Political participation and representation

Two parties dominate American politics, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party.

Showing the differences between US Republican and Democratic parties


The Republican Party is the USA’s oldest political party and is economically conservative. Traditionally it stands for business, small government and low taxation.

The Republican Party has a strong support base among White Christian voters who disapprove of liberal causes such as abortion rights and gay marriage.


Democrats in general, are more liberal on social issues such as rights for minorities, abortion and assistance for the poor. Economically, Democrats are more likely to believe in a bigger role for government in the economy, for example in providing health insurance.

The trade unions in America are a strong base of support for the Democrats, who are more likely to support workers’ rights and issues such as the national minimum wage.

Americans who are environmentalists, anti-war, support a woman's right to choose abortion or support gay marriage, are termed “liberals”.

The large cities tend to have more Democratic Party supporters, as do the New England states.

Voting patterns

Voters line up to vote
Voting in the Presidential election

Overall across the USA, the wealthier a citizen is the more likely they are to vote Republican. At the 2016 Presidential election, only 41% of those earning less than $30,000 per year voted Republican (53% voted Democrat).

African Americans are much more likely to vote Democrat in most US elections. In the 2016 presidential election, 88% of African American voters voted Democrat. White voters are more likely to vote Republican (58% voted Republican in 2016).

The majority of Hispanics tend to vote Democrat. However, their support is more evenly split between the two parties than African American voters. This is because the Hispanic population is more diverse than the African American population and because African American communities forged strong links with the Democratic Party during the civil rights era. Barack Obama's amnesty on nearly-illegal immigrants saw a surge in support for the Democrats among Hispanics.