Democrats More Liberal Than At Any Point In Last 15 Years, Surveys Show

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Guy Bentley Research Associate, Reason Foundation
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Democrats are the most liberal they have been in 15 years and remain enormously loyal to President Barack Obama, according to Pew Research.

The first Democratic debate saw some strong contrasts between the candidates, with self-declared socialist Sen. [crscore]Bernard Sanders[/crscore] championing the progressive left and front-runner Hillary Clinton taking a more centrist approach.

But centrism may be out of vogue with Democratic voters, according to Pew’s Director of Political Research Carroll Doherty and research assistant Samantha Smith.

The number of Democrats who self-identify as liberals has soared since 2000. Surveys conducted in 2015 showed that 41 percent of Democrats described themselves as liberal — up 14 points from 15 years ago.

The number of Democrats who consider themselves conservative or moderate by contrast has steadily fallen over time by three and eight percentage points respectively.

Only 21 percent of those polled identified as conservative Democrats while 35 percent said they were moderate. Pew put the shift in attitude down to the increasing polarization of U.S. politics at both ends of the spectrum.

Our polarization survey last year found that the share of Democrats and Democratic leaners who hold consistently liberal views (as well as the share of Republicans and Republican leaners who have consistently conservative attitudes) has increased over the past 2o years,” said Pew.

The differences between the perception of the parties remains huge. According to Pew, 94 percent of Democrats are more left-wing than the median Republican, and 92 percent of Republicans are more right-wing than the median Democrat.

As well as being more liberal, Democrats continue to display almost unwavering loyalty to Obama. September’s Pew poll showed a stunning 83 percent of Democrats approve of Obama’s job performance.

At a similar point during George W. Bush’s second term, the Republican president had a 66 percent approval rating among fellow Republicans.

This may explain why Democrats are eager for the next president to continue expanding and introducing new social programs similar to those of the Obama administration.

But all is not harmony among Democratic voters, with significant splits over support for the Iran nuclear agreement and cutting the size of major banks and working with the GOP.

Surprisingly, liberal Democrats are more likely to support a candidate who is willing to compromise with Republicans than are moderate Democrats.

Democrats Ideologically Divided

(Credit: Pew Research Center)

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