatives also supported the so-called "Reagan Doctrine" under which the U.S., as part of a Cold War strategy, provided military and other support to guerrilla insurgencies that were fighting governments aligned with the Soviet Union.
Other modern conservative beliefs include opposition to a world government, skepticism about the importance or validity of various environmental issues, the importance of self-reliance instead of reliance on the government to solve problems.
Most recently, the Tea Party movement, founded in 2009, has proven a large outlet for populist American conservative ideas. Their stated goals include rigorous adherence to the U.S. Constitution, lower taxes. and opposition to a growing role for the federal government in health care. Electorally, it was considered a key force in Republicans reclaiming control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010. 
Following the Second World War, psychologists conducted research into the different motives and tendencies that account for ideological differences between left and right. The early studies focused on conservatives, beginning with Theodor W. Adorno's The Authoritarian Personality (1950). This book has been heavily criticized on theoretical and methodological grounds, but some of its findings have been confirmed by further empirical research.
In 1973, British psychologist Glenn Wilson published an influential book providing evidence that a general factor underlying conservative beliefs is "fear of uncertainty". A meta-analysis of research literature by Jost, Glaser, Kruglanski, and Sulloway in 2003 found that many factors, such as intolerance of ambiguity and need for cognitive closure, contribute to the degree of one's political conservatism. A study by Kathleen Maclay stated these traits "might be associated with such generally valued characteristics as personal commitment and unwavering loyalty." The research also suggested that while most people are resistant to change, liberals are more tolerant of it.
According to psychologist Robert Altemeyer, individuals who are politically conservative tend to rank high in Right-Wing Authoritarianism on his RWA scale. This finding was echoed by Theodor Adorno. A study done on Israeli and Palestinian students in Israel found that RWA scores of right-wing party supporters were significantly higher than those of left-wing party supporters. However, a 2005 study by H. Michael Crowson and colleagues suggested a moderate gap between RWA and other conservative positions. "The results indicated that conservatism is not synonymous with RWA." 
Psychologist Felicia Pratto and her colleagues have found evidence to support the idea that a high Social Dominance Orientation (SDO) is strongly correlated with conservative political views, and opposition to social engineering to promote equality, though Pratto's findings have been highly controversial. Pratto and her colleagues found that high SDO scores were highly correlated with measures of prejudice. They were refuted in this claim by David J. Schneider, who wrote that "correlations between prejudice and political conservative are reduced virtually to zero when controls for SDO are instituted"  and by Kenneth Minogue who wrote "It is characteristic of the conservative temperament to value established identities, to praise habit and to respect prejudice, not because it is irrational, but because such things anchor the darting impulses of human beings in solidities of custom which we do not often begin to value until we are already losing them. Radicalism often generates youth movements, while conservatism is a condition found among the mature, who have discovered what it is in life they most value." 
A 1996 study on the relationship between racism and conservatism found that the correlation was stronger among more educated individuals, though specifically anti-Black racism did not increase. They also found that the correlation between racism and conservatism could be entirely accounted for by their mutual relationship with social dominance orientation. The authors concluded that opposition to affirmative action, especially among more highly educated conservatives, was better explained by social dominance orientation than by principled conservatism.
A 2008 research report found that conservatives are happier than liberals, and that as income inequality increases, this difference in relative happiness increases, because conservatives (more than liberals) possess an ideological buffer against the negative hedonic effects of economic inequality.