Back when he was running for President in 1968 and 1972, Governor George C. Wallace of Alabama used to say that there "ain't a dimes worth of difference between the Democratic and the Republican parties". He struck a responsive chord among independent and conservative-leaning Democrats and
amassed a decent-enough showing in his 1968 bid to make the difference in the final outcome. But what he missed was that there are certainly two distinct worldviews that provide the core of voters in each party.
I recently tested some core values in late August with my son's company, JZ Analytics. Here are the results of just two questions that illustrate some deep divisions.
1. Statement A - The United States is the world's indispensable nation. American values are what most people in the world want and US acts legitimately as the world's true superpower.
2. Statement B - The United States has reached its limits as superpower and needs to coordinate foreign policy and protect its interests more in concert with other major regional powers like China, Russia, Brazil, and India as well as with allies and groups like the United Nations and NATO.
3. Not sure
The overall results showed slightly more (43%) agreeing with the second statement, "the limits of the US as a superpower) than with "American Exceptionalism", as expressed in the first statement (39%). But the margins of support among various subgroups told a significant story. A majority of Democrats (53%) identified with B, as a majority Republicans (55%) held to A. A plurality of independents (44%-30%) favored the view expressed in B - the limits of superpower. Just as striking were the differences among age cohorts as 18-29 year olds (44%-35%) and 30-49 year olds (48%-32%) strongly agreed with the end of empire view, while voters 50-64 (45%-37%) and those over 65 (47% to 35%) preferred what we might call "John McCain's America".
1. Statement A - The family is the basis of a strong community and culture. The ideal family is built around a stable marriage between a man and a woman.
2. Statement B - Many socio-economic and demographic factors have caused our society to redefine the structure and composition of family. A family can still be the stable unit of a good society if it is headed by a single adult, a same-sex relationship, or grandparents.
3. Not sure
As far as the national totals are concerned, the numbers are more lopsided toward A - i.e. the traditional family, with 51% favoring the "ideal" as a "stable marriage between a man and a woman" and 40% recognizing the changing demographics and new adjustments to the family. A solid majority of Democrats are flexible (56%), while three in four Republicans (75%) prefer the traditional family. Independents are pretty much split 45% for A and 43% for B. Those voters 18-29 favor the modern acceptance of family (61% to 29%), including the 72% of 18-24 year olds who say the same thing. All other age cohorts are with Statement A. These are just two of the series we tested. They reveal a nation split on issues where there was consensus - the US's role in the world and the traditional family. But we have also peaked into the future which suggests that views may change even more.