Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

Beyond Red vs. Blue: The Political Typology

11. Progressive Left

Very liberal, highly educated and majority White; most say U.S. institutions need to be completely rebuilt because of racial bias

Chart shows Progressive Left are ...

Reflecting their name, Progressive Left have very liberal views across a range of issues – including the size and scope of government, foreign policy, immigration and race. A sizable majority (79%) describe their views as liberal, including 42% who say their views are very liberal – double the share of the next largest group (20% of Outsider Left).

Roughly two-thirds of Progressive Left (68%) are White, non-Hispanic, by far the largest share among Democratic-aligned groups. Progressive Left are the second youngest typology group – 71% are ages 18 to 49. Progressive Left are also highly educated, with about half (48%) holding at least a four-year college degree, making it one of the two most highly educated groups overall.

Progressive Left are more liberal than the three other Democratic-oriented groups on many issues. For example, while majorities in all four of these groups favor a bigger government providing more services, Progressive Left are most likely to express this view. When asked a follow-up question about how much bigger the government should be, 63% of Progressive Left say government services should “greatly expand” from current levels – a far higher share than any other group.

Their liberal outlook is not limited to issues related to the size and scope of government. Their views on race and racial equality also distinguish them from other typology groups: Sizable majorities say White people benefit from societal advantages that Black people do not have and that most U.S. institutions need to be completely rebuilt to ensure equal rights for all Americans regardless of race or ethnicity.

Progressive Left broadly support substantial hikes in tax rates for large corporations and high-income households. They are the only typology group in which a majority express positive views of political leaders who describe themselves as democratic socialists. And Progressive Left are more likely than any other typology group to say there are other countries that are better than the U.S.

Although they are one of the smallest political typology groups, Progressive Left are the most politically engaged group in the Democratic coalition. No other group turned out to vote at a higher rate in the 2020 general election, and those who did nearly unanimously voted for Joe Biden. They donated money to campaigns in 2020 at a higher rate than any other Democratic-oriented group.

Political affiliation, voting and engagement

Chart shows Progressive Left: Overwhelmingly Democratic and nearly unanimous in their support for Joe Biden in 2020

Nearly all Progressive Left (98%) either identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party: 46% say they strongly identify with the party. About a third (32%) are independents who lean toward the Democratic Party.

Chart shows Progressive Left have very cold feelings about Republicans

Progressive Left are defined in part by their antipathy toward the Republican Party. On a “feeling thermometer” ranging from 0-100, where 100 represents the warmest, most positive feelings, Progressive Left give Republicans an average rating of just 10 – by far the lowest of any group. Their feelings toward Democrats are significantly warmer, though they are somewhat less warm on average than Establishment Liberals and Democratic Mainstays.

This group is also one of the most politically engaged typology groups: 86% of eligible Progressive Left voted in the 2020 election. Among typology groups, that is only rivaled by Faith and Flag Conservatives. Slightly fewer than half (44%) say they follow what’s going on in government and public affairs most of the time, 10 percentage points higher than among all adults.

Chart shows Progressive Left highly engaged with politics

In the days leading up to the start of the 2020 Democratic primaries, 35% of Progressive Left Democratic voters supported Sen. Bernie Sanders, while nearly as many (28%)  supported Sen. Elizabeth Warren; far fewer backed Biden (15%). They were more likely to support Warren than those in any other political typology group and expressed support for Sanders at a level similar to the Outsider Left (38% of whom favored Sanders).

While Progressive Left largely backed candidates other than Biden during the 2020 Democratic primaries, they overwhelmingly voted for him in the general election and now solidly support him. A September survey found a large majority approves of Biden’s job performance (82%), and majorities express confidence in his handling of most issues.

Progressive Left: Key political attitudes and beliefs

Progressive Left are the only typology group in which a majority (62%) says that success in life is largely outside of an individual’s control. And when asked to compare the U.S. to other countries – whether the U.S. is better than all other countries, is among the best countries, or there are other countries that are better – 75% of Progressive Left say there are other countries better than the U.S., the highest share among typology groups.

Chart shows Progressive Left: Very liberal across a broad spectrum of issues

While Progressive Left overwhelmingly favor an expanded social safety net, they also broadly support raising tax rates on large businesses and corporations as well as on household incomes above $400,000. They are also far more likely than any other typology group to say that the fact that there are some people with personal fortunes in the billions is bad for society.

A large majority of Progressive Left (86%) say that people who have immigrated to the United States illegally generally make the communities they live in better. They also are more supportive than other political typology groups of increasing the number of legal immigrants coming to the U.S. Progressive Left also are particularly likely to say that greater social acceptance of people who are transgender is a good thing for the U.S. – 88% say this, including 75% who say this has been very good for the country.

Progressive Left stand out for support for Black Lives Matter, perceptions of White advantage and on other racial attitudes

While Progressive Left hold more liberal views than the other political typology groups on a range of topics, this is particularly evident when it comes to their attitudes on issues relating to race and racial equality.

Overall, Democrats generally are far more likely than Republicans to express a positive view of the Black Lives Matter movement. More than eight-in-ten Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (85%) say they support the movement, compared with just 19% of Republicans and Republican leaners. However, three-quarters of Progressive Left say they strongly support the Black Lives Matter movement, substantially higher than the other Democratic-oriented typology groups.

Chart shows in their opinions about race in America, Progressive Left stand out

A similar pattern is evident in opinions about whether White people benefit a lot from advantages that Black people do not have and whether most U.S. laws and institutions need to be completely rebuilt because they are fundamentally biased against some races and ethnicities.

Progressive Left also diverge from some other Democratic-oriented groups on the issue of funding for police departments. Nearly half of Progressive Left (48%) say spending on police in their area should be decreased a lot or a little, a view held by just 22% of Establishment Liberals and 11% of Democratic Mainstays.

Progressive Left: Who they are

Nearly seven-in-ten Progressive Left (68%) are White adults, making this group less racially and ethnically diverse than the other Democratic-oriented groups – though still more diverse than the three most conservative groups in the typology.

Progressive Left are the second youngest political typology group (Outsider Left are the youngest), and they are substantially younger than the overall population. About a third (34%) are under the age of 30 and 71% are under the age of 50. They also are one of the two groups (along with Establishment Liberals) with the highest share of college graduates: About half of Progressive Left (48%) have a college degree.

Roughly half of Progressive Left (52%) are religiously unaffiliated, which is comparable to the share among Outsider Left and higher than other political typology groups.

Progressive Left have been particularly cautious when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic: In late August, 79% reported wearing a mask all or most of the time when in stores and other businesses. And, as of that same period, 94% said they had received all of the required shots to be fully vaccinated – the highest share of any group.

Roughly two-thirds (68%) say they would prefer to live in a community with smaller houses that are closer together, also the highest of any typology group. And members of this group are particularly likely to get political news from NPR and The New York Times in a typical week.

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