Thursday, August 22, 2019

Are Democrats Less Divided than Pundits Claim?

Pundits and talking heads make much of supposed divisions within the Democrat Party base involving self-identification as "liberal," "moderate," and "conservative."  Indeed, some breathlessly pontificate that such divisions threaten the Democrats' chance of defeating Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenf├╝hrer, in 2020.  Now, my former classmate, Larry Sabato has a piece at Sabato's Crystal Ball that reviews survey results that indicate that Democrat divisions may be greatly over stated.  Indeed, when it comes to policy issues, a significant majority of Democrats of all stripes tend to take liberal positions regardless of how the otherwise describe themselves.  The take away is that party unity is stronger than what the chattering class would have one believe and that Trump may be foolish to count on alleged divisions to save him in 2020.  Here are excerpts from the piece:
The contest for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination features more than 20 candidates representing a wide variety of ideological orientations ranging from progressives like Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to more moderate candidates like Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT) and former Rep. John Delaney (D, MD-6).
The first round of debates exposed major differences among the candidates on issues such as health care and immigration, and this has led to growing concern among party leaders about whether Democratic voters will be able to unite behind the eventual nominee. Indeed, some of the more moderate candidates have warned that nominating a candidate from the party’s left wing could cause large numbers of moderate-to-conservative Democrats to stay home or even vote for Donald Trump, thereby ensuring a Republican victory. . . . fewer than half of Democratic voters describe themselves as liberals.
[T]he 2018 Pew Research Center survey show that among registered Democrats, there were sharp divisions in ideological identification based on age, education, and race. Older Democrats, those who did not graduate from college, and nonwhite Democrats were much less likely to identify as liberal and more likely to identify as moderate or conservative than younger Democrats, those with college degrees, and white Democrats.
Democratic voters were far more liberal on many policy issues than one might expect based on their responses to the ideological identification question. This pattern suggests that ideological identification may not be a very good predictor of the views of Democratic voters on the issues.
Many Democrats who call themselves moderates or even conservatives take liberal positions on specific issues. In fact, the large majority of self-identified conservatives take the liberal position on four of these six issues: abortion, black rights, gun control, and health care. The large majority of self-identified moderates take the liberal position on five of these six issues: abortion, black rights, gun control, business regulation, and health care.
[A] closer examination of recent polling data indicates that when it comes to specific policy issues such as abortion, gun control, and health care, Democratic voters are actually considerably less divided than Republican voters. Moreover, these data show that divisions among Democrats based on age, education, and race are much less significant when it comes to policy issues. What makes this all the more important is that policy preferences appear to have a much stronger influence than ideological identification on voters’ broader political outlook including their opinions of President Trump. These findings suggest that the task of uniting Democrats behind the party’s eventual nominee may not be as difficult as some pundits and political observers have suggested.
Then there is another common unifier: hatred of Donald Trump. 

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