How the US political system allows democratic participation
In the USA, regular elections are fought primarily between the two dominant parties, the Republicans and the Democrats. Elections can be determined by such factors as age, social class, ethnic demographics, as well as voter turn-out.
There are two main political parties in the USA – the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.
Unlike political parties in the UK, US political parties are not as tied to an ideology. Both main parties contain a range of people from across society.
In US elections, candidates seek to build political support across different regions and groups. In America, a candidate’s views on particular issues such as taxes, abortion, gun control or welfare can be more important than which party they represent.
Democratic Party support
In recent years, Democratic Party support has been strongest from the following groups:
the poor – those dependent on welfare or government health provision (Medicaid). Democratic policy is generally seen as more sympathetic to the less well-off. Many poor people live in urban areas
minorities – especially African Americans and Hispanics. The Democrats are more supportive of government programmes to support minorities. Democrats are perceived to be less strict on immigration
'Liberals' – Democrats believe in liberalism (for example, federal and state support in employment or education to help individuals succeed). Those in north-eastern and western states are typically more supportive of government intervention in the economy, gay rights, abortion and tighter gun control
Republican Party support
Republican Party support is strongest amongst:
wealthy people – Republicans favour low taxes and limited government intervention in the economy. Many wealthy Americans live in suburban areas or in more rural states of the mid-west (Iowa) or the south (Alabama). Much of corporate America also supports the Republican party
white people – Although Obama won in 2012, most white people (59%) voted for the Republican Romney – a record for a candidate who did not win the election
'Conservatives' – Republicans are more likely to be conservative on social policy, ie anti-abortion and anti-gay, pro-gun and pro-death penalty. (Note: The ‘religious right’ and the ‘Bible Belt’ States have grown in importance in US politics in recent years)