The tendency to see life as zero-sum exacerbates political conflicts. Six studies (N = 3223) examine the relationship between political ideology and zero-sum thinking: the belief that one party's gains can only be obtained at the expense of another party's losses. We find that both liberals and conservatives view life as zero-sum when it benefits them to do so. Whereas conservatives exhibit zero-sum thinking when the status quo is challenged, liberals do so when the status quo is being upheld. Consequently, conservatives view social inequalities--where the status quo is frequently challenged--as zero-sum, but liberals view economic inequalities--where the status quo has remained relatively unchallenged in past decades--as such. Overall, these findings suggest potentially important ideological differences in perceptions of conflict--differences that are likely to have implications for understanding political divides in the United States and the difficulty of reaching bipartisan legislation.