The Times Mirror Center in 1987 developed a unique voter classification system based on three major elements — party affiliation, political participation, and personal values and attitudes — and using the statistical technique called “cluster analysis.” The new typology in 1995 is built on the same foundation, with minor modifications.
Nine values and attitudes were measured, including attitudes toward government, environmentalism, business, social welfare, social policy issues, religion, race relations, the military, and feelings of political alienation.
The analysis segmented the American public into ten groups — three Republican, four Democrat, and three in between:
The Divided Right
- Enterprisers (13% of adult population): Affluent, well-educated, and predominantly white. This classic Republican group is mainly characterized as pro-business, anti-government, anti-social welfare.
- Moralists (16%): Middle-aged, middle-income, predominantly white, religious (more than half are Evangelicals). This core Republican group is also socially intolerant and anti-social welfare, militaristic, anti-big business and anti-big government. Former Democrats drawn to the GOP’s religious and cultural conservatism have increased its size substantially since 1987.
- Libertarians (8%): Highly-educated, affluent, predominately white male. This group has Republican lineage but is uncomfortable with today’s GOP, particularly its religious right. Pro- business, anti-government, anti-social welfare but highly tolerant, very low on religious faith, cynical about politicians.
The Detached Center
- New Economy Independents (13%): Average income, young to middle aged, mostly female. This group is unanchored in either party and many supported Perot in 1992. It has many conflicting values: strongly environmentalist but not believers in government regulation; pro- social welfare but not very sympathetic to blacks; inclined to fundamental religious beliefs but highly tolerant of homosexuals.
- Bystanders (8%): Very young, poorly educated, with low income. This group opts out of the political process or are not eligible to vote (high Hispanic concentration). Slightly more male than female, its only claimed commitment is to environmentalism.
- The Embittered (9%): Low income, low education, middle-aged. One in five of this group are black, four in ten have children under 18. Old ties to Democrats have eroded but the Embittered feel unwelcome in the GOP. They distrust government, politicians, corporations. They are religious and socially intolerant. They strongly blame discrimination for lack of black progress, but are not strongly in favor of social welfare programs.
The “Not So” Left
- Seculars (8%): Highly educated, sophisticated, affluent, mostly white baby boomers and Generation X. The most socially tolerant group, driven by social issues, it is the only one to embrace the “liberal” label. Very low in religious faith. Highly pro-environment, moderately pro- government, distrusting of business. Drifting from the Democrats but not attracted to Republicans.
- New Democrats (12%): Mostly female, average income and education, as many white Evangelical Protestants as white Catholics. Religious but not intolerant, more pro-business than other Democratic groups, they reject discrimination as a major barrier to black progress, are pro- government and environmentalist.
- New Dealers (8%): One of the two oldest groups in the typology (one in four over 65), average education and low income. Once part of FDR’s coalition, beneficiary of government programs, this group is now turned off by politics. Strongly conservative on race and social welfare, strong on religion, moderate on social tolerance, pro-America, distrusts politicians and business.
- Partisan Poor (5%): Very poor (38% with household income under $20,000 a year), disadvantaged, about four in ten in the south. This oldest typology group, rooted in New Deal coalition, believes more government spending on the poor is needed. More than one-third are non-whites. Very religious and socially intolerant.
1996 Voting Blocs and the Typology
The typology gives us an opportunity to look at the structure of various sectors of the electorate. As was evident in the 1994 elections, the sum of an electoral group is often more powerful than its parts. In 1994, white males, talk radio listeners and conservative Christians turned out to vote in higher numbers and voted with greater unanimity than other voting blocs, and thus their impact on the election was substantial.
Some of the key voting blocs to watch in 1996 will be primary voters, talk radio listeners, and the Christian Right. The overwhelming majority of Republican primary voters (those who say they are “very likely” to vote in a primary in their state next year) are clustered in two typology groups. Forty percent of likely GOP primary voters are upscale, economically conservative Enterprisers, and an equal percentage (39%) are socially conservative, middle class Moralists. The battle over the Republican presidential nomination will likely be waged between these two GOP voting blocs, who at this point do not agree in their assessments of the Republican congressional agenda or the current Republican presidential field.
In recent years, talk radio has become a powerful tool for political expression and coalition building. The regular talk radio audience remains largely conservative. More than 20% of those who listen to talk radio regularly are Enterprisers; 14% are Moralists. However, more Democrats appear to be tuning into talk radio this year than last. In October 1994, just weeks before the November elections, only 7% of the regular talk radio audience consisted of New Democrats; today that number has nearly doubled to 15%. This moderate, middle class Democratic group makes up about 12% of the electorate and will be an important group to watch in 1996.
The Christian right could be another important swing group in the 1996 elections, particularly during the Republican nomination process. Nearly half (47%) of those Republicans who identify themselves as born again or Evangelical Christians, can be found among the ranks of the religious and culturally conservative Moralists. Forty percent are Enterprisers. Again these two groups have increasingly divergent attitudes toward their party’s social and political agenda. This schism may weaken the electoral strength of the Christian Right in the 1996 election.