The many faces of the Democratic Party

Under the two big tents that are the Democratic and Republican parties are a number of different types of partisans. A major poll from the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation segments people who affiliate with a political party into distinct groups based on their differing values, views on politics and policies. The analysis identifies four groups of Democrats and five Republican groups. Read on for a full rundown of the key differences within the groups and see where you might fit. Explore all the poll questions and detailed results.

Urban liberals (29 percent of Democrats)

Mostly white, wealthier and secular, they have expansive views of the role of government and social issues. They support tax increases on the rich, cutting military spending, have favorable views of Obama’s health reform law, support gun control and immigration reform.

Demographics  

  • 73 percent white – highest of the Democratic groups;
  • 62 percent are women;
  • Higher socioeconomic status —74 percent have at least some college education, 61 percent have family incomes of $50,000 or more, 90 percent have health insurance, 67 percent own a home;
  • 70 percent attend church less than once a month (48 percent less than once a year), 37 percent identify religion as nothing in particular, atheist or agnostic; Christians are overwhelmingly non-evangelical;
  • 59 percent live in urban areas.

 Values 

  • Unlimited government - 88 percent disagree that government controls too much of daily lives; 68 percent strongly agree there are goods and services which would not be available to ordinary people without government intervention, 88 percent say government regulation of business is necessary. 85 percent want a larger government with many services;
  • 92 percent say there should be a high degree of separation between church and state;
  • 58 percent disagree that people should take responsibility for their own lives and economic well-being.

 Politics

  • 72 percent call themselves “strong Democrats”;
  • 71 percent are very interested in the 2012 campaign so far;
  • 49 percent say they always vote Democratic presidential candidates;
  • 78 percent identify themselves as politically liberal, 53 percent liberal on fiscal issues, and 79 percent on social issues.

 Policy   

  • In order to reduce the deficit 94 percent support raising taxes on $250,000+ incomes, while 84 percent oppose middle class tax hikes;
  • 83 percent have favorable view of the health reform law, 79 percent want to keep Medicare the same rather than switching to a voucher or premium support system;
  • 91 percent support a path to legal status for illegal immigrants working in the United States;
  • 88 percent favor stricter gun control laws;
  • 96 percent say federal government should regulate greenhouse gases;
  • 75 percent support reducing military spending to reduce the deficit.

God and Government Democrats – 34 percent of Democrats

Mostly non-white, highly religious and large shares live in the South. They are more economically distressed and see a role for larger government. They divide closely on gay marriage and abortion, oppose cuts to entitlements and support increased spending to create jobs.

Demographics

  • Just 33 percent are white, 40 percent black, 22 percent Hispanic;
  • Over 90 percent affiliate with a religion, 72 percent make it to church once a month or more;
  • 47 percent reside in the South; just 15 percent in the Northeast;
  • Economically distressed - 16 percent have college degrees, 66 percent have incomes under $50,000, 26 percent are not covered by health insurance.

Values 

  • 54 percent agree government controls too much of daily lives, but 77 percent agree goods and services would be unavailable to ordinary people without government, 56 percent think government regulation of business is necessary, 81 percent think government should do everything possible to improve the standard of living of all Americans;
  • 64 percent prefer larger government with many services;
  • Socially moderate/conservative - 77 percent agree on tolerance of other lifestyles, but 73 percent also agree Americans are too tolerant and accepting of behaviors that were considered wrong in the past. Split on gay marriage – 48 percent legal think it should be legal and 46 percent illegal;
  • 61 percent think it’s important for organized religious groups to stand up for their beliefs in politics, 62 percent say government should take special steps to protect religious heritage;
  • BIG on equality - 76 percent strongly agree it’s a big problem that the country doesn’t give everyone an equal chance; 80 percent strongly agree there would be fewer problems in the country if people were treated more equally;
  • 39 percent disagree that people who don’t get ahead have only themselves to blame.

Politics

  • 49 percent say they always vote for Democratic presidents;
  • 48 percent are very interested in the 2012 campaign;
  • 33 percent identify as political liberals, 33 percent on social issues and 30 percent on economic issues.

 Policy   

  • 75 percent support increasing spending to try and create jobs;
  • 78 percent support raising taxes on incomes of $250,000+ in order to decrease the deficit;
  • 58 percent have a favorable view of the health care law;
  • 87 percent oppose cuts to Social Security and 84 percent oppose cuts to Medicare benefits, even if it means the deficit could be reduced.

DIY Democrats (13 percent of Democrats)

A majority of these “do it yourself” Democrats are white, lower income and education with a high proportion in rural areas. The smallest Democratic group, they are the only one to prefer smaller government, are opposed to gay marriage and split on abortion. They supported Obama at lower rates than other Democrats in 2008.

 Demographics

  • 55 percent are white, 26 percent live in rural areas;
  • Fewer are young adults, just 10 percent are under age 30 and 23 percent are under age 40;
  • 36 percent own a gun, the highest of all Democratic groups;
  • Over a quarter are white evangelical Protestants - almost twice the number of any other Democratic group. Over 90 percent affiliate with a religion, 69 percent attend church once a month or more;
  • Just 33 percent have at least some college education and 12 percent have college degrees; 59 percent have incomes under $50,000.

 Values 

  • 59 percent agree government controls too much of their daily lives, split 44 percent to 44 percent on whether regulations are necessary or do more harm than good; just 40 percent believe government should do everything possible to improve the standard of living;
  • Only Democratic group to prefer smaller government - 60 percent to 34 percent who prefer a larger government;
  • Only 76 percent disagree we should adjust our morals with a changing world - 36 percentage points higher than any other Democratic group;
  • Oppose gay marriage by 64 to 29 percent, split on abortion 45 percent say it should be legal, 50 percent illegal.

Politics

  • Only 51 percent call themselves “strong Democrats,” 33 percent support the tea party, just 33 percent say the Democratic party shares most of their values;
  • 38 percent say they either vote equally for Republicans and Democrats or mostly Republicans; just 20 percent always vote for Democratic presidential candidates;
  • 68 percent voted for Obama in 2008 – the lowest of the Democratic groups and 25 percent overall say they could change their mind;
  • 49 percent are very interested in the 2012 campaign;
  • 30 percent identify as political liberals overall, 27 percent on social issues and 18 percent on fiscal (34 percent identify as conservative on taxes/spending).

Policy   

  • 31 percent are very dissatisfied with the way the political system is working;
  • Why they are still Democrats:
    •  Just 48 percent say Democratic policies helps their economic interests – making them the only Democratic group under 50 percent - but more say Republican policies hurt them than help them (69 percent vs 15 percent);
    • Fewer than half say cutting income and business taxes would help the economy - majorities of Republicans say this;
    • 48 percent believe deficit cuts would help the job situation, compared with a majority of Republicans overall;
    • 66 percent support raising taxes on households earning $250,000 per year to reduce the deficit – the lowest of Democratic groups but on the high end for Republican groups;
  • Reluctance on military cuts - 55 percent oppose cutting military spending to reduce the deficit - just 54 percent support reducing Medicare benefits for high income people;
  • 37 percent say working illegal immigrants should be deported.

The Agnostic Left - 24 percent

Younger, more socially liberal and secular. They are generally less pro-government than other Democratic groups and believe in economic individualism. They are the most apt to agree that people should take responsibility for their own lives and that failure to get ahead is mostly the individual's fault. They are similar to urban liberals on social issues.

 Demographics  

  • 60 percent white;
  • 65 percent are under age 50 and 27 percent are under age 30, 29 percent have never been married;
  • 23 percent are atheist, agnostic or nothing in particular, 60 percent attend church less than once a month.

 Values

  • 60 percent say government regulations are necessary to protect the public, 59 percent disagree that government controls too much of daily lives;
  • Key difference from urban liberals - 80 percent agree that people should take responsibility for their own lives and well-being (compared to 39 percent among urban liberals), 79 percent say most people who don’t get ahead only have themselves to blame (versus 15 percent among urban liberals);
  • Similar to urban liberals on abortion and gay marriage - 86 percent say gay marriage should be legal, 89 percent say abortion should be legal;
  • 12 percent say government should take special steps to protect America’s religious heritage; 60 percent prefer that religion has less influence of religion on politics and 80 percent say organized religious groups should stay out of politics.

Politics

  • 34 percent always vote Democratic;
  • 47 percent very interested in the 2012 campaign;
  • 94 percent support Obama over Romney;
  • 45 percent identify as liberals on political matters, 58 percent on social issues and 36 percent on fiscal issues;

 Policy   

  • 81 percent support raising taxes on households earning $250,000 per year;
  • By 2 to 1 they prefer to increase federal spending to create jobs versus avoiding spending to bring down the deficit;
  • 73 percent strongly believe that the release of greenhouse gases should be regulated;
  • 61 percent strongly favor stricter gun laws.

 

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