The increasing divide between Red States and Blue States, between Democrats and Republicans, has led some to conclude that the solution to this destructive polarization is the formation of a third party somewhere in the middle.

But a new study by the Pew Research Center finds that there are plenty of divisions within the Democratic and Republican parties that results in nine distinct categories of voters. Pew found three types of Republicans, three types of Democrats and three types of independents.

Yet, they did not include a category for centrists and ticket-splitters, those with a strong interest in politics but who do not engage in extreme partisanship.

In fact, the three groups with the largest shares of self-identified independents, most of whom lean toward one party or the other, have very little in common politically. Stressed Sideliners hold mixed views; the Ambivalent Right are conservative on many economic issues, while moderate on some social issues; and the Outsider Left are very liberal on most issues, especially on race and the social safety net.

The survey process, known as a “typology,” was created by conducting more than 10,000 interviews with voters over an 11-day period this past July. A typical national survey has about 1,000 respondents.

Here’s a summary of Pew’s nine categories, created by NPR journalists, to see where you fit:




Faith and Flag Conservatives

  • 23% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents
  • skew the oldest in age of the Republican-leaning groups
  • deeply conservative on nearly all issues
  • religious and want Christianity front and center in public life
  • very politically engaged; nearly 9 in 10 believe who controls Congress after next year’s midterms “really matters” — the highest of any group
  • overwhelmingly white and Christian
  • among Trump’s strongest supporters — most believe Trump definitely or probably won the 2020 election
  • roughly 4 in 5 say too much attention has been paid to the Jan. 6 insurrection

Committed Conservatives

  • just 15% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents
  • highly educated, loyal Republicans who are very politically active; nearly 8 in 10 believe the results of the 2022 elections “really matter”
  • pro-business
  • want limited government
  • less restrictive on immigration than the other three GOP-leaning groups
  • more “globalist” — in other words, they believe U.S. involvement with the world and with allies should be prioritized
  • less enthusiastic about Trump, but generally big fans of former President Ronald Reagan

Populist Right

  • 23% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents
  • among the least likely to have a college degree and among the most likely to live in a rural area
  • hard-liners on immigration, even more so than Faith and Flag Conservatives
  • highly critical of the U.S. economic system; a majority believes the “economic system in the country unfairly favors powerful interests, that businesses in this country make too much profit and that taxes on household income over $400,000 should be raised”
  • strong Trump supporters; 4 in 5 would like him to remain a prominent figure in politics, and almost 6 in 10 want him to run again
  • about 8 in 10 believe the results of the 2022 elections “really matter”




Ambivalent Right

  • 18% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents
  • the youngest and among the least religious and politically active of the Republican-leaning groups
  • most don’t identify as “conservative” politically, but are conservative economically, on issues of race and in that they prefer smaller government
  • more moderate than other Republicans on immigration, abortion, same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization
  • lean toward the GOP but are not enamored with it; almost two-thirds would like Trump to not remain a national figure, and, in fact, a quarter identifies with Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents
  • the only GOP-oriented group to say President Biden definitely or probably legitimately received the most votes in the 2020 election, and only about 4 in 10 believe the results of the 2022 elections “really matter”

Stressed Sideliners

  • 15% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents and 13% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents
  • financially stressed and tend to tilt left economically and conservative socially
  • the group to which Hispanic Republicans are the most likely to belong
  • largely disengaged from politics; only about 4 in 10 voted in 2020, and fewer than half believe the results of the 2022 elections “really matter”

Outsider Left

  • 16% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning groups
  • youngest of the groups that lean Democratic
  • liberal, especially on issues of race, immigration and climate
  • are less politically active than other Democratic groups, are less reliable voters, are more likely to identify as independents; when they do vote, they break overwhelmingly Democratic
  • not thrilled with the Democratic or Republican parties — or the country writ large, for that matter
  • most say other countries are better than the U.S., and almost 9 in 10 don’t feel there are candidates who represent their views
  • only about half say the results of the 2022 elections “really matter”




Progressive Left

  • 12% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents
  • young and highly educated
  • 4 in 5 call themselves “liberal,” with 42% saying they are “very liberal”
  • largest Democratic group to say it backed Sen. Bernie Sanders or Sen. Elizabeth Warren in the Democratic primaries (though members of this group broke heavily for Biden in the general election versus Trump)
  • very politically engaged; a little over 8 in 10 believe the results of the 2022 elections “really matter”
  • more than two-thirds white
  • extremely liberal policy positions

Establishment Liberals

  • 23% of Democratic groups
  • very politically engaged; 77% say the results of the 2022 elections “really matter”
  • supportive of the Democratic Party and its leaders
  • liberally minded, but prefer more measured approaches
  • when it comes to race, they say they recognize societal ills and that more needs to be done to correct them, but instead of wholesale change, they say it should come from within existing laws and institutions
  • more likely to back compromise and more welcoming to those who agree with Republicans on some things
  • generally upbeat about politics and the country

Democratic Mainstays

  • 28% of Democratic-leaning groups, which makes them the largest of the Democratic-leaning groups
  • older, less likely to have a college degree than other Democratic groups
  • most identify as moderate
  • Black Democrats are concentrated in this group, though the group is the most racially and ethnically diverse of all the groups
  • have liberal views on race, economics and the social safety net, but are more conservative on immigration and crime and are pro-military power for the most part
  • 73% say the results of the 2022 elections “really matter”