Nine Political Types: Understanding America’s Political Landscape

Pew Research Center Identifies 9 Political Types

Political culture has been studied most intensively in the context of established Western democracies, beginning with Almond and Verba’s 1963 classic study, The Civic Culture.

Pew’s new typology sorts Americans into cohesive, like-minded groups based on their values and beliefs and partisan affiliation. It shows clear lines dividing on race, government role and size, economic policy, immigration, religion and the United States’ standing in the world.

1. Progressive Left

Progressive Left are liberal on most issues and support a wide range of social programs. They overwhelmingly back Democratic Party candidates and vote at higher rates than other typology groups.

They are especially supportive of a greater focus on racial justice and increased acceptance of people who are transgender. But they disagree with other Democratic-aligned groups on many issues. For example, they differ on whether hedge fund managers should pay more taxes than middle school teachers.

2. Establishment Liberals

Liberalism takes the protection of individual liberty as its primary political goal. It recognizes that government’s coercive power can be abused, and that society must devise a system that limits its use.

Establishment Liberals are Democratic-oriented and are the most likely group in the typology to say that more needs to be done to achieve racial equality. They are also the most likely to think that wealthy countries should pay more to help poorer ones adapt to climate change.

3. Democratic Mainstays

Despite their different ideological inclinations, Democratic Mainstays and Establishment Liberals have a lot in common. They are the only two groups in Pew’s typology where a majority say they feel that success in life is pretty much decided by forces beyond one’s control, as well as being among the most financially stressed and least engaged voters.

They also are more likely than other Democratic-oriented groups to think that people are too easily offended by offensive speech. And they are the only group where a majority likes political leaders who identify as democratic socialists.

4. Outsider Left

A political outsider is a figure that appeals to voters for one of two reasons: claiming to be an anti-politician or selling themselves as challenging the prevailing political mold. In recent elections, Republicans like gubernatorial candidate Rick Saccone and Democratic candidates like Dennis Kucinich have rushed to grab the outsider mantle.

The youngest of Pew’s typology groups, Outsider Left are liberal in their views but say they’re dissatisfied with the Democratic Party and its leaders. They’re less likely to vote than other Democratic groups.

5. Stressed Sideliners

Unlike the other groups in the typology, Stressed Sideliners are not particularly interested in politics and vote at lower rates. They are more likely to live in lower-income households and are the least educated group in the study.

They have a mix of conservative and liberal views but are defined by their low level of political engagement. They rate Democrats and Republicans similarly on a feeling thermometer. They also are very post-Trump, with six-in-ten saying they would like to see the president not return as a major political figure.

6. Ambivalent Right

Politics exists as long as people have diverse beliefs and preferences for allocating scarce resources. Various ways of resolving these differences and sharing power have evolved over time.

In moralistic cultures, citizens expect political officials to be honest in their dealings with others and put the community’s interests above their own. They also have little patience for corruption.

Ambivalent Right differ from other GOP-aligned groups in their views on several issues, including abortion and marijuana. Six-in-ten say that adults should have the right to legally use marijuana for recreational purposes.

7. Populist Right

Populism is a belief system that offers a faith, plays with emotions and cultivates nostalgia. But it is also a political style that claims to revive the true meaning of democracy, and which opposes traditional parties that are monopolizing or perverting the people’s power.

RWA and SDO both exceeded their corresponding pivotal populist ideology dimensions of Anti-elitism and People sovereignty. These results suggest that these right-wing variants of populism may represent the transition from thin to thick ideologies, with resistance-to-change motives being one important factor for this process.

8. Faith and Flag Conservatives

A quarter of this group feels that companies should make a reasonable amount of profit. And, like Outsider Right and Ambivalent Right, Faith and Flag Conservatives have relatively high levels of resentment toward Democrats.

Faith and Flag Conservatives are the oldest group, with a third of their voters over 65. They voted at higher rates than any other group in 2020 and are more likely to say they follow politics closely.

9. Committed Conservatives

People often simplify politics into red and blue, but it’s not that simple. A new Pew Research Center typology breaks voters down into nine different groups to better understand the complexity of America’s political landscape.

Committed Conservatives differ from Faith and Flag and the Ambivalent Right in some ways. Like the other Republican-oriented groups, they support stronger military spending and a harder line on immigration. But they also prioritize U.S. relationships with allies in foreign policy.

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