October 24, 2017

Political Typology Reveals Deep Fissures on the Right and Left

4. Government’s role and performance, views of national institutions, expertise

The political typology groups are deeply divided along partisan lines in opinions about the size of government. And while there also are partisan gaps in views of government performance, there are cleavages within the partisan coalitions.

In views of nongovernmental national institutions, Republican-leaning typology groups are divided over the impact of colleges and universities, while Democratic groups differ on the effect churches have on the country. And there are differences within both partisan coalitions in views of the impact of banks and financial institutions.

Views of government

Overall, the public is divided over whether the government should be bigger and provide more services (48%), or should be smaller and offer fewer services (45%).

While Democratic-oriented groups are broadly in favor of bigger government, groups in the Republican coalition prefer a smaller government.

Large majorities in three GOP-leaning groups – Core Conservatives (89%), Country First Conservatives (71%) and Market Skeptic Republicans (69%) – also fault the government’s performance, saying the government is “almost always wasteful and inefficient.”

Most Solid Liberals (66%) and Opportunity Democrats (57%) take the opposing view – that government “often does a better job than it gets credit for.”

Yet a majority of Disaffected Democrats (63%), a financially hard-pressed group that overall expresses a preference for bigger government, say government is almost always wasteful and inefficient. Devout and Diverse, another Democratic-leaning group that favors bigger government, are divided over whether government is almost always wasteful (49%) or often gets too little credit (47%).

And while New Era Enterprisers side with other GOP-leaning groups in supporting smaller government, they are split over government’s performance (49% almost always wasteful, 47% often does a better job than given credit for).

Partisan divides in views of institutions

There are deep partisan differences in views of the impact of several national institutions. In some cases – notably, in opinions about the effect of colleges and universities – these differences have increased sharply over the past year.

Among the political typology groups, most Core Conservatives (80%) and Country First Conservatives (60%) say colleges have a negative effect on the way things are going in the country.

But other GOP-leaning groups – Market Skeptic Republicans and New Era Enterprisers – hold more mixed views of the impact of colleges, with 49% and 42%, respectively, viewing their impact negatively.

Majorities of all four Democratic-leaning groups say colleges have a positive impact on the country.

Views of the impact of the national news media for the most part break down along partisan lines, with Democratic-leaning groups expressing more positive opinions than GOP groups. However, Solid Liberals are the only typology group in which a majority (57%) says that the news media has a positive effect on the way things are going in the country.

In assessments of the effect of churches and other religious institutions, majorities of the Republican groups view their impact positively, while Democratic groups are more divided. In three of four Democratic groups, positive opinions outweigh negative ones, but more Solid Liberals say churches have a negative than positive impact (48% to 39%).

Both partisan coalitions are divided in opinions about the effect of labor unions on the country. Nearly two-thirds of Core Conservatives (65%) say unions have a negative impact, the highest share of any typology group; other GOP groups are less negative. And Solid Liberals are much more likely than other Democratic-oriented groups to have positive views of labor unions (74%).

There also are sharp differences within each partisan coalition over the effect that banks and financial institutions have on the country. On the left, a substantial majority of Solid Liberals (69%) say banks have a negative effect on the country. But Opportunity Democrats are divided, with as about as many taking a positive view (42%) as a negative one (41%).

Market Skeptic Republicans, a group that faces financial stress and mostly believes the economic system is unfair to most Americans, stand out from the other Republican-oriented groups for their negative opinions of banks and other financial institutions. About half say banks have a negative effect on the country (52%).

Positive views of most professions – with some exceptions

The public takes a positive view of many professions: Large majorities say farmers, members of the military, police officers and scientists contribute either a lot or some to the well-being of society. But there are striking differences in these attitudes across political typology groups.

While large majorities across the political typology say that scientists contribute “a lot” to the well-being of society, Country First Conservatives are a notable exception. Just 39% of Country First Conservatives, who are older and less educated on average than most other typology groups, say that scientists contribute a lot to the well-being of society. Among other groups, 70% or more (including 94% of Solid Liberals) say scientists contribute a great deal.

Police officers are widely viewed as making positive contributions; about nine-in-ten in every typology group say they contribute at least some to the well-being of society. But Diverse and Devout and Disaffected Democrats, the most racially and ethnically diverse typology groups, are less likely than other groups to say police officers contribute a lot to society. (For more on this topic, see “Deep Racial, Partisan Divisions in Views of Police Officers.”)

Artists also are generally viewed positively, but just 18% of Core Conservatives and 14% of Country First Conservatives say they contribute a lot to society. Majorities of Opportunity Democrats (57%) and Solid Liberals say artists contribute a great deal to the well-being of society.

Business executives are viewed fairly similarly across political typology groups, with the exception of Core Conservatives. Core Conservatives are more likely than other typology groups to say business executives contribute a lot to society (40% say this).

The contributions of lawyers are generally seen more positively among Democratic groups than Republican groups. Solid Liberals (37%) and Opportunity Democrats (38%) are about twice as likely as Core Conservatives (20%) and Country First Conservatives (17%) to say lawyers contribute a lot to society.

Many say country’s big issues don’t have clear solutions

On the most important issues facing the country, a majority of Americans (56%) say there are not “clear solutions” to most big issues, while 41% say there are clear solutions to these issues.

Across all of the Democratic typology groups, more think the big issues facing the country do not have clear solutions than say they do.

By contrast, among Core Conservatives, 51% say there are clear solutions to most big issues, while 45% say there are not. Country First Conservatives are divided (47% say there are clear solutions, 45% say most issues don’t have clear solutions).

The public generally says that people with expertise on a subject do better than other people at making good decisions. Nearly two-thirds of Americans (64%) say people with expertise are usually better than others at making good decisions; 33% say they are no better at making good decisions.

In general, better-educated typology groups tend to be more likely than those with less education to say that people with expertise make good decisions.

Majorities of Solid Liberals (83%) and Opportunity Democrats (72%) – the Democratic groups with the highest levels of educational attainment – say people with expertise are more likely than others to make good decisions. Fewer Disaffected Democrats (54%) and Devout and Diverse (50%) say the same.

Two-thirds of Core Conservatives (66%), the best-educated Republican group, say people with expertise are usually better at making good decisions. Among Core Conservatives and Market Skeptic Republicans, which have smaller shares of college graduates, fewer say this. But among New Era Enterprisers, who also are less likely than Core Conservatives to have completed college, 67% say people with expertise usually make good decisions.