Are you a Faith and Flag Conservative? Populist Right? Progressive Left? Or somewhere in between?
Congressional wrangling over the Biden agenda highlights Republican and Democratic in-house differences, making internal fault lines even more evident.[i] The partisan gulf between the parties can obscure the diversity of views within parties – and the fact that many Americans do not fit easily into either one.
Pew Research Center’s new political typology creates an interesting analytical tool to navigate contemporary politics. Pew divides voters into nine distinct groups based on an analysis of their attitudes and values.
Republicans are broken out into four groups:
- Faith and Flag Conservatives are intensely conservative; they are far more likely to say government policies should reflect their values and that compromise is just “selling out.”
- Committed Conservatives also express conservative views across the board, but with a somewhat softer edge, particularly on immigration and America’s place in the world.
- Populist Right, who are less educated and most likely to live in rural areas, are highly critical of immigrants and big corporations.
- Ambivalent Right, the youngest and least conservative group, holds conservative views about government size, the economic system, and issues of race and gender. Yet, they are the only group on the political Right favoring legal abortion and marijuana legalization for recreational and medical use.
The Democratic typology groups highlight the party’s diversity, as well as the unwieldy nature of the current Democratic coalition:
- Progressive Left, the only majority White group of Democrats, have very liberal views on virtually every issue, including addressing racial injustice and expanding the social safety net. They make up only 6% of the total electorate.
- Establishment Liberals. Establishment Liberals, while just as liberal in many ways as Progressive Left, are far less persuaded of the need for sweeping change.
- Democratic Mainstays, the largest Democratic-oriented group, and the oldest on average are unshakeable Democratic loyalists, but with a moderate tilt on some issues.
- Outsider Left, the youngest group, voted overwhelmingly for Joe Biden and are very liberal in most of their views. Still, they are deeply frustrated with the political system, including the Democratic Party and its leaders.
Between the parties are Stressed Sideliners, the group with the lowest level of political engagement. They make up 15% of the public but were just 10% of voters in 2020. With a mix of conservative and liberal views, they also have minimal interest in politics.
Some types diverge significantly from others within their party. For example,only 17% of the Populist Right say most corporations make a fair profit, a more common position with Democrats. A majority of Populist Right (56%) favor raising taxes on household incomes above $400,000.
Democrats experience a comparable divide over the size of government. A majority of the Progressive Left (63%) favor greatly expanding government services. In sharp contrast, among other Democratic groups, only a third agree with this.
These intraparty fissures that Pew identifies highlight the challenges for both parties. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez may want to read moderate Democrats out of the party, just as some Republicans want “RINOs” purged. However, both parties need to hold support from their “big tents” to succeed politically.
Not sure which political type you are? Pew offers a 16-question online quiz to help identify it: https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/quiz/political-typology/