Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Where The Country Is Going Politically

 I've known for quite some time that the proportion of undeclared (independent) voters in the US has been growing.  But until this 2012 Pew Research study came out, I had not given a lot of thought to what that really means.

Looking at this first graph,  it is certainly true that the percentage of independent voters has grown in the last 22 years - going from 29% to 38% of the registered voters.  This has mostly come at the expense of the Republican Party, which dropped from 31% to 24% in the same time period.

On the surface, this would seem to imply that the country is becoming less conservative and, by extension, more liberal.  But is that true?  The second part of that graph casts some doubt on the theory that the country has become much more liberal.  Let's take a deeper look.
 By Race.  Whites for the most part have not shifted much in the last 22 years.  4% fewer are Democratic and 3% fewer are Republican,  but  that only accounts for about half the shift away from the parties.  Black Democratic registration actually went up 5% during that period and Black Republican registration dipped 2%.  Similar to whites,  Hispanics had 3% fewer Democrats and 4% fewer Republicans.
 By Gender.  Male Democratic registration dropped by 2% in 22 years, while male Republican registration dropped by 8%.  Female Democratic registration held steady,  while female Republican registration dropped 5%.   This demonstrates that mostly males have made the trek to the Independent side, though apparently some Republican females have also.
 Whites.  White males in particular have become independent, as this graph shows.
 Religion.  Over the last 22 years, white Evangelical Christians have become 8% more Republican and 8% less Democratic.White non-Evangelical Christians have changed little over the same period.

Those unaffiliated with a religion have become 6% less Republican and 2% more Democratic.
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 Age.  The oldest generation has not changed their party affiliation much in the last 22 years while Boomers have become 3% more Democratic and 4% less Republican.

Gen X has become 8% less Republican and 4% more Democratic.

Millenials have become 7% less Republican and 4% more Democratic.
 Ideology.  So what does it all mean?  Is the country becoming more liberal?  Maybe slightly, but not by much as this graph shows.  The percent of voters who call themselves conservative over the last 12 years is about the same, as are the percent of moderates.  The percent who call themselves liberal has went up 4%,  but that came out of the unlabeled group, not the moderate or conservatives.
 Sliced another way, it looks like the number of moderates has increased slightly, the number of ultra liberals have increased slightly, but the ultra conservatives has remained pretty steady.

In other words,  these graphs taken collectively appear to show that people are leaving the Democratic and Republican parties, but not changing their political views all that much.