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  •   Parties Within the Parties: Democrats

    Maxine David-Thompson, 33, a nursing student in Gainesville, Fla. (Gene Bednardlk for The Post)

    Helping Hand Democrats
    Discouraged White Democrats
    The Determined Liberals
    New Generation Democrats
    The Libertarian Democrats

    Helping Hand Democrats

    These God-fearing Democrats pray and attend church far more often than other Democrats -- and most Republicans. Only one Republican group is more religious. Nearly half of these Democrats say they're born-again Christians and two-thirds report sharing most or some of the values of conservative political groups like the Christian Coalition.

    These socially conservative voters know with certainty what's right and wrong. What's right: Marriage, family and the home. What's wrong: Divorce, sex before marriage and having a child out of wedlock. Eight in 10 strongly agree that America would have far fewer problems if the country returned to traditional family values, the most of any Democratic group.

    This adherence to a fixed and objective moral order, nourished by their religious convictions, shapes their policy preferences. Half of these Democrats think abortion is always wrong and shouldn't be tolerated. Six in 10 oppose legalized casino gambling and a similarly large majority reject physician-assisted suicide, the most of any Democratic group.

    Why aren't they Republicans, whom they resemble on so many key measures? One crucial difference: They like government. Six in 10 want government to be bigger and offer more services. They're also far more compassionate than most Republicans and Democrats. A majority says welfare benefits should be continued after five years.

      Footnote: This group shares many similar policy preferences of Determined Liberals. But these groups -- the two largest factions in the Democratic Party -- split sharply over homosexual rights. Eight in 10 Helping Hand Democrats say homosexuality is always wrong and shouldn't be tolerated; nine out of 10 reject gay marriage; overwhelming majorities of Determined Liberals are tolerant, if not accepting, of homosexuality and gay marriage.

    Discouraged White Democrats

    Life is tough for these Democrats. They are relatively poor. They're the least-educated group in either party: For most of them, formal education ended when they were handed their high school diploma. But they don't expect or want government to give them a hand up to the middle class; they believe they can get there on their own.

    Demographically, these voters look like traditional Democrats: disproportionately Southern, predominantly working class, female and older. But many don't act much like Democrats. Though the majority voted for Clinton in 1996, one in four defected to Dole or Perot. More say they are conservatives than say they are liberals, and only a third believe the party shares most of their values, less than any other Democratic group. (But just one in 10 say they have much in common with Republicans.)

    This disproportionately white group is more upset about the nation's moral course than any other Democratic group -- and nearly half plan to vote values in 2000. They believe mothers should be at home and want to see religious beliefs have more influence in public life. Nine in 10 favor school prayer.

    Nearly nine in 10 say sex between adults of the same sex should not be tolerated, the highest of any Democratic group. A similar proportion say gay marriage is wrong.

    Discouraged White Democrats are as likely as Republicans to say the nation has gone too far in pushing equal rights, and they are strongly opposed to affirmative action programs. They object more to marriages between blacks and whites than any group, Republican or Democrat.

    These voters aren't fans of big government, but there is less unanimity here than in the most fiscally conservative Republican groups. And a sizable majority do see a role for government in protecting consumers in health maintenance organizations and other managed care plans.

      Footnote: Though heavy church attenders, there is less commitment in this group to personal service. Only half say it is "very important" to them to help the less fortunate, maybe because many number themselves among this group and don't expect help in return.

    The Determined Liberals

    These voters are the bleeding heart of the Democratic Party. They're compassionate, pro-government and anti-business. They're committed to making sure every American has an equal chance in life and think that hard work alone isn't enough to win a piece of the American dream. In short, they're the Democrats that Republicans love to hate: More than four in 10 say they're liberals; no other Democratic group contains as many. Yet these Democrats have learned painful lessons from the 1960s. While a majority want a larger federal government -- a view most Americans and half of all Democrats reject -- most also say government is inefficient and intrudes too much into our lives.

    Determined Liberals are morally flexible and relatively tolerant, as well as economically and socially liberal. Three in four say the federal government should work to improve the standard of living of all Americans. Eight in 10 want government to step in to protect consumers in managed health care plans. And almost nine in 10 say it's acceptable for a woman to have a child out of wedlock.

    They're disproportionately female and the most compassionate of any group in either party. Eight in 10 strongly agreed that it was "personally important" to them to "help others less fortunate." While most Americans say the government should cut people off from welfare after five years, only a third of all Determined Liberals agree.

    Most work full-time, but more than half believe that hard work offers little guarantee of success -- the only group in either party to reject economic individualism. They're also the most likely to support equality as a goal. Eight in 10 disagree that we've taken equal rights too far, and they're one of only two groups in which a majority support affirmative action preference programs.

      Footnote: There's a potential holy war brewing in this group between blacks who strongly support more religion in political life and white liberals who share blacks' social and economic policy preferences but adamantly believe that religion shouldn't intrude into politics.

    New Generation Democrats

    When these Democrats talk party, they may not be talking politics. They're young -- one in three is twentysomething -- and they're affluent. A majority also are single.

    No other group in either party is less religious, less traditional or more morally flexible than New Generation Democrats. They're the only group in which a majority say smoking marijuana is acceptable. They also stand alone in approving homosexuality and are the only group in which a majority says adultery should be tolerated.

    More than four in 10 say President Clinton shares most of their values -- the highest of any group. Nine out of 10 voted for Clinton two years ago.

    They support abortion rights, favor physician-assisted suicide and are strongest in support of legalized casino gambling of any group, Republican or Democrat. More than half -- 52 percent -- oppose starting the school day with a prayer.

    They say individuals should have responsibility for their own lives and are the least compassionate Democratic group. About six in 10 say welfare benefits should be cut off after five years, and a majority of these Democrats opposes school vouchers.

    More than any group in American politics, they like big government: Nearly two in three want a bigger federal government with more services. As a consequence, more than eight in 10 say they want government protecting consumers in managed care, and two in three say the government should play a role in preventing teenage smoking.

      Footnote: The good news for Democrats is that this group is the least likely to be affected by the Lewinsky scandal. The bad news is that these Democrats often are no-shows on election day. Fewer than half -- 46 percent -- said they're absolutely certain to vote in November, the lowest of any Democratic group.

    The Libertarian Democrats

    These Democrats hate the government, are fiercely independent and are closer to Republicans than any other Democratic faction.

    But they dislike religion in politics even more than they despise big government: More than nine out of 10 say organized religious groups of all kinds should "stay out of politics" -- no other group, Democrat or Republican, is remotely as antagonistic.

    Moreover, they don't like moralists and traditionalists, ranking only behind New Generation Democrats in terms of their rejection of conventional morality and acceptance of alternate lifestyles.

    They're mostly self-made men and women: Three in four strongly agree that "people should take responsibility for their own lives and economic well-being and not expect other people to help." They also believe hard work guarantees success, and it's apparently true for them. This group contains the highest percentage of full-time workers as well as the largest proportion of Democrats earning more than $50,000 a year.

    Their policy preferences flow directly from their secular, libertarian views. These voters oppose school prayer, and they reject vouchers as a way to help pay for private or religious schools.

    They're also the most likely of any Democratic group to favor cutting welfare benefits after five years and the least likely to support affirmative action programs. Big majorities support legalized casino gambling and physician-assisted suicide, and seven in 10 approve of allowing individuals to invest some of their Social Security nest egg in the stock market.

      Footnote: These Democrats have strongly held opinions -- perhaps a bit too strong. More than four in 10 say they've been divorced sometime in their lives.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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