While there are plenty of red and red-leaning states in the U.S., a few are known for being especially conservative, including Tennessee, Louisiana, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Texas. These states share many similarities: low taxes, low unemployment rates, limited business regulations, and right-to-work legislation (which bans union security agreements, thereby weakening the power of unions). Each state also has a history of conservative leadership and a culture that reflects traditional conservative values.
Key Takeaways: The Most Conservative States
• The most conservative states in the U.S. are known for their low tax rates and limited business regulations.
• Other hallmarks of conservative states include low union membership, limited gun laws, and high religious participation.
• In Wyoming, 59 percent of residents identify as Republican or Republican-leaning, making the state (by this metric) the most conservative in the U.S.
TennesseeNina Dietzel/Getty Images
Tennessee has no state income tax and some of the lowest property taxes in the nation. The state offsets these low taxes with higher sales taxes, and as a result, a significant percentage of Tennessee's taxes are actually paid by nonresidents. Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville are all popular tourist areas that help bring in out-of-state dollars. Tennessee is also a right-to-work state, and as of 2018, only 5.7 percent of its workers are members of a union. The state is known for its conservative culture, with 42 percent of residents identifying as conservative (the national average is 36 percent) and 49 percent identifying as "very religious."
LouisianaKylie McLaughlin/Getty Images
The Pelican State has low personal income taxes and sales taxes, making it a popular state for small business owners. Like Tennessee, Louisiana is a right-to-work state with low union membership. As of 2018, the state unemployment rate was 4.7 percent, slightly higher than the national average. Louisiana has been a popular state for conservative initiatives such as education reform and business deregulation. Politically, the state leans to the right, with 45 percent of residents identifying as conservative and only 17 percent identifying as liberal. Louisiana also has very limited gun laws; it allows open carry without a permit and does not require handguns or long guns to be registered with the state.
By polling alone, Wyoming is the most conservative state in the nation, with 59 percent of residents identifying as Republican or Republican-leaning. Like other conservative states, it has very low tax rates across the board, and close to 70 percent of Wyoming's revenue comes from nonresidents through sales taxes. The state's economy is driven by oil and natural gas production, and the people consistently elect staunch conservatives to send to Washington. (One of the state's current representatives, John Barrasso, is considered one of the most conservative in the Senate.) Conservatives also love this state is because of the popularity of hunting-a $300 million industry that brings in plenty of out-of-state dollars. Low population density is also a draw for conservatives who prefer rural culture.
South Dakota has no state income taxes or inheritance taxes, giving it the lowest per capita state tax rate in the country. The sales tax rate is only 4.5 percent. Electorally, the state has been moving to the right over the last few decades. In 2004, conservative John Thune upset Democratic Minority Leader Tom Daschle, taking one of the state's Senate seats. Thune won reelection in 2010 and 2016. Very few of the state's residents identify as liberal-only 16 percent-while 41 percent identify as conservative. State politics are largely controlled by Republicans, and South Dakota has not elected a Democrat as governor since 1974. Business regulations in the state are very limited; in 2012, South Dakota ranked second on the Tax Foundation's list of the most business-friendly states.
Like the other states on this list, Texas is known as a business-friendly environment (it gets a Top 10 ranking from the Tax Foundation). A large part of the economy is devoted to oil and natural gas production, which has increased under the state's conservative leadership. Of the residents, 42 percent identify as conservative and only 18 percent as liberal. Texas has not voted for a Democrat for president since 1976 when Jimmy Carter won a narrow victory over Gerald Ford. In 2012, voters in the state delivered a big win for conservatism in the U.S. Senate by propelling Ted Cruz-a champion of government deregulation and a flat tax-to an easy victory. Texas has also produced such conservative leaders as George W. Bush, Phil Gramm, and Rick Perry.
North DakotaRiverNorthPhotography/Getty Images
Like its neighbor to the south, North Dakota has relatively low taxes, and the Tax Foundation rates the state as the 20th most "business friendly." North Dakota has been very conservative since its inception when businessman John Miller was elected governor in 1889. The Republican Party has dominated the state's politics for more than half a century; the last Democratic governor was George A. Sinner, who served from 1985 to 1992. Residents are overwhelmingly conservative. According to a 2017 Gallup report, only Wyoming is more right-leaning.
MississippiGeoff Eccles/Getty Images
Mississippi is known for its deeply religious, conservative culture. Polling shows that conservative views, including opposition to same-sex marriage, are even more common here than in other parts of the Deep South. Political opposition to social welfare has driven the state to cut entitlement programs such as Medicaid and food stamps; nevertheless, the state is one of the top recipients of federal aid. Mississippians are highly religious, with 74 percent of residents describing their faith as "very important" and another 15 percent as "somewhat important." About half of residents attend religious services at least once a week, and three-quarters report that they pray daily. Since 1976, when the state voted for Jimmy Carter, Mississippi has not chosen a Democrat for president.