I know that "conservatism" is the more commonly used term, but is "conservativism" a less preferred, but legitimate word, or just a misspelling?
www.dictionary.com has "conservativism", but I'm not sure I view them as a credible source.
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- Alternative form of conservatism.
Conservativism is surely not a typo (as, say, consrvetism would be). It is legitimately formed from the adjective conservative and the suffix -ism. However, as you say yourself, conservatism is the much more commonly used term. The British National Corpus has 474 cites for conservatism, but only 3 for conservativism.
That being said, there are languages (e.g. German) in which the equivalent of conservativism (Konservativismus) is pretty much as common as the equivalent of conservatism (Konservatismus).
Merriam-Webster does not contain conservativism, and I'd say that's a pretty credible source.