May 10, 2005

Beyond Red vs. Blue

Part 3: Demographics, Lifestyle and News Consumption

The nine groups in the political typology are defined by their beliefs and values, not by their demographic characteristics. Yet each group has a distinctly different demographic profile, which in some cases bears little resemblance to those of their ideological and political allies. For example, Enterprisers have by far the highest percentage of men of any group (76%), while the other two GOP groups are majority female (62% Pro-Government Conservatives, 58% Social Conservatives). (For more on the demographics of the typology, see pg. 66)

On the other hand, Enterprisers and Liberals ­ whose political opinions mix no better than oil and water ­ have a surprising amount of common ground both economically and educationally. These groups are the wealthiest and best educated in the typology. Roughly four-in-ten Enterprisers and Liberals (41% each) have annual household incomes of at least $75,000; only the Upbeats (39%) have about as many people in that income category.

Liberals have the highest education level of any typology group ­ 49% are college graduates and 26% have some postgraduate education. But the Enterprisers also include a relatively high percentage of college graduates (46%), although fewer Enterprisers than Liberals have attended graduate school (14%).

Pro-Government Conservatives stand out among Republican groups for their modest incomes. About half (49%) have annual household incomes of less than $30,000; just 13% of Enterprisers and 26% of Social Conservatives have incomes in that range. Pro-Government Conservatives’ annual household incomes are comparable to those of Disadvantaged Democrats and Bystanders, and much lower than those of other GOP groups.

Huge disparities in education also divide both Democratic and Republican typology groups. Just 13% of Disdvantaged Democrats have completed college (9% college grads, 4% postgraduate), compared with nearly half of Liberals. Educational differences between Liberals and Conservative Democrats are nearly as large (49% vs. 16%).

Among Republicans, just 15% of Pro-Government Conservatives have completed college, compared with 45% of Enterprisers. There also are wide disparities in education among the three independent groups, with Upbeats (37%) far more likely to have completed college than Bystanders (13%) or Disaffecteds (11%).

Marriage and Children

The exit poll from the 2004 election showed that married people ­ especially parents with children at home ­ strongly favored the president. Overall, Bush led by 57%-42% among all married Americans, and 59%-40% among married people with children, according to the National Election Pool (NEP) exit poll.

This pattern is reflected in the typology. Majorities in all three GOP groups are married: 77% of Enterprisers; 66% of Social Conservatives; and 55% of Pro-Government Conservatives. That also is the case for the two GOP-leaning independent groups ­ 59% of Upbeats and 57% of Disaffecteds. By contrast, about half of Conservative Democrats (49%) and smaller numbers of Liberals (44%) and Disadvantaged Democrats (42%) are married.

The Republican groups also have higher proportions of married people with children living at home. Four-in-ten Enterprisers are married and have children under age 18 living at home, as do 34% of Pro-Government Conservatives and 28% of Social Conservatives. Among Democratic groups, 28% of Disadvantaged Democrats, 23% of Conservative Democrats, and just 20% of Liberals are married and have children living at home. Conservative and Disadvantaged Democrats are just as likely as Republican groups to have children living at home, but larger percentages are single parents (14% and 19%, respectively).

Economic Perceptions

Disadvantaged Democrats are largely defined by their feelings of financial stress. More than three-quarters of this group (77%) say they often do not have enough money to make ends meet; just 19% say paying the bills is generally not a problem. Yet financial unease is nearly as extensive among Pro-Government Conservatives; roughly two-thirds (68%) report that they have problems making ends meet.

For the most part, paying the bills is not a problem for those in the financially well-off groups ­ Enterprisers, Liberals and Upbeats. But most Social Conservatives, whose annual incomes are significantly less than in these other groups, also report few problems making ends meet. Nearly nine-in-ten Social Conservatives (88%) say that paying the bills is generally not a problem.

Among Disadvantaged Democrats, many more have also had personal experience with unemployment than in other groups. More than half of Disadvantaged Democrats (58%) say they, or someone in their household, have been out of work in the past year. Still, large minorities in most other groups ­ including 39% of Pro-Government Conservatives ­ say they or someone in their household have been jobless in the past year. Even about a quarter of the Enterprisers (28%) have been without work in the past 12 months.

Personal Optimism a Dividing Line

Pro-Government Conservatives and Disadvantaged Democrats have similar socioeconomic backgrounds and confront many of the same financial struggles. Both groups are predominantly female, both are relatively poor, and large majorities in both groups express dissatisfaction with their financial circumstances.

But these groups have strikingly different outlooks on their lives and possibilities that go a long way toward explaining the differences in their political attitudes. Feelings about the power of the individual are a major factor in this division. Pro-Government Conservatives are defined, at least in part, by their optimism in this area. About three-quarters (76%) believe that most people can get ahead if they are willing to work hard ­ and two-thirds (66%) strongly express that view. An even higher percentage of Pro-Government Conservatives (81%) say that everyone has it in his or her own power to succeed.

Disadvantaged Democrats have a gloomier outlook. Just 14% think that people can get ahead by working hard; 79% say that hard work is no guarantee of success, and 76% express that view strongly. Only 44% of Disadvantaged Democrats say that everyone has the power to succeed, while slightly more (47%) take the fatalistic view that success in life is determined by forces outside one’s own control.

More broadly, opinions on personal empowerment deeply divide both the Democratic groups and independents. More than eight-in-ten Conservative Democrats (83%) think that most people who work hard can get ahead, while Liberals are somewhat less likely to subscribe to this view and Disadvantaged Democrats strongly disagree. Among center groups, Upbeats, by definition, are very optimistic on this point, and Disaffecteds much less so.

Matters of Faith

The groups in the typology vary considerably in their religious traditions and in how they express their religious faith. All of the groups include sizable numbers of people with a strong religious commitment, but there are significant differences in how that commitment is manifested.

The U.S. remains a majority-Protestant nation (56% overall say they belong to the Protestant tradition), and this includes a majority among all groups except the younger, more secular Bystanders (49%) and Liberals (36%). Among other groups, Protestants range from 55% among the Upbeats up to 68% among the Social Conservatives. White evangelical Protestants, a core constituency for President Bush, are a significant plurality group among Social Conservatives (43%), Pro-Government Conservatives (37%), and Enterprisers (34%). White evangelicals constitute no more than 22% of any other group in the typology, and include only 5% of the Liberals.

In contrast with the great variability of evangelical representation across groups, Catholics are not concentrated in any specific group or cluster of groups. Catholics are one-quarter of the population (25%), but their proportions among groups vary only from 20% among Enterprisers to 30% among Upbeats. Catholics are 23% of the three Republican groups and 26% of the three Democratic groups.

Jews make up approximately 3% of the public overall, but 8% of the Liberals. People who identify with a religion outside of the Judeo-Christian tradition comprise about 5% of the population but include 8% of Liberals and 8% of Bystanders.

Secular individuals ­ those who say they are agnostic, atheist, or say they have no religious affiliation ­ are a significant portion only of Liberals: 22%. They include 12% of Bystanders and 9% of Disaffecteds, but otherwise constitute no more than 6% of the other groups.

Most Americans say that they attend religious services on at least an occasional basis, and 40% say they attend at least once per week. About half of the Republican groups report weekly (or greater) attendance, with Social Conservatives highest at 53%. Among Democratic groups, more than four-in-ten Conservative Democrats (46%) and Disadvantaged Democrats (43%) attend at least weekly, but less than half as many Liberals do so (18%).

Attendance at religious services may also take the form of participation in Bible study or prayer meetings. More than a third of Americans (36%) say they engage in this type of activity. Over half of Pro-Government Conservatives and Social Conservatives (52% and 51%, respectively) participate, compared with 36% among the other Republican group, Enterprisers. Over four-in-ten Conservative and Disadvantaged Democrats (44%, 41%) say they take part in Bible study or prayer meetings, but just 13% of Liberals do so.

Financial Activity: Who Trades Stock

Enterprisers and Liberals have the same proportion of high-income individuals. But Enterprisers are much more likely than Liberals ­ or any other group ­ to invest in the stock market or own a small business.

More than half of Enterprisers (53%) say they trade stocks and bonds in the market. That is the highest percentage among typology groups; about four-in-ten Upbeats (42%) and Liberals (38%) say they are active in the market. Trading stocks and bonds is far less common in the lower-income groups: Just 11% of Bystanders and 14% of Pro-Government Conservatives say they trade stocks and bonds.

Three-in-ten Enterprisers own small businesses, more than any other group in the typology. Disaffecteds also include a relatively large proportion of small business owners (21%), despite their relatively low incomes; in fact, there are more small business owners among the Disaffecteds than among the wealthier Upbeats (15%).

Lifestyle Notes: Showing the Flag

Nearly two-thirds of Americans (64%) say they display the American flag at home, at work, or on their car.

Three-quarters or more of the GOP groups say they show the flag. Democratic groups show more variation: 72% of Conservative Democrats say they display the flag, compared with 53% of Disadvantaged Democrats and just 41% of Liberals.

Among independent groups, only about half of Bystanders (47%) say they display the flag. Bystanders are the youngest of the nine typology groups ­ 39% are under 30.

Generally, young people are far less likely than older Americans to show the flag ­ only about half (47%) say they do so, compared with about two-thirds of those in older age categories.

Gun Ownership

Gun ownership is much more prevalent among GOP groups ­ especially Enterprisers and Social Conservatives ­ than among Democrats. Solid majorities in both of those groups say they have guns in their home (59% of Enterprisers, 56% of Social Conservatives). Disaffecteds have the next highest percentage of gun owners (45%).

There has long been a gender gap in gun ownership, but Social Conservatives, while mostly female (58%), have a relatively high percentage of gun ownership. By contrast, Pro-Government Conservatives, a group that also is disproportionately female (62%), are far less likely to have guns in their homes; slightly more than a third in this group (36%) say they have a gun. There are smaller differences in gun ownership among Democrats, with about a third of Conservative Democrats (34%) ­ and smaller percentages of the other groups ­ reporting that they have guns in the home.

Democrats are deeply divided in their opinions of the National Rifle Association (NRA). A plurality of Conservative Democrats (46%) express a positive opinion of the NRA; fewer than half as many Liberals (20%) have a favorable view of the pro-gun rights group. Among GOP groups, 80% of Enterprisers have a positive opinion of the NRA. Nearly two-thirds of Pro-Government Conservatives (64%) have a favorable view of the NRA, despite their relatively low level of gun ownership.

News Consumption: Cable Wars Continue

The public continues to get most of its news from television. Television is the dominant news source for all of the typology groups, although Liberals (57%), Upbeats (67%) and Enterprisers (68%) cite TV as their main news source less frequently than do members of other groups.

There are wide differences, however, in the specific TV news outlets the typology groups rely upon, particularly cable news outlets. This partisan gap in cable news audiences has been documented in previous Pew studies on news consumption (see “News Audiences Increasingly Politicized” June 8, 2004).

The typology also reveals significant intra-party differences in news consumption. While many more Republicans than Democrats rely on Fox News, a much higher percentage of Enterprisers (46%) get most of their news from Fox than do either Social Conservatives (34%) or Pro-Government Conservatives (23%). Moreover, the last two groups are much more likely than Enterprisers to cite CNN or the networks as main sources of news.

Among Democrats, nearly twice as many Conservative Democrats as Liberals cite one of the three network outlets as their main source of news (42% vs. 22%). Age accounts for much of this gap: The network news audience is older ­ a third of those age 65 and older get most of their news from the networks, compared with 20% of those below age 30. And Conservative Democrats are, as a group, much older than Liberals.

To a surprising degree, Liberals (and young, well-educated people generally) are turning away from TV news in favor of the internet. Fully 37% of Liberals and 34% of Upbeats say they get most of their news from the internet, far more than any other group. For both groups, the number relying on the internet far exceeds any individual TV news source (network, cable or local) and approaches newspaper usage.