May 4, 2011

Beyond Red vs. Blue: The Political Typology

Section 2: Value Divides Within Party Coalitions

The new political typology provides further evidence of deep and enduring partisan divisions over political attitudes and preferences. Yet an analysis of the typology groups’ fundamental political values also shows significant cleavages within both parties’ core groups and their broader coalitions over attitudes toward business, immigration, religion, the environment and other issues.

Looking at the broad Republican coalition, the core GOP groups and Republican-oriented independent groups are strongly critical of government. But the core Republican groups – Staunch Conservatives and Main Street Republicans – differ sharply in their opinions about business, the environment and foreign assertiveness. Republican-leaning Libertarians hold much more tolerant views on immigration and homosexuality, while Disaffecteds stand out for their support for government aid to the poor.

On the Democratic side, Solid Liberals and Post-Moderns are less religious than the Hard-Pressed and New Coalition Democrats and are more accepting of homosexuality. Hard-Pressed Democrats stand out for their critical views of government and negative attitudes about immigrants. The Democratic-leaning Post-Moderns are far less supportive of government help for the poor and of making more changes to give blacks equal rights with whites.

Fully 68% of Hard-Pressed Democrats – financially struggling Democratic loyalists – say that government is almost always wasteful and inefficient. On this measure, Hard-Pressed Democrats find more in common with the GOP coalition than with other Democratic groups and the Democratic-leaning Post-Moderns.

Large majorities of both Solid Liberals (74%) and New Coalition Democrats (66%) say that government often does a better job than people give it credit for. Just 22% in each group say that government is usually wasteful and inefficient. Post-Moderns are divided, with about as many saying government deserves more credit (50%) as say it is often wasteful and inefficient (45%).

All four groups in the broad GOP coalition express overwhelmingly negative opinions about government performance. While the Republican groups agree on the government’s performance, they differ over government’s role – specifically when it comes to aiding the poor and needy. On this issue, the Disaffecteds – by far the lowest-income group in the GOP coalition – break with other Republican and Republican-oriented groups.

A majority of Disaffecteds (61%) say that the government should do more to help needy Americans even if means going deeper into debt; 27% say the government today cannot afford to do much more to help the needy. Three-quarters or more in the other three groups in the Republican coalition say the government cannot afford to provide more help for the poor.

Among groups in the Democratic coalition, Post-Moderns stand out for their negative view of increased government help for the poor – fully 66% say the government cannot afford to do more. This is consistent with the Post-Moderns’ support for smaller government – 55% prefer a smaller government with fewer services, a higher proportion than in any of the Democratic groups.

Moreover, Post-Moderns are the only group within the broad Democratic coalition in which a majority (54%) thinks that poor people today have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything in return. And just as Disaffecteds break from other groups in the Republican coalition in their support for increased aid to the needy, so too do they diverge in their view of the poor’s reliance on the government. Large majorities in the two core Republican groups, as well as among the GOP-leaning Libertarians, say the poor have it easy, but just 22% of Disaffecteds agree.

Views of Business Divide GOP

Solid Liberals and Hard-Pressed Democrats overwhelmingly say that business corporations make too much profit. On the right, large proportions of Staunch Conservatives and Libertarians disagree.

Yet the other typology groups divide over this issue. Among GOP groups, 73% of Disaffecteds view corporate profits as excessive, as do 58% of Main Street Republicans. This is a rare instance where Main Street Republicans fundamentally disagree with Staunch Conservatives.

New Coalition Democrats differ with other Democratic groups in opinions about corporate profits. A majority (53%) says corporations make a fair and reasonable amount of profit, while 38% say profits are too high.

There is greater agreement across the typology that a few large businesses have too much power. Large majorities in six of the eight main typology groups say there is too much power concentrated in the hands of a few large companies. This view is not as prevalent among Staunch Conservatives and Libertarians; still about half of each group says that a few huge companies have amassed too much power (51% of Staunch Conservatives, 50% of Libertarians).

Democratic Coalition Divides Over Race

The Democratic coalition is deeply divided over political values relating to race. Solid Liberals and Post-Moderns – both mostly white and relatively upscale – have very different attitudes about the factors limiting black progress and whether further efforts are needed to achieve racial equality.

Most Solid Liberals (61%) say that racial discrimination is the main reason why many black people can’t get ahead these days; they are the only typology group in which a majority expresses this view.

By contrast, Post-Moderns overwhelmingly reject the idea that racial discrimination is the main barrier to black progress (just 9% say this). Nearly eight-in-ten (79%) say that blacks who can’t get ahead in this country are mostly responsible for their own condition. On this measure, the opinions of Post-Moderns are close to those of the four groups in the GOP coalition, where majorities say that blacks who cannot get ahead are responsible for their own condition.

Hard-Pressed Democrats and New Coalition Democrats also say on balance that blacks who are unable to get ahead are responsible for their fate. About half in each group expresses this view, while fewer think racial discrimination is the biggest reason that many blacks cannot get ahead.

Post-Moderns are the only group in the Democratic coalition who reject the idea that the country needs to continue making changes to give blacks equal rights with whites. Nearly seven-in-ten Post-Moderns (69%) say the country has made the changes needed to give blacks equal rights with whites. By contrast, clear majorities of Solid Liberals (77%), New Coalition Democrats (69%) and Hard-Pressed Democrats (62%) say that more changes are needed in order to achieve racial equality.

Immigration Divides Both Partisan Coalitions

Opinions about immigrants and their impact on the country divide both partisan coalitions. On the Democratic side, Hard-Pressed Democrats are the only group in which a majority views immigrants as a “burden” because of their impact on jobs and social services, and says that the growing number of newcomers to the U.S. threaten traditional customs and values. The three other groups in the Democratic coalition express much more positive views of immigrants’ impact on the country.

Among GOP-oriented groups, Libertarians express more positive opinions about immigrants. A majority (52%) of Libertarians say the growing number of newcomers strengthen American society; Libertarians are divided over whether immigrants strengthen the United States or are a burden. Majorities in the other GOP groups express more negative views of immigrants; most say that the increasing number of newcomers threaten traditional customs and values, and that immigrants are a burden because of their impact on jobs, housing and health care.

Libertarians Break From GOP on Religion, Homosexuality

As was the case in 2005, social and religious issues continue to divide the core Democratic groups more sharply than the core Republican groups. But looking at the broader GOP coalition, Libertarians stand out for their more moderate views on social issues and relatively low level of religiosity.

About half (53%) of Libertarians say that religion is a very important part of their life. That compares with 91% of Main Street Republicans, 90% of Staunch Conservatives and 84% of Disaffecteds, the other group of GOP-leaning independents.

Moreover, a large majority of Libertarians (71%) say that homosexuality should be accepted by society. By contrast, 68% of Staunch Conservatives and 60% of Main Street Republicans say that homosexuality should be discouraged by society. Disaffecteds are divided; 48% say society should accept homosexuality and 41% say it should be discouraged.

The core Democratic groups are split over the importance of religion and in their acceptance of homosexuality. Nine-in-ten New Coalition Democrats (92%) and nearly as many Hard-Pressed Democrats (86%) say religion is very important personally, compared with just 38% of Solid Liberals. Democratic-oriented Post-Moderns are closer to Solid Liberals than the other two groups – 42% say religion is very important in their life.

The differences are nearly as wide in views of societal acceptance of homosexuality. While 92% of Solid Liberals favor acceptance of homosexuality, just 49% of Hard-Pressed Democrats and 43% of New Coalition Democrats agree.

Post-Moderns also are in sync with Solid Liberals in views of homosexuality; 91% of the Post-Moderns say homosexuality should be accepted by society. These two groups also stand out for their overwhelming support of same-sex marriage: 85% of Solid Liberals and 80% of Post-Moderns say gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry legally, by far the highest proportions among the typology groups.

Little Consensus on Environmental Regulation

Republican groups in the political typology have long been divided in their views of the environment and that remains the case today. Staunch Conservatives and Libertarians are the only groups in which majorities say the U.S. has gone too far in its efforts to protect the environment. In all other groups – including Main Street Republicans and the GOP-leaning Disaffecteds – most say that this country should do whatever it takes to protect the environment.

The question of how far to go in protecting the environment becomes more complicated when the potential economic costs of environmental protection are mentioned. Three of four groups in the broad GOP coalition, including a slight majority of Disaffecteds, say that stricter environmental laws cost too many jobs and hurt the economy. But Main Street Republicans overwhelmingly disagree– 67% say that stricter environmental laws are worth the cost.

In three of the four groups in the broad Democratic coalition, large majorities say that tougher environmental laws are worth the economic cost. But just 39% of Hard-Pressed Democrats agree, while 54% say such laws and regulations cost too many jobs and harm economic growth.

Views of Military Assertiveness

The 2005 typology survey, which was conducted amid contentious debates over the Iraq war, found greater differences between the partisan coalitions in opinions about military assertiveness than within them. But today, the Republican groups in the political typology differ over a fundamental precept in security policy – whether military strength or good diplomacy is the best way to ensure peace.

Roughly three-quarters (76%) of Staunch Conservatives say the best way to ensure peace is through military strength, but only 39% of Main Street Republicans agree. Among the other two groups in the broad Republican coalition, 48% of Libertarians and 40% of Disaffecteds say that military strength is the best way to guarantee peace.

Democrats are more unified in their belief that good diplomacy provides the best way to ensure peace. Majorities in the three core Democratic groups – as well as 76% of Post-Moderns – say that peace is best ensured through effective diplomacy rather than military strength.

There also are differences in opinions about whether using overwhelming military force is the best way to defeat terrorism around the world or whether relying too much on military force creates hatred that leads to more terrorism. Fully 88% of Staunch Conservatives say that overwhelming force is the best way to defeat terrorism. A narrow majority (53%) of Main Street Republicans agree as do 48% of Libertarians and 45% of Disaffecteds.

As is often the case, Solid Liberals express the opposite view from Staunch Conservatives: 90% say that relying too much on the use of force creates hatred that leads to more terrorism. Smaller majorities of Post-Moderns (69%), New Coalition Democrats (57%) and Hard-Pressed Democrats (52%) express this view.