Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

Beyond Red vs. Blue: The Political Typology

9. Democratic Mainstays

Racially diverse, older, steadfast Democrats: Economically liberal, pro-military and moderate on immigration and social issues

Chart shows Democratic Mainstays are ...

Democratic Mainstays are one of the largest groups in the political typology and the largest single group as a share of the Democratic coalition. They generally favor policies that expand the social safety net and support higher taxes on corporations. But they are somewhat more hawkish than other Democratic-oriented groups on foreign policy and less liberal on immigration policy and some social issues.

Like their fellow Democratic coalition group, Establishment Liberals, they are very committed to the Democratic Party – nearly half (49%) consider themselves “strong Democrats.” Democratic Mainstays were among Joe Biden’s strongest supporters in the 2020 Democratic primaries, and 92% voted for him in the November 2020 general election. As of September 2021, nearly eight-in-ten (79%) say they approve of the president’s job performance, with roughly six-in-ten (59%) saying they strongly approve.

Democratic Mainstays are slightly older and have less formal education than other Democratic-oriented groups. They are the group with the largest share of Black non-Hispanic adults (26%), and six-in-ten are women.

They are the only Democratic-oriented typology group in which a larger share say that the decline in the share of Americans belonging to an organized religion is bad for society than say this is good for society. Democratic Mainstays also are more religiously observant than other Democratic-oriented groups.

Political affiliation, voting and engagement

Chart shows Democratic Mainstays overwhelmingly backed Biden, but small shares affiliate with the GOP and voted for Trump
Chart shows Democratic Mainstays are very warm toward the Democratic Party

Nearly seven-in-ten Democratic Mainstays identify as Democrats (69%), with 49% considering themselves strong Democrats. About two-in-ten (21%) are independents who lean toward the Democratic Party. A small share (7%) identify with or lean toward the GOP (roughly the same share – 5% – voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election).

More than half of Democratic Mainstays (58%) describe themselves as moderate. Three-in-ten say they are liberal, while 9% say they are conservative.

Chart shows two-thirds of Democratic Mainstays voted in the 2020 presidential election

Democratic Mainstays feel particularly warm toward Democrats – only Establishment Liberals rate Democrats as highly on average. They rate Republicans coolly and offer very negative evaluations of Trump (giving him an average rating of 10).

Democratic Mainstays were about as likely to vote in the 2020 presidential election as adult citizens were overall: About two-thirds of this eligible voters in this group voted (68%). They are also about as likely as the average adult to say they follow what’s going on in government and public affairs most of the time: 35% of Democratic Mainstays say this, compared with 34% of all adults.

Democratic Mainstays: Key political attitudes and beliefs

On many issues, Democratic Mainstays hold similar positions to other Democratic-oriented groups. About eight-in-ten (79%) prefer a bigger government providing more services over a smaller one providing fewer services. They overwhelmingly (85%) favor raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and nearly eight-in-ten (78%) say that a lot more needs to be done to ensure equal rights for all Americans regardless of their racial or ethnic backgrounds.

Chart shows Democratic Mainstays: More than half are proud of the Democratic Party, and most say the country needs to do more to address racial inequities

Still, there are some issues where Democratic Mainstays express significantly different views than those in some other Democratic-oriented groups. For example, when it comes to criminal justice, a majority of Democratic Mainstays (59%) favor the death penalty in cases of murder, and about seven-in-ten (73%) say that violent crime is a very big problem in the country today. Mainstays overwhelmingly think that funding for police in their area should either stay the same (42%) or be increased (47%); just 11% say it should be decreased.

Democratic Mainstays are also less likely to favor expansive policies on immigration than other Democratic-oriented groups: 28% think the number of legal immigrants admitted to the country should increase, compared with 44% of Establishment Liberals and majorities of Outsider Left (54%) and Progressive Left (63%). And they are the typology group most likely to say that both border security and a path to citizenship should be given equal priority in dealing with illegal immigration in the U.S. – 57% say this.

Democratic Mainstays are the sole Democratic-oriented group in which a majority (80%) say U.S. policies should try to keep it so America is the only military superpower, and 84% say the size of America’s military should either stay the same (50%) or increase (35%).

When it comes to the Democratic Party, Democratic Mainstays are consistently one of the most positive typology groups. More than half (54%) say the Democratic Party makes them feel proud, similar to the share of Establishment Liberals who say this (57%) and higher than in any other group. And about half (48%) say that they are basically content with the federal government.

People causing offense and people being too easily offended

About two-thirds of Americans (65%) say people being too easily offended by what others say is a major problem in the country today, and about half (53%) say that people saying things that are very offensive to others is a major problem. But these views differ along partisan lines: Most Republicans say people getting too easily offended is a major problem but don’t say the same about offensive speech, while Democrats are more likely to say offensive speech is a major problem than to say people being too easily offended is a major problem. For the most part, the position of the typology groups largely reflects their partisan composition.

Chart shows majorities of Democratic Mainstays say that people saying very offensive things is a major problem in the country – and so is people being too easily offended

But Democratic Mainstays are an exception. Like their fellow Democratic-oriented groups, a majority of Democratic Mainstays (76%) say that people saying offensive things to others is a major problem in the country (in fact, they are the typology group most likely to say this). Yet a similarly large share of this group – 81% – say that people being too easily offended is a major problem, making them as likely as the GOP-oriented groups to say this.

Democratic Mainstays and Stressed Sideliners are the only groups in which majorities see both offensive speech and people being too easily offended by things others say as major problems in the country.

Democratic Mainstays: Who they are

Six-in-ten Democratic Mainstays are women. A majority (55%) are ages 50 and older, including 27% who are 65 and older.

Democratic Mainstays are among the most diverse groups in terms of race and ethnicity. Fewer than half (46%) are White, 26% are Black, 20% are Hispanic and 4% are Asian.

Three-quarters of Democratic Mainstays (75%) are religiously affiliated, the highest share among the Democratic-oriented groups. A quarter of Democratic Mainstays are Catholic, while 43% are Protestant. Democratic Mainstays have the largest share of Black Protestants of the political typology groups: 20%.

Democratic Mainstays are more likely than those in other Democratic-oriented groups to say practicing their religious faith is among the most important things to them personally (35%), while 76% say spending time with family is among the most important. They also attend religious services more frequently than those in other Democratic-oriented groups.

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