The early days of the 2020 presidential primary have shown the Democratic Party is in flux and having a robust debate about what its future will look like. And while that debate is centered on progressive policies like “Medicare-for-all,” the Green New Deal and how much to tax the rich, it’s being fueled by shifting demographics within the party.

New research from Gallup released Tuesday reveals the party is getting less white, more educated, less religious and progressively more liberal since 2001. Notably, the party’s liberal shift is mostly driven by white Democrats, while nonwhite Democrats make up a larger share of the moderate and conservative wings of the party.

From 2013 through 2018, an average of 46% of Democrats identified as “liberal,” compared with 35% of respondents who said they were “moderate” and 17% who called themselves “conservative,” according to Gallup.

That’s a stark jump from the previous six years: From 2007 through 2012, those who identified as “liberal” or “moderate” were basically the same — 39% and 38%, respectively.

The research comes amid a crisis of self in the Democratic Party — whether the winning strategy in a growing field of candidates is to nominate a presidential candidate who will take a moderate position on hot-button issues or to nominate one who is likely to take a more liberal stance.

The change is largely driven by the increasingly liberal leanings of whites and college graduates within the party.
In the last six years, more than half of white Democrats, 54%, identified themselves as “liberal.” That’s a 20-point jump from the average in 2001-2006. By comparison, the percentage of Hispanic Democrats and black Democrats identifying as liberal grew 9 points and 8 points, respectively, in that same time frame.

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