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New Reports: Studies Throw Cold Water on Unprecedented Support for a Third Party and Dispute Claims that Economic Distress Is Driving Support for Trump

September 7, 2018

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For Immediate Release

September 13, 2018

Lauren Strayer
(202) 420-7928

Jack D’Amato
(404) 995-4500

Democracy Fund Voter Study Group Reports Throw Cold Water on Unprecedented Support for a Third Party and Dispute Claims that Economic Distress is Driving Support for Trump

New studies also found religious Trump voters are more supportive of diversity and immigration than secular Trump voters and distinct differences between issue priorities of elite and working-class voters who lean toward Democrats.

Washington, D.C. – September 13, 2018

The Democracy Fund Voter Study Group, a research collaboration of leading analysts and scholars from across the political spectrum, today released four new reports analyzing survey data from 2017 and 2018 about attitudes of Americans toward a multitude of topics that influence voters’ party identification and issue priorities:

“Our democracy functions best when we understand what voters want,” said Democracy Fund President Joe Goldman. “These new reports provide valuable, and often counterintuitive, insights into American voters’ views as we approach the mid-term elections.”

Key findings from the reports include:

  • Support for a third party is at an all-time high. More than two-thirds of Americans — 68 percent — say that the two major parties do not do an adequate job of representing their views, and that a third party is needed. But there’s no consensus on the type of third party these voters want.

    “The conventional wisdom is that there’s a yearning for a centrist party,” said William Galston, Ezra K. Zilkha Chair and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. “But we also found significant support for new parties on the far left and the far right.”

  • Religious participation may help moderate Americans’ views on race, immigration and identity. In particular, conservative voters who attend church have warmer feelings toward African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Jewish people, Muslim people and immigrants than secular Trump voters. Churchgoing Trump voters care more about racial equality and reducing poverty and are about three times as likely to volunteer as nonreligious Trump voters.

    “Our findings dispel the caricature that religious institutions necessarily promote exclusion and oppression rather than inclusivity and tolerance,” said Emily Ekins, research fellow and director of polling at the Cato Institute. “Religious conservatives are actually more supportive of diversity and immigration than secular conservatives.”

  • Voters experiencing economic distress are more likely to disapprove of Trump. Using a detailed set of questions that measure “economic distress” rather than general views about the economy, new data refutes the widespread belief that economic distress is distinctively prevalent among Trump supporters.

    “The notion that those Americans experiencing economic hardship are President Trump’s base is a myth,” said John Sides, professor at The George Washington University. “In reality, the truly economically distressed are not pro-Trump.”

  • Elite” leaning-Democrats rank the environment as the most important issue while working-class leaning-Democrats prioritize the economy and jobs. The one issue that best resolves the issue-based split within the party is health care.

    “Democrats’ most reliable voters are split between groups with different issue priorities, with health care the only consensus high-priority issue,” said David Winston, president of The Winston Group. “This split could pose a challenge for the party in 2018 and beyond.”

The full reports can be found at, along with other research from the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group.


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