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Religious Democrats, Young Republicans: What The Stereotypes Miss About Both Parties

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.

Poll of the week

The Pew Research Center this week released a detailed report on party affiliation. Looking at its polls from last year — a data set of interviews with more than 10,000 registered voters — Pew found a lot of trends that are unsurprising if you follow politics closely: Whites without college degrees and whites in the “Silent Generation” (ages 72-90) are strongly identified with the GOP, while whites with college degrees and millennials of all races are aligning with the Democrats.

But what I think this data also shows is the remaining complexity in each party’s coalition. Just because the parties are trending in a certain direction doesn’t mean they’re fully there: Republicans are not just the party of old, conservative, white evangelicals without college degrees, and Democrats are not simply a coalition of young, secular, liberal, urban, white college grads and nonwhites.

According to Pew, 33 percent of self-identified Democrats1 are whites without a four-year college degree. They represent a larger cohort in the Democratic Party than whites with a four-year degree (26 percent), nonwhites without a four-year degree (28 percent) and nonwhites with a four-year degree (12 percent). Yes, President Trump carried non-college-educated white voters easily in 2016; the exit polls suggest Hillary Clinton won only about 30 percent of these voters. But, because they’re such a huge portion of the U.S. electorate overall (44 percent, according to Pew) that’s enough to make non-college-educated whites a big share of the Democratic flock.

And while the percentage of Democrats who are unaffiliated with any religion is growing and that group now makes up a third of the party, the majority of Democrats consider themselves Christians. And it’s not just black and Hispanic Democrats who account for the party’s churchgoing contingent: White Democrats who belong to “mainline” denominations, such as certain types of Presbyterians and Lutherans (12 percent), white Catholics (10 percent) and white evangelicals (7 percent) together form a is sizable percentage of the party — almost as large as the unaffliliated bloc.

In terms of ideology, 46 percent of Democrats identify as liberal, the highest number Pew has found for that label since at least 2000. That’s a plurality, but it’s still a minority — Democrats who describe themselves as either moderate (37 percent) or conservative (15 percent) together form a slim majority of the party, according to the Pew poll.

Young voters may tilt heavily Democratic, but nearly half of Democrats (47 percent) are 50 or older.

According to Pew, about 55 percent of all registered voters live in suburban areas, 29 percent in urban areas and 16 percent in rural areas. And even though we generally think of the Democrats as the urban party, where they live actually mirrors the country’s population patterns pretty closely: The majority of Democrats, according to Pew, live either in the suburbs (52 percent) or in rural areas (12 percent). Thirty-six percent live in urban areas.

On the Republican side, 33 percent of self-described Republicans are white evangelicals, according to Pew. But white mainline Christians (17 percent) and white Catholics (17 percent) combined form an equally big bloc. Another 13 percent of Republicans are not affiliated with a religion.

Forty-two percent of Republicans are under age 50. About 14 percent of Republicans are nonwhite, and 27 percent describe themselves as moderate, not conservative.

I don’t mean to dismiss the obvious: The parties do conform at least in part to their stereotypes, and that’s clear in the Pew data, especially the trends over time. In this era, it’s pretty easy to tell if you are attending a Republican or Democratic event without talking to anyone there — the Democratic group is more likely to be full of nonwhites and young people; the Republican one is more likely to be older and whiter. But it’s still pretty hard to guess which party an individual you meet on the street belongs to — particularly if they are white. And whites, according to Pew, still account for about 69 percent of America’s registered voters.

Other polling nuggets

  • A new YouGov poll found that 67 percent of American adults thought that it was inappropriate for Trump to fire Secretary of State Rex Tillerson over Twitter, while 9 percent said it was appropriate and 24 percent said they weren’t sure. Only 31 percent disapproved of the decision itself, though 45 percent of respondents said they were unsure.
  • The YouGov poll also asked about the firing of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe; 25 percent said McCabe’s actions while at the FBI justified his firing, while 35 percent said his firing was an unjustified political act. About a third of people had heard nothing at all about McCabe’s firing.
  • A Quinnipiac poll found that 65 percent of registered voters believe that the U.S. will be able to resolve tensions with North Korea diplomatically rather than resorting to the use of military force. That’s up 11 percentage points since December.
  • 47 percent of registered voters either somewhat or strongly favor the death penalty for large-scale drug trafficking, according to a Morning Consult poll. And 29 percent favor it for local drug dealing. Trump has advocated seeking the death penalty for some drug dealers, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently issued a memo encouraging prosecutors to do so.
  • Fifteen years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, a poll from the Pew Research Center found that American adults are still split on whether it was the right decision: 43 percent said it was, 48 percent said it wasn’t. There is also a large partisan divide, with 61 percent of Republicans but only 27 percent of Democrats believing the invasion was the right decision.
  • According to a YouGov poll, 34 percent of American adults actually enjoy filing their taxes — including more than half of all millennials (between ages 18 and 34).
  • For the first time, more than half of U.S. households in 2017 subscribed to a paid video streaming service, according to a survey conducted by Deloitte. (Deloitte started tracking streaming video in 2009.)
  • Morning Consult surveyed more than 2,500 women nationally and found that almost 70 percent, including large majorities of women across all age groups, support the #MeToo movement.
  • A poll from Monmouth University found that 74 percent of Americans believe the “deep state” — defined as “a group of unelected government and military officials who secretly manipulate or direct national policy” — either definitely or probably exists.
  • Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is up for re-election this year, has a hefty lead of more than 30 percentage points over several potential Republican opponents, per a MassInc poll of registered voters.
  • In another hypothetical midterm matchup, a poll by PPP of the Nevada Senate race showed Democrat Jacky Rosen ahead of Republican incumbent Sen. Dean Heller 44 percent to 39 percent.
  • ORB International interviewed 1,001 adults across Syria in person and found that 52 percent believe that President Bashar al-Assad will win the Syrian civil war. That’s up from 42 percent in 2017. The poll also found that only 3 percent believe that ISIS has a positive influence — down from 13 percent last year and 21 percent three years ago.

Trump’s approval rating

Trump’s job approval rating is 40.6 percent; his disapproval rating is 53.4 percent. Last week, his approval rating was 40.4 percent, compared with a disapproval rating of 53.7 percent.

The generic ballot

The Democrats hold a 47.3 percent to 41.1 percent advantage on the generic congressional ballot this week. Last week, Democrats were up 47.7 percent to 39.3 percent.



  1. The party-affiliation numbers in this story include people who do not call themselves members of a party but who ���lean” Democratic or Republican.

Perry Bacon Jr. was a senior writer for FiveThirtyEight.

Dhrumil Mehta was a database journalist at FiveThirtyEight.