The Pew Research Center has released its 2011 Political Typology. What they find is that self-described affinity for the GOP has ebbed, but those who do describe themselves as Republicans have become more consistent on the issues. Democrats have not made corresponding gains in affiliation and have less unity on the issues across their core constituencies.
The big story highlighted by Pew is that independents are not moderates in the sense that they are looking for a compromise between the two parties on the issues. Rather many voters who identify themselves as independent hold strong positions on individual issues, but their ranking of the importance of various issues differs from the partisans of either party.
What will make the political landscape particularly fraught for the candidates seeking election in 2012 is the mixture of positions held by independents which don’t easily fit into the neat left-right spectrum. Even beyond the fiscal conservative and social liberal libertarian view, independents hold differing opinions on such issues as immigration, entitlements and environmental regulation.
From the study’s overview:
Yet at the same time, a growing number of Americans are choosing not to identify with either political party, and the center of the political spectrum is increasingly diverse. Rather than being moderate, many of these independents hold extremely strong ideological positions on issues such as the role of government, immigration, the environment and social issues. But they combine these views in ways that defy liberal or conservative orthodoxy.
For political leaders in both parties, the challenge is not only one of appeasing ideological and moderate “wings” within their coalitions, but rather holding together remarkably disparate groups, many of whom have strong disagreements with core principles that have defined each party’s political character in recent years.
Read the entire Pew report here: http://people-press.org/2011/05/04/beyond-red-vs-blue-the-political-typology/