Political participation and representation

US citizens can take an active part in helping to improve their community and the American system of government.

There are several ways in which citizens can help govern their community:

  • nominating candidates to run for public office
  • voting for candidates who are nominated
  • holding public office at local, state or national level
  • directing or organising community affairs


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.

In the 2020 US election, over 60 percent of the votes in Kentucky and Alabama were for the Republican party.


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”.

States with large cities like New York tend to have more Democratic Party supporters, as do the New England states.