The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a major poll before the 2012 elections to learn more about the various types of Republicans and Democrats. The poll, which took place July 25 to Aug. 5, 2012, asked questions of 3,000 randomly selected adults. It found that there are four major types of Democrats in the United States today, separated by their particular backgrounds and most important voting issues. There are also many Democrats who identify themselves as progressives – a group that might fit multiple categories in the national poll.

Urban Liberals

“Urban liberals” make up 29 percent of those who called themselves Democrats. These Democrats are predominantly white (73 percent) and largely female (62 percent). The majority of them live in urban areas and have an annual household income of $50,000 or more. Urban liberals support strong government regulation of business and almost all of them (92 percent) believe there should be a high degree of separation of church and state.

Religious Democrats

More than one-third of Democrats (34 percent) are part of a religious-identifying segment of the party. They are concentrated in the American South and a majority of them are non-white (67 percent). Their most important political issues are continued support for major social programs, such as Social Security and Medicare, and increased government spending on job creation programs.

Agnostic Left-Wing

There is a type of Democrat today that is part of a younger, more secular and socially liberal demographic. The Washington Post called this type “The Agnostic Left.” They are very similar to urban liberals on social issues such as support for legalized abortion and gay marriage. However, they differ considerably in their beliefs about the role of government in an individual’s life and well-being: 79 percent said that people who do not “get ahead” in life have only themselves to blame; only 15 percent of urban liberals agreed with this statement.

DIY Democrats

The Washington Post identified “Do-it-yourself” (DIY) Democrats as the smallest group of Democrats in its poll (13 percent). Only half of them called themselves “strong Democrats” and one-third of them support the Tea Party. One issue where the DIY Democrats showed strong Democrat support was in raising taxes on households making $250,000 per year. They supported raising taxes on upper middle-class families much more strongly than they supported cuts in defense spending.


Progressives are a complex type of Democrat who could include members from each of the different groups identified by The Washington Post poll. One of the leading progressive organizations in the United States is the Progressive Democrats of America (PDA). Founded in 2004 as a grassroots Political Action Committee working within the Democratic Party, the PDA has supported national healthcare, the protection of Social Security and the creation of a full-employment economy by the government. Progressives also support environmental issues such charging a carbon tax and stopping global warming.

Related Articles