Larry J. Sabato's Crystal Ball
http://crystalball.centerforpolitics.org/crystalball/articles/which-partys-voters-are-more-divided/
Export date: Thu Nov 21 14:25:32 2019 / +0000 GMT

Which Party’s Voters are More Divided?


KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE



-- More Republicans identify as conservative than Democrats identify as liberal.

-- This has led to questions about whether ideological fissures in the Democratic Party could make it harder for the party to rally around its eventual nominee.

-- However, Democrats actually are more united on individual issue positions than Republicans, which may mean the Democrats are less divided than ideological self-placement suggests.

Why Republicans may be more divided than Democrats



The contest for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination features more than 20 candidates representing a wide variety of ideological orientations ranging from progressives like Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to more moderate candidates like Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT) and former Rep. John Delaney (D, MD-6).

The first round of debates exposed major differences among the candidates on issues such as health care and immigration, and this has led to growing concern among party leaders about whether Democratic voters will be able to unite behind the eventual nominee. Indeed, some of the more moderate candidates have warned that nominating a candidate from the party's left wing could cause large numbers of moderate-to-conservative Democrats to stay home or even vote for Donald Trump, thereby ensuring a Republican victory.

A number of pundits and political observers have argued that concerns about potential moderate defections are well-founded because Democratic voters are sharply divided along ideological lines. They point to recent polls showing that while the large majority of Republican voters describe themselves as conservatives, fewer than half of Democratic voters describe themselves as liberals.

Table 1: Ideological identification of registered voters by party





Source: Pew Research Center Survey 6 5 4 3 2 1, Sept. 18-24, 2018.

Table 1 displays results from one such poll, a September 2018 Pew Research Center national survey. In this table, independents leaning toward a party are included with regular party identifiers. The data show that while 69% of Republican voters described themselves as conservatives, only 47% of Democratic identifiers described themselves as liberals. In addition, while only 4% of Republican identifiers described themselves as liberals, 18% of Democratic identifiers described themselves as conservatives. These results, which are very similar to those of other recent national surveys, suggest that despite the growing liberalism of the Democratic Party in recent years, Democratic voters continue to be much more divided along ideological lines than Republican voters.

Table 2: Ideological identification of registered Democrats by demographic characteristics





Source: Pew Research Center Survey 6 5 4 3 2 1, Sept. 18-24, 2018.

The ideological divisions evident in Table 1 are especially concerning to many Democratic leaders because they coincide with significant demographic divisions within the party. Data in Table 2 from the 2018 Pew Research Center survey show that among registered Democrats, there were sharp divisions in ideological identification based on age, education, and race. Older Democrats, those who did not graduate from college, and nonwhite Democrats were much less likely to identify as liberal and more likely to identify as moderate or conservative than younger Democrats, those with college degrees, and white Democrats. Thus, among white Democrats, liberals outnumbered conservatives by 53% to 11% but among black Democrats, conservatives outnumbered liberals by 36% to 33%. And while 71% of Democrats under the age of 30 identified themselves as liberals, only 37% of those over the age of 50 did so.

Of course, ideological identification is not the only way to measure the political leanings of voters. We can also examine their views on specific current policy issues. Fortunately, in addition to asking respondents about their ideological identification, the 2018 Pew Research Center survey asked them about their views on several of these issues. In order to compare the policy preferences of voters, I chose six of these issues that have been prominent in recent elections and were asked of all respondents in the survey: abortion, black rights, gun control, immigration, business regulation, and health care. All of the issues except immigration involved binary choices, so I was able to classify responses to these questions as either liberal or conservative. In the case of immigration, respondents were offered a middle position between the liberal and conservative options.

Table 3.: Policy agreement among registered Democrats and Republicans: percentage liberal among Democrats vs. percentage conservative among Republicans





Source: Pew Research Center Survey 6 5 4 3 2 1, Sept. 18-24, 2018.

In order to compare the level of agreement on the issues among Democratic and Republican voters, Table 3 displays the percentage of Democratic voters taking the liberal position on these issues and the percentage of Republican voters taking the conservative position. The results show that, in marked contrast with the results for ideological identification in Table 1, on every issue except gun control, where the level of agreement was almost identical, Republican voters were more divided than Democratic voters. An average of 75% of Democratic voters took the liberal position on these issues. In contrast, an average of only 62% of Republican voters took the conservative position.

Table 4: Policy liberalism of registered Democrats by ideological identification





Source: Pew Research Center Survey 6 5 4 3 2 1, Sept. 18-24, 2018.

The results in Table 3 indicate that Democratic voters were far more liberal on many policy issues than one might expect based on their responses to the ideological identification question. This pattern suggests that ideological identification may not be a very good predictor of the views of Democratic voters on the issues. The data in Table 4 show that this is, in fact, the case. This table shows the percentage of Democrats taking the liberal side on each issue in relation to their ideological identification. While these data indicate that there is a relationship between ideological identification and issue positions, that relationship is not terribly strong.

Many Democrats who call themselves moderates or even conservatives take liberal positions on specific issues. In fact, the large majority of self-identified conservatives take the liberal position on four of these six issues: abortion, black rights, gun control, and health care. The large majority of self-identified moderates take the liberal position on five of these six issues: abortion, black rights, gun control, business regulation, and health care.

Table 5: Issue liberalism vs. liberal identification among registered Democrats by demographic characteristics





Source: Pew Research Center Survey 6 5 4 3 2 1, Sept. 18-24, 2018.

Table 5 compares the average percentage of Democratic voters taking the liberal side on the six policy issues with the percentage who identify as liberal among various key demographic groups. We saw in Table 2 that younger, better educated, and white Democrats were far more likely than older, less educated, and nonwhite Democrats to identify as liberal. However, the data in Table 5 show that divisions based on age, education, and race are much less impressive when it comes to issue positions. In fact, differences based on age are almost nonexistent -- older Democrats are every bit as liberal as younger Democrats on the issues. And while less educated and nonwhite Democrats are not as liberal on these issues as more educated and white Democrats, they are actually quite liberal. An average of 66% of Democrats with no college took the liberal position on these issues. Likewise, an average of 69% of black Democrats and 67% of Hispanic Democrats took the liberal position on these issues.

When we focus on specific issues, divisions among Democrats appear far less serious than when we focus on ideological identification. Of course, this raises a crucial question: which matters more politically: ideological identification or issue positions? In order to answer this question, I examined the joint impact of ideological identification and policy preferences on a key variable: approval of Donald Trump's performance as president. I wanted to see which of these appeared to have a stronger influence on opinions of the president.

In order to compare the effects of ideological identification and policy preferences on opinions of Trump, I combined opinions on the six policy issues included in this study into a scale measuring overall policy liberalism vs. conservatism and collapsed that scale into three categories: liberal, moderate, and conservative. Thirty-seven percent of registered voters were classified as liberal, 41% as moderate, and 22% as conservative on this six-item issue scale. In contrast, only 27% of registered voters identified as liberal versus 33% who identified as moderate and 40% who identified as conservative.

Table 6: Approval of Trump by ideological identification and policy preferences





Note: *Fewer than 10 cases.

Source: Pew Research Center Survey 6 5 4 3 2 1, Sept. 18-24, 2018.

Table 6 displays the combined effects of ideological identification and issue preferences on approval of Donald Trump's performance as president. The results show very clearly that policy preferences had a much stronger influence on opinions of Trump. Voters with conservative policy preferences overwhelmingly approved of Trump regardless of whether they identified as conservative or moderate. And voters with liberal policy preferences overwhelmingly disapproved of Trump regardless of whether they identified as liberal, moderate, or conservative. Only among those with moderate policy preferences -- really a mixture of liberal and conservative preferences -- did ideological identification have a clear impact on opinions of Trump.[1] 7

Summary and Conclusions



When it comes to ideological identification, Democratic voters are far more divided than Republican voters. Around two-thirds of Republican voters identify as conservative while fewer than half of Democratic voters identify as liberal. Many observers of the current presidential campaign have cited this fact to argue that ideological divisions are a serious potential threat to Democratic unity, especially if the party nominates a strongly liberal candidate. But a closer examination of recent polling data indicates that when it comes to specific policy issues such as abortion, gun control, and health care, Democratic voters are actually considerably less divided than Republican voters. Moreover, these data show that divisions among Democrats based on age, education, and race are much less significant when it comes to policy issues. What makes this all the more important is that policy preferences appear to have a much stronger influence than ideological identification on voters' broader political outlook including their opinions of President Trump. These findings suggest that the task of uniting Democrats behind the party's eventual nominee may not be as difficult as some pundits and political observers have suggested.

Footnote



[1] 8 Results were very similar when I examined voting intentions in the 2018 midterm election instead of Trump approval. The issue scale was a much stronger predictor which party voters intended to support in the midterm election than ideological identification.







Alan I. Abramowitz is the Alben W. Barkley Professor of Political Science at Emory University and a senior columnist with Sabato's Crystal Ball. His latest book 9, The Great Alignment: Race, Party Transformation, and the Rise of Donald Trump, was released last year by Yale University Press.




Links:
  1. https://www.people-press.org/wp-content/uploads/si tes/4/2018/09/Midterm-for-release.pdf
  2. https://www.people-press.org/wp-content/uploads/si tes/4/2018/09/Midterm-for-release.pdf
  3. https://www.people-press.org/wp-content/uploads/si tes/4/2018/09/Midterm-for-release.pdf
  4. https://www.people-press.org/wp-content/uploads/si tes/4/2018/09/Midterm-for-release.pdf
  5. https://www.people-press.org/wp-content/uploads/si tes/4/2018/09/Midterm-for-release.pdf
  6. https://www.people-press.org/wp-content/uploads/si tes/4/2018/09/Midterm-for-release.pdf
  7. #_ftn1
  8. #_ftnref1
  9. https://www.amazon.com/Great-Alignment-Party-Trans formation-Donald/dp/0300207131/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8& qid=1523460371&sr=8-1&keywords=the+great+alignment
Post date: 2019-08-22 00:35:00
Post date GMT: 2019-08-22 04:35:00


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