The United States government is dominated by two political parties — but only 31% of American adults say that the Democratic Party or Republican Party (or, rarely, both) have views that are “about the same” as theirs. More than two-thirds of Americans say each major party is to their left or right, even when they affiliate themselves with one of those parties.
The latest Economist/YouGov poll asking Americans where they place their ideology relative to both major parties comes days after Democratic gubernatorial candidates lost in Virginia and fell short of expectations in New Jersey. The races led to an abundance of political commentary criticizing the Democratic Party for being too far to the left of too many voters. That line of criticism doesn’t match how Americans describe themselves relative to the two major parties. About as many Americans say the Republican party is to their right as say the Democratic party is to their left. And more Republicans than Democrats say they are more moderate than their party.
Americans are about equally likely to say either that the Republican Party is to their right ideologically or that the Democratic Party is to their left. With the Republican Party, 46% of Americans describe it as “much more” “or slightly more” to the right than their own political views. Similarly, 44% of Americans say the Democratic Party is to their left.
About half of Democrats (49%) say the Democratic Party doesn’t exactly match their political ideology. About one in four Democrats (27%) say the current Democratic Party is more left-leaning than they are, while 22% say it is to their right. More than one-third of Democrats (36%) say the Democratic Party is “about the same” as them politically.
Even more Republicans than Democrats say their party’s position doesn’t match theirs. About one-quarter of Republicans (27%) say the Republican Party is “about the same” as them politically. Close to two in five Republicans (38%) describe the Republican Party as more right-leaning than they are. About one in five Republicans (18%) say the current party is on their left.
Political Independents’ views of the two major parties are consistent with the finding that about the same share of Americans see each party as leaning further to one side than they do. Nearly half of Independents (46%) say the Democratic Party is to their left, while 45% say the Republican Party is on their right.
Ideological moderates situate themselves in about the same place: 44% say the Democratic Party falls to their left, while half say the Republican Party falls to their right.
Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 U.S. adult citizens interviewed online between November 6 and November 9, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the 2018 American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as 2016 and 2020 Presidential votes (or non-votes). Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. citizens. The margin of error is approximately 3% for the overall sample.