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Who Votes For Democrats?

Updated on September 3, 2012

Do You Vote Democrat Or Republican?

Why do people vote for one candidate or another? How do they decide which party to support? I am not talking here about the moderates, people who blow whichever way the wind is going. There is a proverb from Texas regarding moderates that says, 'The only things in the middle of the road are yellow stripes, and dead armadillos.' We won't waste time on yellow stripes here. How do committed Democrats or Republicans choose their party?

In his book, What's The Matter With Kansas, Thomas Frank argues that many Republican voters are ignoring their own best interests by voting conservative, when liberal policies would be more advantageous to them.

I won't re-hash the arguments for and against his thesis here, much smarter people have done this at length. Click the link to the Wiki article for a quick summary of the pros and cons. For a political Wiki, it's surprisingly well balanced.

I'd like to take a look at a few selected groups who tend to vote predominately for Democrats and compare them to some groups that vote for Republicans. If we remember that the United States is fairly evenly balanced between Republicans and Democrats, it is interesting to look at specific groups and see how they differ from the average.

An Evenly Divided Electorate

Nationwide, roughly, a bit more than 30% of Americans claim to be Republicans, and the same for Democrats.

This varies a bit from election to election depending on how attractive the individual candidates are. Compare President Obama, a youthful, handsome man with an engaging style, with John McCain, an elderly warhorse, weighed down by an erratic temper, physical disabilities, and the unpopular record of his predecessor.

Even with all of his advantages, Barack Obama would have lost the race if only 4% of voters had switched votes and chosen McCain instead. Nationally, we are very closely balanced between the two parties.

The Public Sector

According to polls by Gallup, certain classes of citizens vote overwhelmingly for Democrats over Republicans. Public employees vote for Democrats at double the rate we would expect from the 50/50 split we see nationally. 23% of unionized state public workers identify as Republican, and 46% as Democrat. Numbers for local and federal public workers are only slightly less extreme.

Compare this to non-union, private sector workers, who are currently almost exactly split between the parties, with perhaps a slight edge to Romney. Public sector workers are different from private sector workers.

Why are public sector workers so different form the national norm? It may be because the public sector is much more heavily unionized than the private sector. Again looking at Gallup results, union workers, both public and private, support Obama over Romney 57% to 35%, when for the nation as a whole the split is too close to call. Historically, the unions and the Democrats have marched in step, each supporting the other.

Simply put, union members vote Democrat at far higher levels than the American norm, whether they are employed by the government or the private sector.

University Faculty

A far more extreme split is found on university campuses, where in one survey by the Washington Post, 50% of faculty members labeled themselves as Democrats and just 11% as Republicans. Further, 72% called themselves liberal and only 15% conservative, a vast gulf between them and average Americans. 40% of Americans self-identify as conservative, and only 21% as liberal.

These numbers vary according to how the questions are worded, but the difference remains. Far more Americans consider themselves conservative than liberal.

Most university faculty are in fact employed by the public, even those at so-called private universities. Much of university income comes directly from the federal government in the form of grants for research, and also from monies paid to students in the form of student loans and grants. Universities act as small-scale governments, with their own rules, laws, courts and police forces, and what amounts to tax collecting powers. It is only a slight exaggeration to call all university faculty members public employees.

That still does not explain the extreme variance of university faculty from the American norm. Let's look at a group that swings nearly as far in the opposite direction.

Small Business Owners

According a a Washington Post poll, 61% of small business owners plan to vote for Mitt Romney, and only 26% for president Obama. That is shockingly large, nearly as great as the difference seem among university professors in the opposite direction.

Remember, this is a nationwide poll of small business owners, so if otherwise properly randomized, it should have a wide variety of people, from rich to poor (many business owners are poor) and all races and religions represented.

This is especially odd when we consider that business, by its very nature, tends to be concentrated in urban areas, and cities are strongholds of the Democrats. What would cause your local beauty salon owner, barber, restaurant or bar owner to vote Republican, when the great majority of their clientele will be voting the opposite?

When a university sociology professor leaves his classroom and heads down to the local watering hole for a drink, he is probably entering an establishment owned and run by a Republican! Anyone who patronizes small business deals mainly with Republicans.

Military Votes

One last group. In recent decades the US military has trended more and more towards the Republicans. A recent poll from Gallup gives the breakdown of 57% voting for Mitt Romney and only 35% for Barack Obama.

An L.A. Times article suggests that this may be trending towards the Democrats, as in the early 2000s the gap was even more extreme. In 1996 70% of officers were Republican! That is right up there with university faculty for out of whack with America as a whole.

What immediately strikes me as odd is that military men and women are the quintessential public employees. They live in dorms, eat in cafeterias, have publicly funded universal health care, and are paid by the US taxpayer. What's up with that?

I was very interested to find data on fire fighters, police and the like, to see if they more closely matched most public employees and voted Democrat, or the military and voted Republican. I was not able to find any information that broke out voting patterns for these groups. Can anyone help with data? Not opinion. Data.

I will leave it up to my esteemed readers to discern patterns to these results. Any guesses as to why some go this way and some that in US politics? No name-calling, please. No suggesting one side is brain-damaged ( as one Hub writer did recently), please. Sorry if that takes the fun out of it.

Read more at:

Creating the Blue State Paradise

What Conservatives Don't Understand About Liberals

Government Is Not Too Big, It Is Too Small

IQ And The Economy. No Jobs For Stupid People

Who Votes For Democrats or Republicans?

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    • tmbridgeland profile image

      tmbridgeland 5 years ago from Small Town, Illinois

      Hi Becky. I think you may be right. However, looking at actual behavior, rural people don't seem to be any less willing to take government money when it is offered. Democrats have big blind spots, but so do Republicans.

      The is a big cultural or social gap between the parties. Republicans prefer one set of values, and Democrats another. The problem is when big government comes in and forces everyone to abide by one value system, regardless of local differences.

      I tend to favor small-scale rules-making. My home town is dry, for example. Not a tavern for miles. This is because of a specific incident in the town's history. Should the state or federal government step in and force more liberal values on us?

      Nationalizing abortion rules was a big unforced error by the Democrats, IMHO. They created a huge political gulf between people that had not existed before. Traditional Christians, who used to favor Democrats, fled bit by bit to the Republicans. This has been horrible for the nation as a whole. I think even liberal Democrats can agree on that. The acrimony and bad blood was wholly unnecessary.

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 5 years ago from Hereford, AZ

      People who live in the country tend to choose to live there because they like being more self-sufficient. That would translate into needing less government help.

    • tmbridgeland profile image

      tmbridgeland 5 years ago from Small Town, Illinois

      Hello WritingPrompts, thanks. As far as Kansas, my own take on it is that people were fine with being Democrats up until the culture wars really kicked off. When Washington decided it had to enforce rules of lifestyle across the country, people turned to the only party that promised to reduce government. Of course, national Republicans tend to be big government Republicans, so it didn't really help much. The Tea Party is one recent attempt to force the Republican Party to actually be a small government party, not just mouth a few platitudes to calm the rubes.

    • WritingPrompts profile image

      Karen 5 years ago from The Garden of Eugene (Oregon)

      Nice topic! I've always wondered what's the matter with Kansas. I drive through a lot of red states, but am fairly far to the left myself. One thing that strikes me about the area is how much open space there is and how spread out people live. Cities tend to be more blue. I wonder if having close neighbors doesn't tend to make people appreciate government more as well? Issues like gun control seem to push people one way or the other as well. One Friday night when I was a kid, some guy got drunk and got angry and had a gun. There was a fatal shooting right down the street from me. I think experiences like that influence people's choices too. People in cities are more likely to have been touched by violence and so favor stricter rules in hopes of avoiding it in the future.

    • tmbridgeland profile image

      tmbridgeland 5 years ago from Small Town, Illinois

      Thank you all for your comments. I left out race and ethnicity as they are not relevant to this analysis. This Hub only discusses occupation as it related to voting.

    • ib radmasters profile image

      ib radmasters 5 years ago from Southern California

      The real answer is that there are still too many loyal party voters. Voting Row A or Row B has been passed on generation after generation. It is sad that when babies are born they already have four things that they didn't choose already chosen for them.

      Their name

      Their religion

      Their political party

      Their social security number.

      Many people never change any of these givens during their entire life.

      When children grow up they should make their own choices.

      The one choice that pertains to this hub is one that the majority of people never make.

      These are not intelligent voters, these are loyal voters.

      The problem is that the party put the party over the voters and over the country.


    • 50 Caliber profile image

      50 Caliber 5 years ago from Arizona

      Insightful, well written, easy to follow reading here with some good information, for curiosity at any rate. I liked it and I'm happy that you left out ethnicity, we need to get down to being Americans and the way you have broken it down is just the best way to go. I've never voted a straight ticket and doubt that will change this year, so I actually align with none of the above.

      Thanks enjoyed your insight to the numbers,



    • pagesvoice profile image

      Dennis L. Page 5 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border

      Voted up and interesting. It would also be interesting to see what the numbers are for African-Americans, Latinos and other ethnic groups regarding their percentages in voting either Republican or Democratic. By and large many voters go to the polls with certain expectations of a better country to live in and thrive in. We are influenced by what we believe our candidate of choice stands for and how they fit into our philosophical, moral and economic scheme of things and how we may benefit from an election.

    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 5 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      Spot-on hub. Many highly educated and upper socioeconomic classes especially those who major in the arts, soft sciences, and humanities tend to be more liberal and to vote Democratic. These people tend to wish for an idealized, utopian society where there should be a more equal distribution of income. Such people are often not pragmatic regarding real life situations. In other words, their heads are in the clouds. Plenty of these people view wealthy as evil and corrupt and the poor as downtrodden and innocent of their situation. These are the people who strongly advocate that there should be MORE social programs "to lift those out of poverty." They also subscribe to the premise that the poor are victims and powerless.

      Then there are the highly educated and upper socioeconomic classes who have technical and business backgrounds. They either vote Republican or Democratic. If they vote Democrat, they are more moderate. They believe that there is opportunites for everyone in life and each person has a choice. They also believe that assistance and social programs should be either temporary or for those in deep need. These people are not fond of handouts but believe in working to achieve one's goals. Those who come from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds strongly portend if they can do, so can everyone else. These are the people who in all likelihood vote Republican.

      The middle classes fit into several categories. The middle-middle and upper middle classes are often more liberal and more educated so they vote Democratic. They believe that everyone should have a piece of the pie and that those who have no access to that pie should be aided by governmental programs. The lower middle classes are staunchly conservative and vote Republican. They contend that since they work hard for their money, no quarter should be given to those who are poor and/or welfare. To such people, these people are lazy and need to get their a----- kicked and to get on the ball so to speak.

      Besides socioeconomic, educational, and occupational differences, there are the rural/urban, racial/ethnic, religious, age, and/or other indices which determine how one votes and the party he/she votes for. Quite thought provoking hub, voted incredibly interesting. Should start discussions! I love analytical hubs! Write on, friend!

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 5 years ago from Hereford, AZ

      This was some very interesting data. I applaud you for trying to find out the why's rather than just running on emotions. As for the military voting Republican, try because instead of working to advance themselves, they are usually trying to keep our country free. They also do believe in war for some reasons. Liberals usually do not believe in war for any reason and they do not believe that anyone needs guns. The police depts. would also probably fall into that category.

      People who deal in ideals and ideas generally are more liberal so that would explain the reasons for the professors being more liberal.

      This was very thought provoking and interesting. Thank you for writing it.