Based on a national survey of women and the creation of a ‘conservatism-liberalism index’, this study shows that conservatism in Chile has deep religious roots and continues to be the most significant symbolic reference point in women's lives. The study concludes also that the female population is drawn more towards a ‘liberal’ vision, but liberal attitudes are not able to provide an alternative symbolic reference point to conservatism. This is because liberalism seems to be the result of popular exposure to the requirements of modern life rather than a discourse or ideology. For this reason, the opinions and attitudes of women are highly contradictory and heterogeneous and do not find their form, for the most part, in a clearly liberal discourse or in one which is wholly conservative. We are thus dealing with a kind of ‘liberalism through exposure’, the limits of which are to be found in the conservative ideology which underlies the liberal opinions expressed and is clearly visible in the proportion of the population which is highly educated and deeply religious.