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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Party Coalitions

Our chapter on political parties discusses their demographic makeup and the ideological leanings. Gallup has new data on the Democrats and the Republicans. At National Journal, Ronald Brownstein identifies four big differences between them:

The GOP remains a preponderantly white party: nearly 87 percent of Republicans are white. Just 63 percent of self-identified Democrats are white. African-Americans and Hispanic combine to provide 33 percent of the Democratic coalition, but just 10 percent of the Republican base.

The second key difference is religious affiliation and practice. Republicans are considerably more likely than Democrats to describe religion as important in their lives (73 percent of Republicans do so, compared to 59 percent of Democrats), and to attend church regularly (40 percent of Republicans say they attend at least weekly, compared to only 27 percent of Democrats.) The GOP is also more heavily tilted toward Protestants: three-fifths of Republicans identify with that faith, compared to only 48 percent of Democrats. (The data Gallup released doesn't differentiate between Mainline and evangelical Protestants, but other studies show the GOP evolving increasingly toward the latter over recent decades.) Strikingly, almost one-in-five Democrats now identify with no religious faith, compared with less than one-in-ten Republicans.

The third sharp difference is marital status: 62 percent of Republicans are married while 54 percent of Democrats are single.

Finally, the parties are sharply divided by ideology. Continuing a generation-long process that I've described as "the great sorting out," each party is more ideologically consistent than it once was - but the process is far more pronounced among Republicans. Fully 68 percent of Republicans identify as conservatives compared to 26 percent as moderates and only 6 percent as liberals. Among Democrats, 37 percent consider themselves liberals, while 42 percent identify as moderates and 20 percent as conservatives.