Associated with more democratic and progressive ideology in opposition to conservative views. Liberal is often used incorrectly, to refer to the political "left". Liberals are usually on the forward edge of social movements from civil rights to womens' sufferage to legalization of marijuana and gay marriage.
Sometimes these ideas are so new and different that they can shock conservatives who look at these changes as dangerous. Some leftist radicals consider "liberal" an insult since it implies a lack of dedication to one's political beliefs and a willingness to give in on important moral issues.
Generally one who favors:
- Individual freedom and personal liberty
- Social programs designed to prevent privilege and inequality
- Economic regulation (thus wary of free trade)
- Equal rights (it is "liberal" to be in favor of gay marriages)
- Preference for the rights of parents to make an informed choice regarding abortion
- Gun control
- Anti-Death Penalty
- Against mandatory sentencing in criminal punishment
Note that this list would have looked completely different had this been written fifty years ago. Many thin gs that were once liberal are now considered conservative - or at least "normal" - and that cycle is consistent through modern history. Current progressive liberal leaders include Noam Chomsky, Ted Kennedy, Howard Dean, Al Gore, Michael Moore and Bill Moyers.
Although conservatives and liberals vary strongly, neither party is generally anti-environment, pro-abortion, or pro-crime. Generally the goals are the same but the methods differ. Nearly all liberals are pro-free speech, as new ideas must be disseminated to be useful.
While conservatives may be seen as uncompromising and inflexible, Liberals may be seen as indeterminant and creedless.
While the liberal press is often more substantive, its also less entertaining, sometimes falling prey to "guilt stories" concerning seemingly unsolvable issues like poverty and war. Environmental issues, due to their nature, are vast, global and not solvable by any one individual.
The above is the original, anglo-saxian definition of 'liberal' which is still in use in the USA. In Europe (at least: Germany, Belgium, France and the Netherlands - possibly more), the meaning has become different since beginning 19 century. Simply said, liberals in Europe are rather pro-free market and anti-everything which opposes that, althought there are also parties who are pro-science, pro knowledge economy, would pretty much fit in the above description and call themselves liberal. These last type of political parties are far less popular then the right-wing liberal parties.