RELEASE: New Report Shows That Democrats Are More Unified Than Republicans on Views About the Economy

June 11, 2019

Jack D’Amato,
Ariela Weinberger,

Ahead of the 2020 elections, survey data indicates that independents and low-income Republicans could be moving toward Democrats

WASHINGTON—(BUSINESS WIRE)—The media narrative heading into the 2020 presidential election has emphasized divisions within the Democratic Party between moderates and progressives on economic policy. However, a report released today by the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group titled, “On the Money: How Americans’ Economic Views Define—and Defy—Party Lines,” shows that Democrats are largely unified on economic policy, while Republicans are more divided.

In the report, co-authors Lee Drutman, Vanessa Williamson, and Felicia Wong explore how American voters explain why some people are rich and others are poor, what effects wealthy people and corporations have on society, and how narratives about wealth and poverty relate to their economic policy preferences.

Among the report’s key findings:

Views on Wealth and Inequality

  • Partisans are deeply divided on narratives explaining wealth and poverty. Republicans generally attribute economic fortunes to hard work and talent and see the wealthy in a more positive light. Democrats, on the other hand, generally emphasize an unfair economy and the negative effects of wealth and corporate power.
  • About one in five Republicans hold economic views more in line with the Democratic Party than their own party. Lower-income Republicans are substantially more economically progressive than higher-income Republicans, and two-thirds (67 percent) of economically progressive Republicans are women.
  • About one in 10 Democrats hold economic views more in line with the Republican Party. These voters are not especially different from other Democrats in terms of income or gender. Rather, their concerns about social issues such as immigration, religious liberty, and crime are more in line with Republicans.

Impacts on Voting Behavior

  • Between 2016 and 2018, the most sizeable shift in the electorate came from economically progressive independents (which constitute 7 percent of the 2018 electorate). About half (48 percent) voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, but in the 2018 midterm elections, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) voted for the Democratic candidate in their congressional district.
  • Republicans with economically progressive views constitute 7 percent of the total 2018 electorate and are less likely to say they will vote for President Trump in 2020 than Republicans in the economic mainstream of their party. One in 10 said they will vote for the Democratic candidate in 2020, and 19 percent were undecided.
  • Democrats on the economic right constitute about 4 percent of the total 2018 electorate. Nearly one-third (29 percent) said they will vote for Trump in 2020.

“We found a strong correlation between the stories Americans tell themselves about how the economy works, their policy preferences, and their voting behavior,” said Felicia Wong, president and CEO of the Roosevelt Institute. “One in five Republican voters, mostly lower-income, buy the progressive story on economic policy, but their votes have yet to reflect these values.”

“When it comes to economic views, Democrats are generally united and Republicans are more divided,” said Vanessa Williamson, fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution. “When it comes to voting, we haven’t seen that divide yet. But independents seem to be moving in the direction of the Democrats.”

The Democracy Fund Voter Study Group is a research collaboration of leading analysts and scholars from across the political spectrum. The full report can be found at, along with other research from the Voter Study Group.