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The Old Party Lines Are Shifting

BY RELEVANT CULTURE / ISSUE 54 / POLITICS November 10, 2011

Even though it’s still a year away, the American presidential race is in full swing. But this year, observers have noticed Americans are less likely to fall into blue-and-red dichotomies.

A new study by the Pew Research Center categorizes Americans into nine political types, instead of the traditional and simplistic “conservative or liberal” labels. The new categories stretch from the “Staunch Conservative” values of those in the extreme right to the “Solidly Liberal” values held by those in the far left. The remainder of the ideologies break down the oft-misunderstood “moderates” into more useful categories of voters. These include right-leaning groups like Main- Street Republicans, Libertarians and Disaffecteds, and left-leaning groups such as Post- Moderns, New Coalition Democrats and Hard-Pressed Democrats.

The new categories prove each party has little homogeneity. Additionally, the breakdown along generational and religious lines is also quite telling in regards to party affiliation. “Bystanders,” a group of voters highly unlikely to vote, are made up by a large number of 18- to 29-yearolds (51%). Eighteen- to 25-year-olds also comprise 32% of “Post-Moderns,” a group generally supportive of government and environmental policies, but the least religious group.

Seventy-two percent of Staunch Conservatives (the group most likely to identify with the Tea Party) are Protestant Christians … but nearly the same number (70%) of “Hard-Pressed Democrats” (a group cynical about government and suspicious of corporations) are Protestants. In addition to the Post-Modern group, the Solid Liberals are least likely to have believers in their ranks (40% of the group claims no religious affiliation).

These nuanced categories reveal Americans are by no means unified within their political parties—there are vast differences of social, moral and economic values even between members of the same party, let alone in the growing independent voting bloc (up from 30% in 2005 to 37% in 2011). It remains to be seen whether politicians will attempt to speak to these variances within their parties or to continue courting the extremes.

Click here to check out more analysis, a quiz and summaries.

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