October 12, 2015

5 facts about Democrats

Republicans and Democrats have debates scheduled through next March as candidates on both sides seek to nail down their parties’ presidential nominations. As background, we’ve published five facts about Republicans. Here are five facts about today’s Democrats.

1More Democrats Identify as LiberalDemocrats have become more liberal in recent years. The share of Democrats who describe their political views as liberal has increased over the past 15 years. In surveys conducted this year, 41% of Democrats describe themselves as liberal, 35% say they are moderates and 21% say they’re conservative. In 2000, 43% were moderate, 27% liberal and 24% conservative.

This trend falls in line with how the nation has become more polarized at both ends of the ideological spectrum. Our polarization survey last year found that the share of Democrats and Democratic leaners who hold consistently liberal views (as well as the share of Republicans and Republican leaners who have consistently conservative attitudes) has increased over the past 2o years. Today, 94% of Democrats are to the left of the median Republican, and 92% of Republicans are to the right of the median Democrat. 

2Democrats have remained very loyal to President Barack Obama. In our September poll, Obama’s overall job rating is 46%, but Democrats are overwhelmingly supportive of the president. Fully 83% of Democrats approve of the way Obama is handling his job, compared with 43% of independents and just 9% of Republicans.

At a comparable point in his presidency, George W. Bush had a lower overall job rating (31%) and lower rating among his own party (66%) than Obama does today. Bill Clinton had a higher overall job rating at a comparable point (56% in September 1999), but Clinton’s job rating among Democrats was about the same as Obama’s today (82%).

3Democratic voters want the next president to continue Obama’s policies. In our most recent survey, 61% of possible Democratic primary voters said they would be more likely to vote for a presidential candidate who offers programs similar to the Obama administration, and 60% said they would be more likely to back a candidate who will compromise with Republicans. Smaller percentages expressed positive views about a candidate who wants to cut the size of big banks (48%), expand trade agreements (45%) or back the nuclear agreement with Iran (41%).

Among possible Republican primary voters, 69% say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who wants to end the Iran nuclear deal and 56% would be more likely to support a candidate who wants to end funding for Planned Parenthood.

Partisan compromise is viewed less positively by Republican primary voters than by Democratic ones. Just 41% of possible GOP primary voters say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who will compromise with Democrats.

4Democratic voters are ideologically divided over going after big banks. For the most part, Democrats are less ideologically divided than Republicans in their views of possible candidate positions. But among possible Democratic primary voters who are liberal, 60% say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who wants to reduce the size of large banks and financial institutions; just 38% of moderate and conservative Democratic voters say the same. Liberal Democratic voters also are far more likely than conservatives or moderates to express a positive view of a candidate who backs the Iran nuclear deal (53% vs. 31%).

But comparable percentages of liberals (44%) and conservatives and moderates (45%) say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who wants to expand trade agreements. Hillary Clinton recently announced she does not support the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade pact negotiated by the Obama administration with a dozen Pacific nations. Clinton’s main rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, also opposes the TPP.

5Democratic voters are also divided on whether it’s more important for a presidential candidate to have “experience” or “new ideas.” Among all possible Democratic primary voters, 53% say it is more important for a presidential candidate to have “experience and a proven record”; 39% say it is more important for a candidate to have “new ideas and a different approach.” By contrast, 66% of possible GOP primary voters prioritize news ideas and a different approach. Just 29% say it is more important that a candidate have experience and proven record.

Democratic voters who value experience have very different candidate preferences than do the smaller share who prioritize new ideas. In an open-ended question, most Democratic voters (56%) who see experience as more important name Clinton as their first choice for the Democratic nomination. By contrast, Democrats who cite new ideas as more important are divided, with 33% naming Clinton and 35% choosing Sanders.

Related: 5 facts about Republicans

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: U.S. Political Parties, Political Attitudes and Values, Presidential Approval, 2016 Election

  1. Photo of Carroll Doherty

    is director of political research at Pew Research Center.

  2. Photo of Samantha Smith

    is a research assistant focusing on U.S. politics and policy at Pew Research Center.


  1. Ashley2 years ago

    Is this data, in particular, downloadable as raw data?


  2. Larry Niemotka2 years ago

    Liberal democrats and conservative democrats are addressed in this survey. What about Progressives i.e. Hillary and Socialists / commie leaning Sanders types , what’s their percentage rate? Many Democrats fall into this category of political persuasion.

    1. Jack Roberts2 years ago

      To be clear, you do realize there is a vast difference between Communism and Socialism, yes? Is it safe to assume you passed 8th grade math? All squares are rectangles in the same way that, in theory, all communists should be socialists. Now if you were to actually examine all the communist governments of past, and even China today, you won’t find a society of equality. As Orwell put it, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” The communist states failed to be truly communist and fell into oligarchical regimes that oppressed the people and really just screwed things up.

  3. Roberta2 years ago

    It seems to me that, while the question is almost always stated as, “Do you favor the breaking up of ‘too big to fail’ banks?”, the real question is “Should big banks be regulated in such a way that investment (or speculative) banks must be separate from lending and/or savings banks and insurers?”
    We got into trouble when these institutions were allowed to merge their services, beginning with Enron and continuing until the present.

  4. Chuck2 years ago

    As the first two comments show there is NEVER to be a 100% GENERAL overall agreement.
    We should be starting with finding some common ground and then work out from there.

    By and large . . . . generally speaking most folks can find a few things they can agree on.
    That should be the starting point and work out, around, over and under that foundation to find some basis for common ground on differences.
    Seems to me that is how one would build a consensus and actually get something done.

    But then again I am not an elected politician and worried more about getting re-elected than helping the country as a whole accomplish something.
    With that thought in mind the individual voter needs to concern themselves with electing individuals that can see the WHOLE picture and not just the lower left corner that they prefer.

    SIGH . . . . Wishful thinking on my part.

  5. Joyce Ellis2 years ago

    First I would like to point out that the definitions of Conservative and Liberal have no meaning any more because folks who don’t like Democrats use Liberal as a derogation and the Conservatives are considered greedy by the Democrats. The actions of the several groups involved (it is never one or the other) must be evaluated on their own merit.

    I see a policy line from those who seem to feel that Obama somehow does not represent our nation, despite the fact that he won the majority of the votes in two elections. “All the bad things he has done” we hear over and over. Somehow these folks are unable to recognize the progress we have made over the past seven years.

    We should be able to agree that it is better to talk than go to war. Men must recognize that there is more to a woman than her uterus and that women past 50 still need to see doctors.

    These are not liberal/conservative issues they are religious issues and need to be addressed as such. We are blessed that our founding fathers chose to give us freedom of religion. That means freedom from a national religion. You follow your beliefs as long as it does not require human sacrifice and I follow mine. When it comes to the use of their bodies, women have the final say. Period!

    If you are offended by gay marriage don’t run for an office that requires you to do what offends you. Just imagine what our country would be like if folks just pick and choose which traffic laws they will follow. Some would argue that we already do, but it could be much worse.

    Every religion has the equivalent of “due unto others……” Why can’t we just stop there and live in peace?

    1. wwdakota2 years ago

      I loved your response . . . intelligent and well thought out. I loved reading thoughts from someone who mirrored my own. Thank you.

    2. Johnny Morales2 years ago

      Joyce Ellis while I agree with your positions, the problem with them and your POV is that you falsely assume the other side surely agrees with your obvious, common sense positions.

      They do NOT.

      They would NEVER agree with you regarding deciding ANY and ALL issues based on Right wing or Left wing points of view.

      The notion we should talk first before going to war clearly goes against many on that sides position.

      They do NOT agree. They think might makes right.

      Likewise they believe “Christianity” was the nation’s founding religion and should have a special place.

      And they definitely do NOT believe a woman has the final say regarding her own body. Many believe once a woman conceives she is reduced to an incubator with all rights given to the fetus until it’s born.

      There is often NO common ground with the other side, and as long as our side keeps pretending or believing there is all we will see is continued retreat from the rights previous generations earned through their struggle.

      We can’t be compromising when they take no prisoners.

      It’s time to drop the notion we can work with the extreme elements that now control the Republican party.

  6. Lino Bonnici2 years ago

    The democrats they will never changed their liberal vision towards the others in their

    policies, how can we believe them after all of these bad experiences in the last years, and

    their alliance with the enemy of the nation?. well in fact we could be more serious if we

    enter in a open free discussion with their leadership to know what is their plans and

    opinions about the latest events, that what we have to do already from now.

    1. Reyna2 years ago

      My word, its clear which side you’re on. I mean, you could use better grammar and punctuation in that entire paragraph, but its clear which side you fly for.

      I’m not going to bash you for your political views, simply because it’s your human right to speak freely, despite how your opinion in this matter entirely, is completely unneeded. Just from looking at the headlines, anyone with common sense and intelligence could see that this site is very bias against Democrats and Liberals as a whole, and that whoever got these numbers, either looked at the first chart that stated percentages, that no doubt, would be outdated.

      Yes, we had a president that has put this country in a bad place, in a dangerous place even, and even his own /voters/ are beginning to realize their mistake with voting for him, and keeping him in office. Still, you cannot place the burden of one ignorant democrat, on the shoulders of all who still have common sense, and who honestly feel embarrassed to have voted for such an idiotic man.

      But if you want to continue with your own narrow-minded views, along with your clearly bad grade on English, then I ask you about the Liberal Democrats who /have/ led the country to a good streak. Bill Clinton is an example. His private life aside, he led the country on a better track when he was in office, but no, let’s continue to talk badly about Democrats and Liberals, whom, like Republicans and Conservatives, want what’s best for the country, just seeing it in different views. That’s what it boils down to when you think about it. Both sides want what’s best for the country, but both just see what could count as ‘best’ in different views and different colors.

      Still, its ignorant and narrow-minded people who read clearly bias websites and lack actual education on someone they’re voting for or for the other wing, are the ones who talk down about one side, whilst ignoring the bad side of their own side.

      Keeps your opinions, they are yours. I’m simply giving you mind, and I implore you, look at official and /correct/ facts about the Red Wing side, as well as the Blue Wing side, and see it from another view, a wider view.

      Thank you for your attention if you actually gave it to your replied comment. Have a good day.

      1. Gerald2 years ago

        Reyna, I don’t think you’ll do much to persuade anyone if you start by insulting them for their poor English. You know, it’s probably not their fault. It’s probably due to the woeful education America offers to many people of lower socio-economic status.

        I can’t say I comprehend Lino’s views, but maybe it would be better to reach across the barricades and seek some understanding. Eg, ask Lino to tell us about the three worst things that have happened, and who the enemy of the nation might be. Then gently educate.

        As for the results on this page being made up, I don’t think so. Pew is a pretty well-respected research organisation. It would be bad business for them to make up the numbers, as it would eventually come out and damage customers’ confidence in them.

    2. Alencon2 years ago

      What “alliance with the enemy of the nation” would that be? Perhaps you would like to expand on that assertion by presenting some justification?

      Keep in mind that an assertion made without justification can be dismissed without justification.