The U.S. economy has been on the forefront of Americans’ minds for several years, and the state of the economy played a pivotal role in the 2012 election season. The major parties tackled economic issues from different perspectives, highlighting the divergence between Democrats and Republicans.
But who are the people who actually vote Democrat? Where do they live, what do they look like, and more importantly, what do their finances look like?
Generally, Democrats live closer to a coast than not; tend to have more women in their groups than Republicans; are much more likely to be gay or lesbian; have more of an attachment to organized labor; are slightly younger than Republicans; and are increasingly less religious.
A demographic breakdown of the economics of Democrats includes location, married status, income, age, education and race.
The strongest Democratic areas of the country are along the East and West Coasts, whereas Republicans tend to be more concentrated in the South and Midwest. Within each state, trends are fairly consistent. Democrats dominate the more populated, urban centers, while suburbs lean Republican, and rural areas are almost exclusively Republican. This trend is nearly universal, even in deep-red states like Texas and dark blue states like Massachusetts.
If an area has more than 500,000 people, it will go Democrat about 60 percent of the time. The political balance is even in areas with 50,000 to 500,000 people, and then turns decidedly in the Republicans’ favor at population levels below 50,000.
Populated areas tend to have a higher concentration of minorities — who overwhelmingly vote Democrat — and often have large universities, where Democrats also hold a commanding majority.
Gender and Marital Status
The Democratic Party has a significant advantage with women. Thirty-seven percent of women affiliate with the Democratic Party, giving them a sizable advantage over the 24 percent who identify as Republicans. Marriage tends to have a significant impact on how a woman votes. Unmarried women vote Democrat about 62 percent of the time, while married women tend to be evenly split between the parties.
Exactly 27 percent of men affiliate with each party, with 43 percent declaring themselves Independent. Gays, lesbians and bisexuals support Democratic candidates around 70 percent of the time.
An individual’s likelihood of being a Democrat decreases with every additional dollar he or she earns. Democrats have a huge advantage (63 percent) with voters earning less than $15,000 per year. This advantage carries forward for individuals earning up to $50,000 per year, and then turns in the Republicans’ favor — with just 36 percent of individuals earning more than $200,000 per year supporting Democrats.
Interestingly, the median household income in the United States is $49,777 — right near the point where the Democratic advantage disappears and the Republicans take over.
About half of Democrats express satisfaction with their personal financial situation, compared with 61 percent of Republicans and 52 percent of Independents.
While Democrats lose support as income increases, there seems to be a tipping point where the ultra-wealthy begin leaning Democratic. The most famous example would be the entertainment industry, where star-studded events have become a significant part of Democratic culture.
But this phenomenon is not limited to Hollywood. A review of the 20 richest Americans, as listed by Forbes Magazine, found that 60 percent affiliate with the Democratic Party, including the top three individuals: Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Larry Ellison. Among the riches families, the Democratic advantage rises even higher, to 75 percent.
Democrats support labor unions in my higher numbers than Republicans. Two-thirds of Americans overall agree with the statement that labor unions are necessary to protect the working person.
In all, 82 percent of Democrats believe this, compared with just 43 percent of Republicans.
There are two distinct levels of education among Democrats: those without a high school diploma and those with post-graduate degrees. Republicans gain a majority of support from high school graduates, individuals with some college experience, and college graduates.
Recent trends have seen an erosion of support in the Republican advantage among college graduates, but they still receive a slim majority of the vote in this category.
Democrats tend to be slightly younger than Republicans, with an average age of 47, compared with 50.
Recent trends have shown large growth in Democratic support among the younger generation, which is a turnaround from the young conservative movement of the 1980s. In 2000, 48 percent of young voters went Democratic. In 2008, the number climbed to 66 percent. The young voting bloc (46 million strong) will increase to 90 million in 2020. Their increasing Democratic leaning may be caused by increasing diversity, or be an anti-establishment reaction.
Democrats have a tremendous amount of diversity in their ranks, especially when compared with the 87 percent white Republican Party. The most loyal bloc of Democratic supporters are African-Americans, with women supporting Democrats a staggering 90 percent of the time and men slightly less.
This support is engrained in the culture and cuts across age, income and regional divisions. This support has been longstanding for many decades, but has increased in intensity since Democrats chose Barack Obama as the party’s standard-bearer.
Hispanics, the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States, also tend to support Democrats — voting for them 60 to 70 percent of the time. Unlike African-American support, a Hispanic voter’s support is more likely to be affected by income or location than by race.
The Hispanic population makes up 16 percent of the country, and is expected to nearly double by 2050.
Democrats are becoming increasingly less religious. Between 1987 and the late 1990s, Republicans and Democrats polled as equally religious. Since then, Democrats have seen a significant decrease in their level of religious participation, while Republican numbers have remained consistent.
The one major religious bloc of voters that Democrats can still rely on is the Jewish community, from which they receive 80 percent of the votes.
One of the clearest policy differences between the parties is the view on government assistance programs and social safety nets. There is a 35-point difference between Democrats and Republicans, with Democrats far more likely to support government assistance programs.
Republicans tend to give more to charity, while Democrats support publicly funded assistance programs. This could also be explained, in part, by Democrats’ lack of religious devotion, as a large percentage of Republican charitable donations support religious programs and institutions.