As with any political ideology, Christian democracy has had different manifestations over time and between countries; there are several types of ideology that are called Christian democracy.
As a generalization, it can be said that Christian democratic parties in Europe tend to be moderately
conservative, and in several cases form the main conservative party in their respective countries (e.g. in Germany, Spain and Belgium, Switzerland:
Christian Democratic People's Party of Switzerland (CVP),
Christian Social Party (CSP),
Evangelical People's Party of Switzerland (EVP).
Federal Democratic Union of Switzerland (EDU). In Latin America, by contrast, Christian democratic parties tend to be left-leaning and to some degree influenced by
 These generalizations, however, must be nuanced by the consideration that Christian democracy does not fit precisely into the usual categories of political thought, but rather includes elements common to several other political ideologies, including
In common with conservatism:
- traditional moral values (on marriage, abortion, prohibition of drugs etc.),
 opposition to
secularization, opposition to
state atheism, a view of the evolutionary (as opposed to revolutionary) development of society, an emphasis on law and order, and a rejection of
In contrast to conservatism:
- open to change (for example, in the structure of society) and not necessarily supportive of the social status quo.
In common with liberalism:
- an emphasis on human rights and individual initiative.
In contrast to liberalism:
- a rejection of
secularism, and an emphasis on the fact that the individual is part of a community and has duties towards it.
In common with social democracy:
- an emphasis on the community, social justice and solidarity, support for a
labor unions and support for regulation of market forces.
In contrast to social democracy:
- most European Christian Democrats reject the concept of
class struggle (although less so in some Latin American countries, which have been influenced by
liberation theology), opposing both excessive State institutions and unregulated capitalism in favor of robust non-governmental, non-profit, intermediary institutions to deliver social services and
Geoffrey K. Roberts and Patricia Hogwood have noted that "Christian democracy has incorporated many of the views held by liberals, conservatives and socialists within a wider framework of moral and Christian principles."
Christian Democrats hold that the various sectors of society (such as education, family, economy and state) have autonomy and responsibility over their own sphere, a concept known as
 One sphere ought not to dictate the obligations of another social entity; for example, the sphere of the state is not permitted to interfere with the raising of children, a role that belongs to sphere of the family.
 Within the sphere of government, Christian Democrats maintain that civil issues should first be addressed at the lowest level of government before being examined at a higher level, a doctrine known as
 These concepts of sphere sovereignty and subsidiarity are considered to be cornerstones of Christian Democracy political ideology.
Christian democrats are usually
socially conservative, and, as such, generally have a relatively sceptical stance towards
same-sex marriage, though some Christian democratic parties have accepted the limited legalization of both. Christian Democrats have also supported the
prohibition of drugs.
 Christian democratic parties are often likely to assert the
Christian heritage of their country, and to affirm explicitly
Christian ethics, rather than adopting a more liberal or secular stance;
 at the same time, Christian Democratic parties enshrine
 Christian Democracy fosters an "
ecumenical unity achieved on the religious level against the
atheism of the government in the Communist countries."
On economic issues, Christian democrats normally do not completely oppose
capitalism as an economic system, unlike their repudiation of atheistic
communism and similar ideologies,
 though they do see the economy as being at the service of humanity. The duty of the state towards society is of real importance for Christian democrats, though some would see this duty as being mostly to create the conditions for civil society to flourish, while others would see it as a more direct duty of the state towards citizens. In recent decades, some right-leaning Christian democratic parties in Europe have adopted policies consistent with an
economically liberal point of view but still support a regulated economy with a welfare state, while by contrast other Christian democrats at times seem to hold views similar to
Christian socialism, or the economic system of
distributism. The promotion of the Christian Democratic concepts of sphere sovereignty and subsidiarity led to the creation of corporatist welfare states throughout the world that continue to exist to this day.
 In keeping with the Christian Democratic concepts of the
cultural mandate and the
preferential option for the poor, Christian justice is viewed as demanding that the welfare of all people, especially the poor and vulnerable, must be protected because every human being has dignity, being made in the image of God.
 In many countries, Christian Democrats organized labor unions that competed with Communist and social democratic unions, in contrast to conservativism's stance against worker organizations. Standing in solidarity with these labor unions, Christian Democrats have lobbied for Sunday
blue laws that guarantee workers, as well as civil servants, a day of rest in line with historic
Christian Sabbath principles.