Study Turns Conventional Wisdoms About American Politics on Its Head

Donald Trump is not remaking the Republican Party in his image. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders voters had few ideological differences.

Businessman Donald Trump gives a speech in Fountain Hills, Arizona, March 19, 2016
Businessman Donald Trump gives a speech in Fountain Hills, Arizona, March 19, 2016 (Gage Skidmore)

A study (PDF) by Vanderbilt University’s Larry M. Bartels, based on three years of opinion polling, turns some of the conventional wisdoms about current American politics on its head.

As reported by the Niskanen Center’s Jerry Taylor:

  • Donald Trump has not remade the Republican Party in his image. The party has attracted almost no new voters and lost very few to the Democrats.
  • Trump’s behavior is not changing Republican minds. Despite corruption and sex scandals, the share of Republicans who call the president a “moral” man has slightly increased since his election!
  • Cultural issues are more important to the average Republican voter than the philosophy of limited government.
  • There were no important ideological differences between supporters of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Nor is there evidence that a surging progressive tide of Sanders-style democratic socialism is rolling through the Democratic Party.
  • Democratic fault lines pertain to social identities and interest group affiliations.
  • True independents (not those who call themselves “independent” but vote consistently for the same party) are all over the lot when it comes to questions surrounding cultural and economic issues. Their opinions are not clustered in the center of American politics.
  • Millennials are more liberal on cultural issues, however, their views on the role of government aren’t generally more left-wing than their parents’.