Feel like you don’t fit in either political party? Here’s why

June 29, 2023

The idea that Americans are polarized makes it seem as if there are only two sides in politics — liberal and conservative, Democratic and Republican.

But Americans are far more complicated politically, a new Pew Research Center typology shows in a study that gives a clearer picture of the full spectrum of American political views.

Americans are divided not just by party but also within them, enough so for Pew to sort Americans ideologically into nine distinct categories (one more than in its last typology four years ago, with some decidedly different contours).

Clear lines emerge when it comes to race, inequality and what the government should do about it. There are also decidedly different views on the role of government overall, economic policy, immigration, religion, the United States’ standing in the world and — for Republican-leaning groups — former President Donald Trump.

What’s more, despite surveys having found broad support for a third party outside the two major ones, the study shows that there’s no magic middle. In fact, the study finds that the three groups with the most self-identified independents “have very little in common politically.”

There are also clear implications for control of Congress. While there has been much focus on Democratic divisions between progressive and moderate wings in Congress, the study finds there are more divisions among Republican groups on the issues. But where Republicans have an advantage is having more of a sense of urgency about who is in charge in Washington. The strongest Republican groups more so than the strongest Democratic ones think next year’s midterms “really matter.”

The typology was created using more than 10,000 survey interviews over an 11-day period this past July. A typical national survey has about 1,000 respondents. This is the eighth typology Pew has created since 1987.

Here’s an overview of Pew’s nine categories (to see where you fit, you can take Pew’s quiz here):

Faith and Flag Conservatives (10% of the public)

Committed Conservatives (7%)

Populist Right (11%)

Ambivalent Right (12%)

Stressed Sideliners (15%)

Outsider Left (10%)

Democratic Mainstays (16%)

Establishment Liberals (13%)

Progressive Left (6%)

Republican-leaning groups

Republican-leaning groups largely believe government is doing too much, that everyone has the ability to succeed, obstacles that once made it harder for women and nonwhites to get ahead are now gone, white people largely don’t benefit from societal advantages over Black people, that political correctness is a major problem and military might is key to keeping the U.S. a superpower.

Two-thirds also think the Republican Party should not accept elected officials who have been openly critical of Trump.

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