I am wondering whether Democrats are more firm in their voting patterns. What I mean by this is actually going out to vote. I mean only voting for the party they're registered with. (This doesn't necessarily include leaning independents but it might carry over.) According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, "A vast majority of Democratic voters (85%) and most Republican voters (70%) say they aren’t going to cast a vote for the other party’s candidate." That is a sizeable difference.

For example, I have read a study about swing voters in New Mexico in 2008 by AARP. It has found that 16% of swing voters were liberal. But, Pew's political landscape study found that around that time, 23% of adults in the state were liberal.

AARP: https://assets.aarp.org/rgcenter/general/swing_voters_nm.pdf Pew: https://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/state/new-mexico/political-ideology/ Kaiser: https://www.kff.org/other/issue-brief/data-note-swing-voters/

Final note: I mean firmness as in "loyalty". Loyalty means voting for candidates of that party no matter what.

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    +1 - I like this question. I'm interested in seeing what's out there in terms of - does being more firmly in line with one party mean that the voter is inflexible in terms of tribal loyalty, or might that be an indication of one party remaining more closely rooted to the mainstream of political thought and another getting more extreme? Would a Democratic candidate from 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago still be considered Democratic and politically viable within the party today? Would the same be said about GOP candidates? Jun 23, 2020 at 13:24
  • I mean Democratic voters tending to be inflexible in terms of loyalty and usually only voting Democrat if they vote at all. However, to a degree, the opposite is said to be true in Congress.
    – user32820
    Jun 23, 2020 at 13:33
  • I understand that, but if someone says "no, they aren't necessarily more inflexible," then they are going to have to explain why they vote more consistently in that manner, if it's not inflexibility. So either a "yes" or "no" will address, to a certain extent, the aspect I was looking at. Jun 23, 2020 at 13:54
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    A couple of things that might make the question more clear. 1) Are you asking about the relationship between ideology (liberal vs conservative) and partisanship (commitment to Dem vs GOP)? Or are you simply asking about the relationship between partisanship and voting behavior? Both? 2) What time frame and type(s) of election cycle? The answer probably changes over time, may be different between presidential and mid-term, etc.
    – Brian Z
    Jun 23, 2020 at 16:11
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    Your interpretation of AARP's study in New Mexico is a bit obscure to me. Swing voters are less likely to be liberal than the general adult population ? Is that surprising ? Can it be used to compare the voting habits of Democrats and Republicans ? I don't think so, but maybe I miss some subtlety here.
    – Evargalo
    Jun 23, 2020 at 16:17

2 Answers 2


Both parties have seen increasing partisan loyalty since the 1980s. The degree of voter loyalty to each party varies significantly with every election cycle. On average, it does not appear Democratic have been more loyal overall then Republicans. Here is the overall trend according to the article "The rise of negative partisanship and the nationalization of U.S.elections in the 21st century" by Abramowitz and Webster. The graph is based on ANES data.

graph of party loyalty

In reference to this figure the authors note:

For Republicans, the 79 percent rate of consistent loyalty in 2012 was somewhat lower than the loyalty rates of the 1952, 1956 and 1960 elections but substantially higher than the loyalty rates of the 1970s and 1980s. For Democrats, the 84 percent rate of consistent loyalty in 2012 was the highest ever recorded in an ANES survey, easily surpassing the 80 percent loyalty rate recorded in 2004.

  • I have seen that trend in 2016. So it looks like Democrats are more loyal to their party.
    – user32820
    Jun 23, 2020 at 18:57
  • @MittenFile They were in 2016, but not in 2008 or 1996. We don't know what will happen this year.
    – Brian Z
    Jun 23, 2020 at 19:01
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    Interestingly, it appears that party loyalty increases significantly during the opponent's re-election. Republican loyalty increased in 1984, 1996, and 2012; Democratic loyalty increased in 1992 and 2004 (and according to OP, 2020). Jun 23, 2020 at 21:14

I am not sure what this question is looking to answer. At any point in time, a mainstream party's nominee may not align that well with the values of a significant proportion of the party membership and non-member prospective voters.

(You should mentioned your 85/70% poll comes from September, 2019)

Trump is an unusual president/candidate to say the least. He makes statements and takes positions that please many, certainly, but also are also seen as problematic by at least some within his own party. He has had pushback from a number of his party's significant figures in the past. So why should the (relative) "lack of Republican faithfulness" be surprising, given that? Plus, these are voting intention polls, well known for their relatively low predictive values, esp when it comes to controversial candidates.

For another recent example, look at Corbyn in the UK Labour party. It would seem that quite a few Labour voters refused to vote for a man who had, among other things, expressed support for Maduro's government in Venezuela. I wouldn't try to generalize anything about UK Labour voters based on that.

That says very little about how faithful/partisan those voters will be in another election, with a candidate who is less controversial with their party's usual voting pool*. Identifying such a good-for-comparison candidate is certainly opinion-based, but one can certainly make the point that neither Trump nor Corbyn have been unanimously popular choices for the individual voters who normally tend to vote Republican or Labour.

* I want to distinguish between signed-up party members and voters who tend to vote for a party.

  • That makes sense considering his divisiveness and unusual nature. Why do Italian philosophers like Monica? Jun 23, 2020 at 19:47
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    @NumberFile yer a new guy/gal, eh? see theregister.com/2019/10/01/stack_exchange_controversy Truth be told, while I sympathize with her, I understand these kinds of incidents can also result from someone actually being abusive to <insert gender/race> which should not be tolerated. On balance however, it looks to me more like she was the victim of a bad faith storm-in-a-teacup by a professional outragee and a lot of us feel that she was just the victim of overdone political correctness from Stackexchange which is which many people here add Monica to their user name. Jun 24, 2020 at 3:58

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