Democratic Party (United States)

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Democratic Party
ChairpersonJaime Harrison
Governing bodyDemocratic National Committee[1][2]
U.S. PresidentJoe Biden
U.S. Vice PresidentKamala Harris
Senate Majority LeaderChuck Schumer
House Minority LeaderHakeem Jeffries
FoundedJanuary 8, 1828; 196 years ago (1828-01-08)[3]
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
Preceded byDemocratic-Republican Party
Headquarters430 South Capitol St. SE,
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Student wing
Youth wingYoung Democrats of America
Women's wingNational Federation of Democratic Women
Overseas wingDemocrats Abroad
Membership (2023)Decrease 45,916,356[4]
Colors  Blue
Seats in the Senate
48 / 100[a]
Seats in the House of Representatives
213 / 435
State governorships
23 / 50
Seats in state upper chambers
857 / 1,973
Seats in state lower chambers
2,425 / 5,413
Territorial governorships
4 / 5
Seats in territorial upper chambers
31 / 97
Seats in territorial lower chambers
9 / 91
Election symbol
Website Edit this at Wikidata

The Democratic Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States. Since the 1850s, its main political rival has been the Republican Party.

The Democratic Party was founded in 1828. Martin Van Buren of New York played the central role in building the coalition of state organizations that formed a new party as a vehicle to elect Andrew Jackson of Tennessee. The Democratic Party is often called the world's oldest active political party.[18][19][20] The party supported expansive presidential power,[21] the interests of slave states,[22] agrarianism,[23] and geographical expansionism,[23] while opposing a national bank and high tariffs.[23] It split in 1860 over slavery and won the presidency only twice[b] in the fifty years between 1860 and 1910, although it won the popular vote a total of four times in that period. In the late 19th century, it continued to oppose high tariffs and had fierce internal debates on the gold standard. In the early 20th century, it supported progressive reforms and opposed imperialism, with Woodrow Wilson winning the White House in 1912 and 1916.

Since Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president in 1932, the Democratic Party has promoted a social liberal platform that includes support for Social Security and unemployment insurance.[5][24][25] The New Deal attracted strong support for the party from recent European immigrants but diminished the party's pro-business wing.[26][27][28] From late in Roosevelt's administration through the 1950s, a minority in the party's Southern wing joined with conservative Republicans to slow and stop progressive domestic reforms.[29] Following the Great Society era of progressive legislation under Lyndon B. Johnson, which was often able to overcome the conservative coalition in the 1960s, the core bases of the parties shifted, with the Southern states becoming more reliably Republican and the Northeastern states becoming more reliably Democratic.[30][31] The party's labor union element has become smaller since the 1970s,[32][33] and as the American electorate shifted in a more conservative direction following Ronald Reagan's presidency, the election of Bill Clinton marked a move for the party toward the Third Way, moving the party's economic stance towards market-based economic policy.[34][35][36] Barack Obama oversaw the party's passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. During Joe Biden's presidency, the party has adopted an increasingly progressive economic agenda.[37]

Starting in the New Deal era, the party's traditional support base consisted of organized labor, Catholics, mainline Protestants, American Jews, and African Americans.[38] On social issues, it advocates for abortion rights,[39] the legalization of marijuana,[40] and LGBT rights.[41] On economic issues, the party favors significant increases in healthcare coverage, universal child care, paid sick leave, and supporting unions.[42][43][44][45] In foreign policy, the party supports interventionism and liberal internationalism, including strongly supporting Israel,[46] the European Union, and Ukraine,[47] as well as tough stances against China and Russia.[48][49][50]


Political parties' derivation in the United States. A dotted line denotes an unofficial connection.

Democratic Party officials often trace its origins to the Democratic-Republican Party, founded by Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and other influential opponents of the conservative Federalists in 1792.[51][52] That party died out before the modern Democratic Party was organized;[53] the Jeffersonian party also inspired the Whigs and modern Republicans.[54] Historians argue that the modern Democratic Party was first organized in the late 1820s with the election of Andrew Jackson,[20] making it the world's oldest active political party.[19] It was predominately built by Martin Van Buren, who assembled a wide cadre of politicians in every state behind war hero Andrew Jackson of Tennessee.[18][20]

Since the nomination of William Jennings Bryan in 1896, the party has generally positioned itself to the left of the Republican Party on economic issues. Democrats have been more liberal on civil rights since 1948, although conservative factions within the Democratic Party that opposed them persisted in the South until the 1960s. On foreign policy, both parties have changed positions several times.[55]


Andrew Jackson was the seventh president (1829–1837) and the first Democratic president.

The Democratic Party evolved from the Jeffersonian Republican or Democratic-Republican Party organized by Jefferson and Madison in opposition to the Federalist Party.[56] The Democratic-Republican Party favored republicanism; a weak federal government; states' rights; agrarian interests (especially Southern planters); and strict adherence to the Constitution. The party opposed a national bank and Great Britain.[57] After the War of 1812, the Federalists virtually disappeared and the only national political party left was the Democratic-Republicans, which was prone to splinter along regional lines.[58] The era of one-party rule in the United States, known as the Era of Good Feelings, lasted from 1816 until 1828, when Andrew Jackson became president. Jackson and Martin Van Buren worked with allies in each state to form a new Democratic Party on a national basis. In the 1830s, the Whig Party coalesced into the main rival to the Democrats.

Before 1860, the Democratic Party supported expansive presidential power,[21] the interests of slave states,[22] agrarianism,[23] and expansionism,[23] while opposing a national bank and high tariffs.[23]

19th century

Martin Van Buren was the eighth president of the United States (1837–1841) and the second Democratic president.

The Democratic-Republican Party split over the choice of a successor to President James Monroe.[59] The faction that supported many of the old Jeffersonian principles, led by Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren, became the modern Democratic Party.[60] Historian Mary Beth Norton explains the transformation in 1828:

Jacksonians believed the people's will had finally prevailed. Through a lavishly financed coalition of state parties, political leaders, and newspaper editors, a popular movement had elected the president. The Democrats became the nation's first well-organized national party ... and tight party organization became the hallmark of nineteenth-century American politics.[61]

James K. Polk was the 11th president of the United States (1845–1849). He significantly extended the territory of the United States.

Behind the platforms issued by state and national parties stood a widely shared political outlook that characterized the Democrats:

The Democrats represented a wide range of views but shared a fundamental commitment to the Jeffersonian concept of an agrarian society. They viewed the central government as the enemy of individual liberty. The 1824 "corrupt bargain" had strengthened their suspicion of Washington politics. ... Jacksonians feared the concentration of economic and political power. They believed that government intervention in the economy benefited special-interest groups and created corporate monopolies that favored the rich. They sought to restore the independence of the individual—the artisan and the ordinary farmer—by ending federal support of banks and corporations and restricting the use of paper currency, which they distrusted. Their definition of the proper role of government tended to be negative, and Jackson's political power was largely expressed in negative acts. He exercised the veto more than all previous presidents combined. ... Nor did Jackson share reformers' humanitarian concerns. He had no sympathy for American Indians, initiating the removal of the Cherokees along the Trail of Tears.[62]

Opposing factions led by Henry Clay helped form the Whig Party. The Democratic Party had a small yet decisive advantage over the Whigs until the 1850s when the Whigs fell apart over the issue of slavery. In 1854, angry with the Kansas–Nebraska Act, anti-slavery Democrats left the party and joined Northern Whigs to form the Republican Party.[63][64]

Stephen A. Douglas was a United States senator for Illinois.

The Democrats split over slavery, with Northern and Southern tickets in the election of 1860, in which the Republican Party gained ascendancy.[65] The radical pro-slavery Fire-Eaters led walkouts at the two conventions when the delegates would not adopt a resolution supporting the extension of slavery into territories even if the voters of those territories did not want it. These Southern Democrats nominated the pro-slavery incumbent vice president, John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky, for president and General Joseph Lane, of Oregon, for vice president. The Northern Democrats nominated Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois for president and former Georgia Governor Herschel V. Johnson for vice president. This fracturing of the Democrats led to a Republican victory and Abraham Lincoln was elected the 16th president of the United States.[66]

As the American Civil War broke out, Northern Democrats were divided into War Democrats and Peace Democrats. The Confederate States of America deliberately avoided organized political parties. Most War Democrats rallied to Republican President Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans' National Union Party in the election of 1864, which featured Andrew Johnson on the Union ticket to attract fellow Democrats. Johnson replaced Lincoln in 1865, but he stayed independent of both parties.[67]

The Democrats benefited from white Southerners' resentment of Reconstruction after the war and consequent hostility to the Republican Party. After Redeemers ended Reconstruction in the 1870s and following the often extremely violent disenfranchisement of African Americans led by such white supremacist Democratic politicians as Benjamin Tillman of South Carolina in the 1880s and 1890s, the South, voting Democratic, became known as the "Solid South". Although Republicans won all but two presidential elections, the Democrats remained competitive. The party was dominated by pro-business Bourbon Democrats led by Samuel J. Tilden and Grover Cleveland, who represented mercantile, banking, and railroad interests; opposed imperialism and overseas expansion; fought for the gold standard; opposed bimetallism; and crusaded against corruption, high taxes and tariffs. Cleveland was elected to non-consecutive presidential terms in 1884 and 1892.[68]

20th century

Early 20th century

Leaders of the Democratic Party during the first half of the 20th century on in 1913: William Jennings Bryan, Josephus Daniels, Woodrow Wilson, Breckinridge Long, William Phillips, and Franklin D. Roosevelt

Agrarian Democrats demanding free silver, drawing on Populist ideas, overthrew the Bourbon Democrats in 1896 and nominated William Jennings Bryan for the presidency (a nomination repeated by Democrats in 1900 and 1908). Bryan waged a vigorous campaign attacking Eastern moneyed interests, but he lost to Republican William McKinley.[69]

The Democrats took control of the House in 1910, and Woodrow Wilson won election as president in 1912 (when the Republicans split) and 1916. Wilson effectively led Congress to put to rest the issues of tariffs, money, and antitrust, which had dominated politics for 40 years, with new progressive laws. He failed to secure Senate passage of the Versailles Treaty (ending the war with Germany and joining the League of Nations).[70] The weak party was deeply divided by issues such as the KKK and prohibition in the 1920s. However, it did organize new ethnic voters in Northern cities.[71]

After World War I ended and continuing through the Great Depression, the Democratic and Republican Parties both largely believed in American exceptionalism over European monarchies and state socialism that existed elsewhere in the world.[72]

1930s–1960s and the rise of the New Deal coalition

Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman, the 32nd and 33rd presidents of the United States (1933–1945; 1945–1953), featured on a campaign poster for the 1944 presidential election; note the rooster logo of the Democratic Party (see Names and Symbols below)

The Great Depression in 1929 that began under Republican President Herbert Hoover and the Republican Congress set the stage for a more liberal government as the Democrats controlled the House of Representatives nearly uninterrupted from 1930 until 1994, the Senate for 44 of 48 years from 1930, and won most presidential elections until 1968. Franklin D. Roosevelt, elected to the presidency in 1932, came forth with federal government programs called the New Deal. New Deal liberalism meant the regulation of business (especially finance and banking) and the promotion of labor unions as well as federal spending to aid the unemployed, help distressed farmers and undertake large-scale public works projects. It marked the start of the American welfare state.[73] The opponents, who stressed opposition to unions, support for business and low taxes, started calling themselves "conservatives".[74]

Until the 1980s, the Democratic Party was a coalition of two parties divided by the Mason–Dixon line: liberal Democrats in the North and culturally conservative voters in the South, who though benefitting from many of the New Deal public works projects, opposed increasing civil rights initiatives advocated by northeastern liberals. The polarization grew stronger after Roosevelt died. Southern Democrats formed a key part of the bipartisan conservative coalition in an alliance with most of the Midwestern Republicans. The economically activist philosophy of Franklin D. Roosevelt, which has strongly influenced American liberalism, shaped much of the party's economic agenda after 1932.[75] From the 1930s to the mid-1960s, the liberal New Deal coalition usually controlled the presidency while the conservative coalition usually controlled Congress.[76]

1960s–1980s and the collapse of the New Deal coalition

Issues facing parties and the United States after World War II included the Cold War and the civil rights movement. Republicans attracted conservatives and, after the 1960s, white Southerners from the Democratic coalition with their use of the Southern strategy and resistance to New Deal and Great Society liberalism. Until the 1950s, African Americans had traditionally supported the Republican Party because of its anti-slavery civil rights policies. Following the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Southern states became more reliably Republican in presidential politics, while Northeastern states became more reliably Democratic.[77][78][79][80] Studies show that Southern whites, which were a core constituency in the Democratic Party, shifted to the Republican Party due to racial backlash and social conservatism.[81][82][83]

John F. Kennedy, the 35th president (1961–1963)
Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th president (1963–1969)

The election of President John F. Kennedy from Massachusetts in 1960 partially reflected this shift. In the campaign, Kennedy attracted a new generation of younger voters. In his agenda dubbed the New Frontier, Kennedy introduced a host of social programs and public works projects, along with enhanced support of the space program, proposing a crewed spacecraft trip to the moon by the end of the decade. He pushed for civil rights initiatives and proposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but with his assassination in November 1963, he was not able to see its passage.[84]

Kennedy's successor Lyndon B. Johnson was able to persuade the largely conservative Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and with a more progressive Congress in 1965 passed much of the Great Society, including Medicare, which consisted of an array of social programs designed to help the poor, sick, and elderly. Kennedy and Johnson's advocacy of civil rights further solidified black support for the Democrats but had the effect of alienating Southern whites who would eventually gravitate toward the Republican Party, particularly after the election of Ronald Reagan to the presidency in 1980. Many conservative Southern Democrats defected to the Republican Party, beginning with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the general leftward shift of the party.[85][86][87][88]

The United States' involvement in the Vietnam War in the 1960s was another divisive issue that further fractured the fault lines of the Democrats' coalition. After the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964, President Johnson committed a large contingency of combat troops to Vietnam, but the escalation failed to drive the Viet Cong from South Vietnam, resulting in an increasing quagmire, which by 1968 had become the subject of widespread anti-war protests in the United States and elsewhere. With increasing casualties and nightly news reports bringing home troubling images from Vietnam, the costly military engagement became increasingly unpopular, alienating many of the kinds of young voters that the Democrats had attracted in the early 1960s. The protests that year along with assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Democratic presidential candidate Senator Robert F. Kennedy (younger brother of John F. Kennedy) climaxed in turbulence at the hotly-contested Democratic National Convention that summer in Chicago (which amongst the ensuing turmoil inside and outside of the convention hall nominated Vice President Hubert Humphrey) in a series of events that proved to mark a significant turning point in the decline of the Democratic Party's broad coalition.[89]

Republican presidential nominee Richard Nixon was able to capitalize on the confusion of the Democrats that year, and won the 1968 election to become the 37th president. He won re-election in a landslide in 1972 against Democratic nominee George McGovern, who like Robert F. Kennedy, reached out to the younger anti-war and counterculture voters, but unlike Kennedy, was not able to appeal to the party's more traditional white working-class constituencies. During Nixon's second term, his presidency was rocked by the Watergate scandal, which forced him to resign in 1974. He was succeeded by vice president Gerald Ford, who served a brief tenure.

Watergate offered the Democrats an opportunity to recoup, and their nominee Jimmy Carter won the 1976 presidential election. With the initial support of evangelical Christian voters in the South, Carter was temporarily able to reunite the disparate factions within the party, but inflation and the Iran Hostage Crisis of 1979–1980 took their toll, resulting in a landslide victory for Republican presidential nominee Ronald Reagan in 1980, which shifted the political landscape in favor of the Republicans for years to come. The influx of conservative Democrats into the Republican Party is often cited as a reason for the Republican Party's shift further to the right during the late 20th century as well as the shift of its base from the Northeast and Midwest to the South.[90][91]

1990s and Third Way centrism

Bill Clinton, the 42nd president (1993–2001)

With the ascendancy of the Republicans under Ronald Reagan, the Democrats searched for ways to respond yet were unable to succeed by running traditional candidates, such as former vice president and Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale and Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, who lost to Reagan and George H.W. Bush in the 1984 and 1988 presidential elections, respectively. Many Democrats attached their hopes to the future star of Gary Hart, who had challenged Mondale in the 1984 primaries running on a theme of "New Ideas"; and in the subsequent 1988 primaries became the de facto front-runner and virtual "shoo-in" for the Democratic presidential nomination before a sex scandal ended his campaign. The party nevertheless began to seek out a younger generation of leaders, who like Hart had been inspired by the pragmatic idealism of John F. Kennedy.[92]

Arkansas governor Bill Clinton was one such figure, who was elected president in 1992 as the Democratic nominee. The Democratic Leadership Council was a campaign organization connected to Clinton that advocated a realignment and triangulation under the re-branded "New Democrat" label.[93][34][35] The party adopted a synthesis of neoliberal economic policies with cultural liberalism, with the voter base after Reagan having shifted considerably to the right.[93] In an effort to appeal both to liberals and to fiscal conservatives, Democrats began to advocate for a balanced budget and market economy tempered by government intervention (mixed economy), along with a continued emphasis on social justice and affirmative action. The economic policy adopted by the Democratic Party, including the former Clinton administration, has been referred to as "Third Way".

The Democrats lost control of Congress in the election of 1994 to the Republican Party. Re-elected in 1996, Clinton was the first Democratic president since Franklin D. Roosevelt to be elected to two terms.[94] Al Gore won the popular vote, but after a controversial election dispute over a Florida recount settled by the U.S. Supreme Court (which ruled 5–4 in favor of Bush) he lost the 2000 United States Presidential Election to Republican opponent George W. Bush in the Electoral College.[95]

21st century


Barack Obama, the 44th president (2009–2017)
Joe Biden, the 46th president (2021–present)

In the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon as well as the growing concern over global warming, some of the party's key issues in the early 21st century have included combating terrorism while preserving human rights, expanding access to health care, labor rights, and environmental protection. Democrats regained majority control of both the House and the Senate in the 2006 elections. Barack Obama won the Democratic Party's nomination and was elected as the first African American president in 2008. Under the Obama presidency, the party moved forward reforms including an economic stimulus package, the Dodd–Frank financial reform act, and the Affordable Care Act.[96]


In the 2010 midterm elections, the Democratic Party lost control of the House and lost its majority in state legislatures and state governorships. In the 2012 elections, President Obama was re-elected, but the party remained in the minority in the House of Representatives and lost control of the Senate in the 2014 midterm elections. After the 2016 election of Donald Trump, who lost the popular vote, the Democratic Party transitioned into the role of an opposition party and held neither the presidency nor Congress for two years. However, the Democratic Party won back a majority in the House in the 2018 midterm elections under the leadership of Nancy Pelosi.

Democrats were extremely critical of President Trump, particularly his policies on immigration, healthcare, and abortion, as well as his response to the COVID-19 pandemic.[97][98][99] Before the pandemic, Democrats in the House of Representatives impeached Trump for the first time, although Trump was acquitted in the Republican-controlled Senate.[100]


2020 presidential election results by state, shaded according to winning candidate's percentage of the vote

In November 2020, Democrat Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election.[101] He began his term with extremely narrow Democratic majorities in the U.S. House and Senate.[102][103] The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 was negotiated by Biden, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema and other Democrats and is the largest allocation of funds for addressing climate change in the history of the United States to date.[104][105] Biden also signed a major infrastructure bill with bipartisan support, the first federal gun safety legislation in 28 years, and appointed the most federal judges during the first two years of any presidency since John F. Kennedy.[106]

The 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine was politically and economically opposed by the Biden Administration, who promptly began an increased arming of Ukraine, with full support from Congressional Democrats and an overwhelming majority of Republicans.[107][47]

In 2022, Biden appointed Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman on the Supreme Court. However, she was replacing liberal justice Stephen Breyer, so she did not alter the court's 6–3 split between conservatives (the majority) and liberals.[108][109][110][111] After Dobbs v. Jackson (decided June 24, 2022), which led to abortion bans in much of the country, the Democratic Party rallied behind abortion rights.[39]

In the 2022 midterm elections, Democrats dramatically outperformed historical trends, and a widely anticipated red wave did not materialize.[112][113] Democrats only narrowly lost their majority in the U.S. House, and gained a seat in the U.S. Senate,[114][115][116] along with several gains at the state level, including acquiring "trifectas" (control of both legislative houses and governor's seat) in several states.[117][118][119][120][121]

As of 2024, Democrats hold the presidency and a majority in the U.S. Senate, as well as 23 state governorships, 19 state legislatures, 17 state government trifectas, and the mayorships in the majority of the country's major cities.[122] Three of the nine current U.S. Supreme Court justices were appointed by Democratic presidents. By registered members, the Democratic Party is the largest party in the U.S. and the fourth largest in the world. Including the incumbent, Biden, 16 Democrats have served as president of the United States.[5]

Name and symbols

"A Live Jackass Kicking a Dead Lion" by Thomas Nast, Harper's Weekly, January 19, 1870
The donkey party logo remains a well-known symbol for the Democratic Party despite not being the official logo of the party.

The Democratic-Republican Party splintered in 1824 into the short-lived National Republican Party and the Jacksonian movement which in 1828 became the Democratic Party. Under the Jacksonian era, the term "The Democracy" was in use by the party, but the name "Democratic Party" was eventually settled upon[123] and became the official name in 1844.[124] Members of the party are called "Democrats" or "Dems".

The most common mascot symbol for the party has been the donkey, or jackass.[125] Andrew Jackson's enemies twisted his name to "jackass" as a term of ridicule regarding a stupid and stubborn animal. However, the Democrats liked the common-man implications and picked it up too, therefore the image persisted and evolved.[126] Its most lasting impression came from the cartoons of Thomas Nast from 1870 in Harper's Weekly. Cartoonists followed Nast and used the donkey to represent the Democrats and the elephant to represent the Republicans.

In many states, the logo of the Democratic Party was a rooster, for instance, in Alabama: Logo of the Alabama Democratic Party, 1904–1966 (left) and 1966–1996 (right)[127][128]

In the early 20th century, the traditional symbol of the Democratic Party in Indiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Ohio was the rooster, as opposed to the Republican eagle.[129] The rooster was also adopted as an official symbol of the national Democratic Party.[130] In 1904, the Alabama Democratic Party chose, as the logo to put on its ballots, a rooster with the motto "White supremacy – For the right."[131] The words "White supremacy" were replaced with "Democrats" in 1966.[132][127] In 1996, the Alabama Democratic Party dropped the rooster, citing racist and white supremacist connotations linked with the symbol.[128] The rooster symbol still appears on Oklahoma, Kentucky, Indiana, and West Virginia ballots.[129] In New York, the Democratic ballot symbol is a five-pointed star.[133]

Although both major political parties (and many minor ones) use the traditional American colors of red, white, and blue in their marketing and representations, since election night 2000 blue has become the identifying color for the Democratic Party while red has become the identifying color for the Republican Party. That night, for the first time all major broadcast television networks used the same color scheme for the electoral map: blue states for Al Gore (Democratic nominee) and red states for George W. Bush (Republican nominee). Since then, the color blue has been widely used by the media to represent the party. This is contrary to common practice outside of the United States where blue is the traditional color of the right and red the color of the left.[134]

Jefferson-Jackson Day is the annual fundraising event (dinner) held by Democratic Party organizations across the United States.[135] It is named after Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, whom the party regards as its distinguished early leaders.

The song "Happy Days Are Here Again" is the unofficial song of the Democratic Party. It was used prominently when Franklin D. Roosevelt was nominated for president at the 1932 Democratic National Convention and remains a sentimental favorite for Democrats. For example, Paul Shaffer played the theme on the Late Show with David Letterman after the Democrats won Congress in 2006. "Don't Stop" by Fleetwood Mac was adopted by Bill Clinton's presidential campaign in 1992 and has endured as a popular Democratic song. The emotionally similar song "Beautiful Day" by the band U2 has also become a favorite theme song for Democratic candidates. John Kerry used the song during his 2004 presidential campaign and several Democratic Congressional candidates used it as a celebratory tune in 2006.[136][137]

As a traditional anthem for its presidential nominating convention, Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" is traditionally performed at the beginning of the Democratic National Convention.


National committee

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is responsible for promoting Democratic campaign activities. While the DNC is responsible for overseeing the process of writing the Democratic Platform, the DNC is more focused on campaign and organizational strategy than public policy. In presidential elections, it supervises the Democratic National Convention. The national convention is subject to the charter of the party and the ultimate authority within the Democratic Party when it is in session, with the DNC running the party's organization at other times. As of 2021, the Party is chaired by Jaime Harrison.[138]

State parties

Each state also has a state committee, made up of elected committee members as well as ex officio committee members (usually elected officials and representatives of major constituencies), which in turn elects a chair. County, town, city, and ward committees generally are composed of individuals elected at the local level. State and local committees often coordinate campaign activities within their jurisdiction, oversee local conventions, and in some cases primaries or caucuses, and may have a role in nominating candidates for elected office under state law. Rarely do they have much funding, but in 2005 DNC Chairman Dean began a program (called the "50 State Strategy") of using DNC national funds to assist all state parties and pay for full-time professional staffers.[139]

Major party committees and groups

Obama speaking to College Democrats of America in 2007

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) assists party candidates in House races and is chaired by Representative Suzan DelBene of Washington. Similarly, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), chaired by Senator Gary Peters of Michigan, raises funds for Senate races. The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC), chaired by Majority Leader of the New York State Senate Andrea Stewart-Cousins, is a smaller organization that focuses on state legislative races. The Democratic Governors Association (DGA) is an organization supporting the candidacies of Democratic gubernatorial nominees and incumbents. Likewise, the mayors of the largest cities and urban centers convene as the National Conference of Democratic Mayors.[140]

The DNC sponsors the College Democrats of America (CDA), a student-outreach organization with the goal of training and engaging a new generation of Democratic activists. Democrats Abroad is the organization for Americans living outside the United States. They work to advance the party's goals and encourage Americans living abroad to support the Democrats. The Young Democrats of America (YDA) and the High School Democrats of America (HSDA) are young adult and youth-led organizations respectively that attempt to draw in and mobilize young people for Democratic candidates but operates outside of the DNC.

Political positions

The party's platform blends civil liberty and social equality with support for a mixed capitalist economy.[141] On social issues, it advocates for the continued legality of abortion,[39] the legalization of marijuana,[40] and LGBT rights.[41]

On economic issues, it favors universal healthcare coverage, industrial policy, universal child care, paid sick leave, corporate governance reform, and supporting unions.[42][43][44][45]

Economic policy
Social policy

Economic issues

Equal economic opportunity, a social safety net, and strong labor unions have historically been at the heart of Democratic economic policy.[141] The Democratic Party's economic policy positions, as measured by votes in Congress, tend to align with those of middle class.[163][164][165][166][167] Democrats support a progressive tax system, higher minimum wages, Social Security, universal health care, public education, and subsidized housing.[141] They also support infrastructure development and clean energy investments to achieve economic development and job creation.[168] Since the 1990s, the party has at times supported centrist economic reforms that cut the size of government and reduced market regulations.[169] The party has generally rejected both laissez-faire economics and market socialism, instead favoring Keynesian economics within a capitalist market-based system.[170]

Fiscal policy

Democrats support a more progressive tax structure to provide more services and reduce economic inequality by making sure that the wealthiest Americans pay more in taxes.[171] Democrats and Republicans traditionally take differing stances on eradicating poverty. Brady said "Our poverty level is the direct consequence of our weak social policies, which are a direct consequence of weak political actors".[172] They oppose the cutting of social services, such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid,[173] believing it to be harmful to efficiency and social justice. Democrats believe the benefits of social services in monetary and non-monetary terms are a more productive labor force and cultured population and believe that the benefits of this are greater than any benefits that could be derived from lower taxes, especially on top earners, or cuts to social services. Furthermore, Democrats see social services as essential toward providing positive freedom, freedom derived from economic opportunity. The Democratic-led House of Representatives reinstated the PAYGO (pay-as-you-go) budget rule at the start of the 110th Congress.[174]

Minimum wage

The Democratic Party favors raising the minimum wage. The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007 was an early component of the Democrats' agenda during the 110th Congress. In 2006, the Democrats supported six state-ballot initiatives to increase the minimum wage and all six initiatives passed.[175]

In 2017, Senate Democrats introduced the Raise the Wage Act which would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024.[176] In 2021, Democratic president Joe Biden proposed increasing the minimum wage to $15 by 2025.[177] In many states controlled by Democrats, the state minimum wage has been increased to a rate above the federal minimum wage.[178]

Health care

President Obama signing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law in 2010

Democrats call for "affordable and quality health care" and favor moving toward universal health care in a variety of forms to address rising healthcare costs. Progressive Democrats politicians favor a single-payer program or Medicare for All, while liberals prefer creating a public health insurance option.[179]

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010, has been one of the most significant pushes for universal health care. As of December 2019, more than 20 million Americans have gained health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.[180]


Democrats favor improving public education by raising school standards and reforming the Head Start program. They also support universal preschool, expanding access to primary education, including through charter schools, and are generally opposed to school voucher programs. They call for addressing student loan debt and reforms to reduce college tuition.[181] Other proposals have included tuition-free public universities and reform of standardized testing. Democrats have the long-term aim of having publicly funded college education with low tuition fees (like in much of Europe and Canada), which would be available to every eligible American student. Alternatively, they encourage expanding access to post-secondary education by increasing state funding for student financial aid such as Pell Grants and college tuition tax deductions.[182]


Democrats and Republicans have diverged on the seriousness of the threat posed by climate change, with Democrats' assessment rising significantly in the mid-2010s.[183]
The sharp divide over the existence of and responsibility for global warming and climate change falls largely along political lines. Overall, 60% of those surveyed said oil and gas companies were "completely or mostly responsible" for climate change.[184]
Opinion about human causation of climate change increased substantially with education among Democrats, but not among Republicans.[185] Conversely, opinions favoring becoming carbon neutral declined substantially with age among Republicans, but not among Democrats.[185]
A broad range of policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has been proposed. Democrats' support for such policies consistently exceeds that of Republicans.[186]
Acceptance of wind and solar facilities in one's community is stronger among Democrats (blue), while acceptance of nuclear power plants is stronger among Republicans (red).[187]

Democrats believe that the government should protect the environment and have a history of environmentalism. In more recent years, this stance has emphasized renewable energy generation as the basis for an improved economy, greater national security, and general environmental benefits.[188] The Democratic Party is substantially more likely than the Republican Party to support environmental regulation and policies that are supportive of renewable energy.[189][190]

The Democratic Party also favors expansion of conservation lands and encourages open space and rail travel to relieve highway and airport congestion and improve air quality and the economy as it "believe[s] that communities, environmental interests, and the government should work together to protect resources while ensuring the vitality of local economies. Once Americans were led to believe they had to make a choice between the economy and the environment. They now know this is a false choice".[191]

The foremost environmental concern of the Democratic Party is climate change. Democrats, most notably former Vice President Al Gore, have pressed for stern regulation of greenhouse gases. On October 15, 2007, Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to build greater knowledge about man-made climate change and laying the foundations for the measures needed to counteract it.[192]

Renewable energy and fossil fuels

Democrats have supported increased domestic renewable energy development, including wind and solar power farms, in an effort to reduce carbon pollution. The party's platform calls for an "all of the above" energy policy including clean energy, natural gas and domestic oil, with the desire of becoming energy independent.[175] The party has supported higher taxes on oil companies and increased regulations on coal power plants, favoring a policy of reducing long-term reliance on fossil fuels.[193][194] Additionally, the party supports stricter fuel emissions standards to prevent air pollution.

Trade agreements

Like the Republican Party, the Democratic Party has taken widely varying views on international trade throughout its history. The Democrats dominated the Second Party System and set low tariffs designed to pay for the government but not protect industry. Their opponents the Whigs wanted high protective tariffs but usually were outvoted in Congress. Tariffs soon became a major political issue as the Whigs (1832–1852) and (after 1854) the Republicans wanted to protect their mostly northern industries and constituents by voting for higher tariffs and the Southern Democrats, which had very little industry but imported many goods voted for lower tariffs. After the Second Party System ended in 1854 the Democrats lost control and the new Republican Party had its opportunity to raise rates.[195]

During the Third Party System, Democratic president Grover Cleveland made low tariffs the centerpiece of Democratic Party policies, arguing that high tariffs were an unnecessary and unfair tax on consumers. The South and West generally supported low tariffs, while the industrial North high tariffs.[196] During the Fourth Party System, Democratic president Woodrow Wilson made a drastic lowering of tariff rates a major priority for his presidency. The 1913 Underwood Tariff cut rates, and the new revenues generated by the federal income tax made tariffs much less important in terms of economic impact and political rhetoric.[197]

In the 1990s, the Clinton administration and a number of prominent Democrats pushed through a number of agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Since then, the party's shift away from free trade became evident in the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) vote, with 15 House Democrats voting for the agreement and 187 voting against.[198][199][200]

Social issues

Shirley Chisholm was the first major-party African American candidate to run nationwide primary campaigns.

The modern Democratic Party emphasizes social equality and equal opportunity. Democrats support voting rights and minority rights, including LGBT rights. Democratic president Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed racial segregation. Carmines and Stimson wrote "the Democratic Party appropriated racial liberalism and assumed federal responsibility for ending racial discrimination."[201][202][203]

Ideological social elements in the party include cultural liberalism, civil libertarianism, and feminism. Some Democratic social policies are immigration reform, electoral reform, and women's reproductive rights.

Equal opportunity

The Democratic Party supports equal opportunity for all Americans regardless of sex, age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, creed, or national origin. The Democratic Party has broad appeal across most socioeconomic and ethnic demographics, as seen in recent exit polls.[204] Democrats also strongly support the Americans with Disabilities Act to prohibit discrimination against people based on physical or mental disability. As such, the Democrats pushed as well the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, a disability rights expansion that became law.[205]

Most Democrats support affirmative action to further equal opportunity. However, in 2020 57% voters in California voted to keep their state constitution's ban on affirmative action, despite Biden winning 63% of the vote in California in the same election.[206]

Voting rights

The party is very supportive of improving voting rights as well as election accuracy and accessibility.[207] They support extensions of voting time, including making election day a holiday. They support reforming the electoral system to eliminate gerrymandering, abolishing the electoral college, as well as passing comprehensive campaign finance reform.[157]

Abortion and reproductive rights

The Democratic position on abortion has changed significantly over time.[208][209] During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Republicans generally favored legalized abortion more than Democrats,[210] although significant heterogeneity could be found within both parties.[211] During this time, opposition to abortion tended to be concentrated within the political left in the United States. Liberal Protestants and Catholics (many of whom were Democratic voters) opposed abortion, while most conservative Protestants supported legal access to abortion services.[208][clarification needed]

In its national platforms from 1992 to 2004, the Democratic Party has called for abortion to be "safe, legal and rare"—namely, keeping it legal by rejecting laws that allow governmental interference in abortion decisions and reducing the number of abortions by promoting both knowledge of reproduction and contraception and incentives for adoption. The wording changed in the 2008 platform.[citation needed] When Congress voted on the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act in 2003, Congressional Democrats were split, with a minority (including former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid) supporting the ban and the majority of Democrats opposing the legislation.[212]

According to the 2020 Democratic Party platform, "Democrats believe every woman should be able to access high-quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion."[213]


President Johnson signing the Immigration Act of 1965

Like the Republican Party, the Democratic Party has taken widely varying views on immigration throughout its history. Since the 1990s, the Democratic Party has been more supportive overall of immigration than the Republican Party.[214] Many Democratic politicians have called for systematic reform of the immigration system such that residents that have come into the United States illegally have a pathway to legal citizenship. President Obama remarked in November 2013 that he felt it was "long past time to fix our broken immigration system," particularly to allow "incredibly bright young people" that came over as students to become full citizens. The Public Religion Research Institute found in a late 2013 study that 73% of Democrats supported the pathway concept, compared to 63% of Americans as a whole.[215]

In 2013, Democrats in the Senate passed S. 744, which would reform immigration policy to allow citizenship for illegal immigrants in the United States. The law failed to pass in the House and was never re-introduced after the 113th Congress. As of 2023, no major immigration reform legislation has been enacted into law in the 21st century.[216][217]

LGBT rights

The Democratic position on LGBT rights has changed significantly over time.[218][219] Before the 2000s, like the Republicans, the Democratic Party often took positions hostile to LGBT rights. As of the 2020s, both voters and elected representatives within the Democratic Party are overwhelmingly supportive of LGBT rights.[218]

Support for same-sex marriage has steadily increased among the general public, including voters in both major parties, since the start of the 21st century. An April 2009 ABC News/Washington Post public opinion poll put support among Democrats at 62%.[220] A broad majority of Democrats have supported other LGBT-related laws such as extending hate crime statutes, legally preventing discrimination against LGBT people in the workforce and repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" military policy. A 2006 Pew Research Center poll of Democrats found that 55% supported gays adopting children with 40% opposed while 70% support gays in the military, with only 23% opposed.[221] Gallup polling from May 2009 stated that 82% of Democrats support open enlistment.[222] A 2023 Gallup public opinion poll found 84% of Democrats support same-sex marriage, compared to 71% support by the general public and 49% support by Republicans.[223]

The 2004 Democratic National Platform stated that marriage should be defined at the state level and it repudiated the Federal Marriage Amendment.[224] John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004, did not support same-sex marriage in his campaign. While not stating support of same-sex marriage, the 2008 platform called for repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which banned federal recognition of same-sex marriage and removed the need for interstate recognition, supported antidiscrimination laws and the extension of hate crime laws to LGBT people and opposed "don't ask, don't tell".[225] The 2012 platform included support for same-sex marriage and for the repeal of DOMA.[226]

On May 9, 2012, Barack Obama became the first sitting president to say he supports same-sex marriage.[227][228] Previously, he had opposed restrictions on same-sex marriage such as the Defense of Marriage Act, which he promised to repeal,[229] California's Prop 8,[230] and a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage (which he opposed saying that "decisions about marriage should be left to the states as they always have been"),[231] but also stated that he personally believed marriage to be between a man and a woman and that he favored civil unions that would "give same-sex couples equal legal rights and privileges as married couples".[229] Earlier, when running for the Illinois Senate in 1996 he said, "I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages".[232] Former presidents Bill Clinton[233] and Jimmy Carter[234] along with former Democratic presidential nominees Al Gore[235] and Michael Dukakis[236] support same-sex marriage. President Joe Biden has supported same-sex marriage since 2012, when he became the highest-ranking government official to support it. In 2022, Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act; the law repealed the Defense of Marriage Act, which Biden had voted for during his Senate tenure.[237]

Status of Puerto Rico and D.C.

The 2016 Democratic Party platform declares, regarding the status of Puerto Rico: "We are committed to addressing the extraordinary challenges faced by our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico. Many stem from the fundamental question of Puerto Rico's political status. Democrats believe that the people of Puerto Rico should determine their ultimate political status from permanent options that do not conflict with the Constitution, laws, and policies of the United States. Democrats are committed to promoting economic opportunity and good-paying jobs for the hardworking people of Puerto Rico. We also believe that Puerto Ricans must be treated equally by Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs that benefit families. Puerto Ricans should be able to vote for the people who make their laws, just as they should be treated equally. All American citizens, no matter where they reside, should have the right to vote for the president of the United States. Finally, we believe that federal officials must respect Puerto Rico's local self-government as laws are implemented and Puerto Rico's budget and debt are restructured so that it can get on a path towards stability and prosperity".[148]

Also, it declares that regarding the status of the District of Columbia: "Restoring our democracy also means finally passing statehood for the District of Columbia, so that the American citizens who reside in the nation's capital have full and equal congressional rights as well as the right to have the laws and budget of their local government respected without Congressional interference."[148]

Legal issues

Gun control

U.S. opinion on gun control issues is deeply divided along political lines, as shown in this 2021 survey.[238]

With a stated goal of reducing crime and homicide, the Democratic Party has introduced various gun control measures, most notably the Gun Control Act of 1968, the Brady Bill of 1993 and Crime Control Act of 1994. In its national platform for 2008, the only statement explicitly favoring gun control was a plan calling for renewal of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban.[239] In 2022, Democratic president Joe Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which among other things expanded background checks and provided incentives for states to pass red flag laws.[240] According to a 2023 Pew Research Center poll, 20% of Democrats owned firearms, compared to 32% of the general public and 45% of Republicans.[241]

Death penalty

The Democratic Party's 2020 platform states its opposition to the death penalty.[162] Although most Democrats in Congress have never seriously moved to overturn the rarely used federal death penalty, both Russ Feingold and Dennis Kucinich have introduced such bills with little success. Democrats have led efforts to overturn state death penalty laws, particularly in New Jersey and in New Mexico. They have also sought to prevent the reinstatement of the death penalty in those states which prohibit it, including Massachusetts, New York, and Delaware. During the Clinton administration, Democrats led the expansion of the federal death penalty. These efforts resulted in the passage of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, signed into law by President Clinton, which heavily limited appeals in death penalty cases. In 1972, the Democratic Party platform called for the abolition of capital punishment.[242] In 1992, 1993 and 1995, Democratic Texas Congressman Henry González unsuccessfully introduced the Death Penalty Abolition Amendment which prohibited the use of capital punishment in the United States. Democratic Missouri Congressman William Lacy Clay Sr. cosponsored the amendment in 1993.

During his Illinois Senate career, former President Barack Obama successfully introduced legislation intended to reduce the likelihood of wrongful convictions in capital cases, requiring videotaping of confessions. When campaigning for the presidency, Obama stated that he supports the limited use of the death penalty, including for people who have been convicted of raping a minor under the age of 12, having opposed the Supreme Court's ruling in Kennedy v. Louisiana that the death penalty was unconstitutional in which the victim of a crime was not killed.[243] Obama has stated that he thinks the "death penalty does little to deter crime" and that it is used too frequently and too inconsistently.[244]

In June 2016, the Democratic Platform Drafting Committee unanimously adopted an amendment to abolish the death penalty.[245]


Many Democrats are opposed to the use of torture against individuals apprehended and held prisoner by the United States military, and hold that categorizing such prisoners as unlawful combatants does not release the United States from its obligations under the Geneva Conventions. Democrats contend that torture is inhumane, damages the United States' moral standing in the world, and produces questionable results. Democrats are largely against waterboarding.[246]

Torture became a divisive issue in the party after Barack Obama was elected president.[247]


The Democratic Party believes that individuals should have a right to privacy. For example, many Democrats have opposed the NSA warrantless surveillance of American citizens.[248][249]

Some Democratic officeholders have championed consumer protection laws that limit the sharing of consumer data between corporations. Democrats have opposed sodomy laws since the 1972 platform which stated that "Americans should be free to make their own choice of life-styles and private habits without being subject to discrimination or prosecution",[250] and believe that government should not regulate consensual noncommercial sexual conduct among adults as a matter of personal privacy.[251]

Foreign policy issues

The foreign policy of the voters of the two major parties has largely overlapped since the 1990s. A Gallup poll in early 2013 showed broad agreement on the top issues, albeit with some divergence regarding human rights and international cooperation through agencies such as the United Nations.[252]

In June 2014, the Quinnipiac Poll asked Americans which foreign policy they preferred:

A) The United States is doing too much in other countries around the world, and it is time to do less around the world and focus more on our own problems here at home. B) The United States must continue to push forward to promote democracy and freedom in other countries worldwide because these efforts make our own country more secure.

Democrats chose A over B by 65% to 32%; Republicans chose A over B by 56% to 39%; and independents chose A over B by 67% to 29%.[253]

Iran sanctions

The Democratic Party has been critical of the Iran's nuclear weapon program and supported economic sanctions against the Iranian government. In 2013, the Democratic-led administration worked to reach a diplomatic agreement with the government of Iran to halt the Iranian nuclear weapon program in exchange for international economic sanction relief.[254] As of 2014, negotiations had been successful and the party called for more cooperation with Iran in the future.[255] In 2015, the Obama administration agreed to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which provides sanction relief in exchange for international oversight of the Iranian nuclear program. In February 2019, the Democratic National Committee passed a resolution calling on the United States to re-enter the JCPOA, which President Trump withdrew from in 2018.[256]

Invasion of Afghanistan

Democrats in the House of Representatives and in the Senate near-unanimously voted for the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists against "those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States" in Afghanistan in 2001, supporting the NATO coalition invasion of the nation. Most elected Democrats continued to support the Afghanistan conflict for its duration, with some, such as a Democratic National Committee spokesperson, voicing concerns that the Iraq War shifted too many resources away from the presence in Afghanistan.[257][258] During the 2008 Presidential Election, then-candidate Barack Obama called for a "surge" of troops into Afghanistan.[258] After winning the presidency, Obama followed through, sending a "surge" force of additional troops to Afghanistan. Troop levels were 94,000 in December 2011 and kept falling, with a target of 68,000 by fall 2012.[259]

Support for the war among the American people diminished over time. Many Democrats changed their opinion over the course of the war, coming to oppose continuation of the conflict.[260][261] In July 2008, Gallup found that 41% of Democrats called the invasion a "mistake" while a 55% majority disagreed.[261] A CNN survey in August 2009 stated that a majority of Democrats opposed the war. CNN polling director Keating Holland said: "Nearly two thirds of Republicans support the war in Afghanistan. Three quarters of Democrats oppose the war".[260]

During the 2020 Presidential Election, then-candidate Joe Biden promised to "end the forever wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East."[262] Biden went on to win the election, and in April 2021, he announced he would withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan by September 11 of that year.[263] The last troops left in August, bringing America's 20-year-long military campaign in the country to a close.[264] According to a 2023 AP-NORC poll, a majority of Democrats believed that the War in Afghanistan wasn't worth it.[265]


Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu meeting with President Obama in 2013

Democrats have historically been a stronger supporter of Israel than Republicans.[46] During the 1940s, the party advocated for the cause of an independent Jewish state over the objections of many conservatives in the Old Right, who strongly opposed it.[46] In 1948, Democratic President Harry Truman became the first world leader to recognize an independent state of Israel.[266]

The 2020 Democratic Party platform acknowledges a "commitment to Israel's security, its qualitative military edge, its right to defend itself, and the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding is ironclad" and that "we oppose any effort to unfairly single out and delegitimize Israel, including at the United Nations or through the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement".[267] During the 2023 Israel-Hamas War, the party requested a large-scale military aid package to Israel.[268]

During the Israel–Hamas war, Biden announced military support for Israel, condemned the actions of Hamas and other Palestinian militants as terrorism,[269] and ordered the US military to build a port to facilitate the arrival of humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians in Gaza.[270]


Higher percentages of Democrats than Republicans are members of union households.

Since the 2010s, the Democratic Party is strongest among urban residents, union workers, college graduates,[271][272] most ethnic minorities, the unmarried, and sexual minorities.[273][274] The victory of Republican Donald Trump in 2016 brought about a realignment in which many working-class voters voted Republican.[275][276][277][278] In the 2020 presidential election, Democrats won the majority of votes from African American, Hispanic, and Asian voters; young voters; women; urban voters; voters with college degrees; and voters with no religious affiliation.[279]

As of 2023, every Democratic president, Democratic vice president, and Democratic presidential nominee has been a Christian. According to the Pew Research Center, 78.4% of Democrats in the 116th United States Congress were Christian.[280] However, the vast majority of white evangelical and Latter-day Saint Christians favor the Republican Party.[281]

A critical component of the Party coalition has been organized labor. Labor unions supply a great deal of the money, grass roots political organization, and voters for the party. Democrats are far more likely to be represented by unions than Republican voters are.[32] Younger Americans, including millennials and Generation Z, tend to vote mostly for Democratic candidates in recent years.[282] According to exit polling, LGBT Americans typically vote Democratic in national elections.[283]

Support for the civil rights movement in the 1960s by Democratic presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson helped increase the Democrats' support within the African American community. African Americans have consistently voted between 85% and 95% Democratic from the 1960s to the 2000s, making African Americans one of the largest of the party's constituencies.[284][285] Geographically, the party is strongest in the Northeastern United States, the Great Lakes region, parts of the Southwestern United States, and the West Coast. The party is also very strong in major cities, regardless of region.[286][287]


Upon foundation, the Democratic Party supported agrarianism and the Jacksonian democracy movement of President Andrew Jackson, representing farmers and rural interests and traditional Jeffersonian democrats.[288] Since the 1890s, especially in northern states, the party began to favor more liberal positions (the term "liberal" in this sense describes modern liberalism, rather than classical liberalism or economic liberalism). Historically, the party has represented farmers, laborers, and religious and ethnic minorities as it has opposed unregulated business and finance and favored progressive income taxes.

In the 1930s, the party began advocating social programs targeted at the poor. The party had a fiscally conservative, pro-business wing, typified by Grover Cleveland and Al Smith, and a Southern conservative wing that shrank after President Lyndon B. Johnson supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In foreign policy, internationalism (including interventionism) was a dominant theme from 1913 to the mid-1960s. The major influences for liberalism were labor unions (which peaked in the 1936–1952 era) and African Americans. Environmentalism has been a major component since the 1970s.

The 21st century Democratic Party is predominantly a coalition of centrists, liberals, and progressives, with significant overlap between the three groups. In 2019, the Pew Research Center found that among Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters, 47% identify as liberal or very liberal, 38% identify as moderate, and 14% identify as conservative or very conservative.[289][290] In recent exit polls, the Democratic Party has had broad appeal across most socioeconomic and ethnic demographics.[291][292][293] Political scientists characterize the Democratic Party as less ideologically cohesive than the Republican Party due to the broader diversity of coalitions that compose the Democratic Party.[294][295][296]


Centrist Democrats, or New Democrats, are an ideologically centrist faction within the Democratic Party that emerged after the victory of Republican George H. W. Bush in the 1988 presidential election.[297] Running as a New Democrat, Bill Clinton won the 1992 and 1996 presidential elections.[298] They are an economically liberal and "Third Way" faction that dominated the party for around 20 years, until the start of Obama's presidency. They are represented by organizations such as the New Democrat Network and the New Democrat Coalition. The New Democrat Coalition is a pro-growth and fiscally moderate congressional coalition.[299]

One of the most influential centrist groups was the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), a nonprofit organization that advocated centrist positions for the party. The DLC disbanded in 2011.[300]

Some Democratic elected officials have self-declared as being centrists, including former President Bill Clinton, former Vice President Al Gore, Senator Mark Warner, former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, former Senator Jim Webb, President Joe Biden, and former congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick.[301][302]

The New Democrat Network supports socially liberal and fiscally moderate Democratic politicians and is associated with the congressional New Democrat Coalition in the House.[303] Annie Kuster is the chair of the coalition,[301] and former senator and President Barack Obama was self-described as a New Democrat.[304]


President Obama meeting with the Blue Dog Coalition in 2009

A conservative Democrat is a member of the Democratic Party with more conservative views than most Democrats. Until the 2010s, the Democratic Party had a large conservative element, mostly from the South and Border regions.[305] Their numbers declined sharply as the Republican Party built up its Southern base.[306]

After the 1994 Republican Revolution, the Blue Dog Coalition was formed as a caucus of conservatives and centrists willing to broker compromises with the Republican leadership. The Blue Dog Coalition has at times acted as a unified voting bloc, giving its members some ability to influence legislation.[305]


Eleanor Roosevelt at the 1956 Democratic National Convention in Chicago

Social liberals (modern liberals) are a large portion of the Democratic base. According to 2018 exit polls, liberals constituted 27% of the electorate, and 91% of American liberals favored the candidate of the Democratic Party.[307] White-collar college-educated professionals were mostly Republican until the 1950s, but they had become a vital component of the Democratic Party by the early 2000s.[308]

A large majority of liberals favor moving toward universal health care, with many supporting an eventual gradual transition to a single-payer system in particular. A majority also favor diplomacy over military action; stem cell research, same-sex marriage, stricter gun control, environmental protection laws, as well as the preservation of abortion rights. Immigration and cultural diversity are deemed positive as liberals favor cultural pluralism, a system in which immigrants retain their native culture in addition to adopting their new culture. Most liberals oppose increased military spending and the mixing of church and state.[309] They tend to be divided on free trade agreements such as the USMCA and PNTR with China, with some seeing them as more favorable to corporations than workers.[310] As of 2020, the three most significant labor groupings in the Democratic coalition were the AFL–CIO and Change to Win labor federations as well as the National Education Association, a large, unaffiliated teachers' union. Important issues for labor unions include supporting industrial policy that sustains unionized manufacturing jobs, raising the minimum wage, and promoting broad social programs such as Social Security and Medicare.[311]

This ideological group differs from the traditional organized labor base. According to the Pew Research Center, a plurality of 41% resided in mass affluent households and 49% were college graduates, the highest figure of any typographical group. It was also the fastest growing typological group since the late 1990s to the present.[309] Liberals include most of academia[312] and large portions of the professional class.[313]


Progressives are the most left-leaning faction in the party and support strong business regulations, social programs, and workers' rights.[314][315] Many progressive Democrats are descendants of the New Left of Democratic presidential candidate Senator George McGovern of South Dakota whereas others were involved in the 2016 presidential candidacy of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Progressives are often considered to have ideas similar to social democracy due to heavy inspiration from the Nordic Model, believing in federal top marginal income taxes ranging from 52% to 70%,[316] rent control,[317] increased collective bargaining power, a $15-an-hour minimum wage, as well as free tuition and Universal Healthcare (typically Medicare for All).[318]

In 2014, progressive Senator Elizabeth Warren set out "Eleven Commandments of Progressivism": tougher regulation on corporations; affordable education; scientific investment and environmentalism; net neutrality; increased wages; equal pay for women; collective bargaining rights; defending social programs; same-sex marriage; immigration reform; and unabridged access to reproductive healthcare.[319]

Recently, many progressives have made combating economic inequality their top priority. The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) is a caucus of progressive Democrats chaired by Pramila Jayapal of Washington.[320] Its members have included Representatives Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, John Conyers of Michigan, Jim McDermott of Washington, Barbara Lee of California, and Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota. Senators Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, and Ed Markey of Massachusetts were members of the caucus when in the House of Representatives. As of March 2023, no Democratic senators belonged to the CPC, but independent Senator Bernie Sanders was a member.[321]

Democratic presidents

As of 2021, there have been a total of 16 Democratic presidents.

# Name (lifespan) Portrait State Presidency
start date
end date
Time in office
7 Andrew Jackson (1767–1845) Tennessee March 4, 1829 March 4, 1837 8 years, 0 days
8 Martin Van Buren (1782–1862) New York March 4, 1837 March 4, 1841 4 years, 0 days
11 James K. Polk (1795–1849) Tennessee March 4, 1845 March 4, 1849 4 years, 0 days
14 Franklin Pierce (1804–1869) New Hampshire March 4, 1853 March 4, 1857 4 years, 0 days
15 James Buchanan (1791–1868) Pennsylvania March 4, 1857 March 4, 1861 4 years, 0 days
17 Andrew Johnson (1808–1875) Tennessee April 15, 1865[c] March 4, 1869 3 years, 323 days
22 Grover Cleveland (1837–1908) New York March 4, 1885 March 4, 1889 8 years, 0 days
24 March 4, 1893 March 4, 1897
28 Woodrow Wilson (1856–1924) New Jersey March 4, 1913 March 4, 1921 8 years, 0 days
32 Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945) New York March 4, 1933 April 12, 1945[d] 12 years, 39 days
33 Harry S. Truman (1884–1972) Missouri April 12, 1945 January 20, 1953 7 years, 283 days
35 John F. Kennedy (1917–1963) Massachusetts January 20, 1961 November 22, 1963[d] 2 years, 306 days
36 Lyndon B. Johnson (1908–1973) Texas November 22, 1963 January 20, 1969 5 years, 59 days
39 Jimmy Carter (born 1924) Georgia January 20, 1977 January 20, 1981 4 years, 0 days
42 Bill Clinton (born 1946) Arkansas January 20, 1993 January 20, 2001 8 years, 0 days
44 Barack Obama (born 1961) Illinois January 20, 2009 January 20, 2017 8 years, 0 days
46 Joe Biden (born 1942) Delaware January 20, 2021 Incumbent 3 years, 93 days

Recent electoral history

In congressional elections: 1950–present

House of Representatives President Senate


No. of

seats won

+/– No. of

seats won

+/– Election


235 / 435
Decrease 28 Harry S. Truman
49 / 96
Decrease 5 1950
213 / 435
Decrease 22 Dwight D. Eisenhower
47 / 96
Decrease 2 1952
232 / 435
Increase 19
49 / 96
Increase 2 1954
234 / 435
Increase 2
49 / 96
Steady 0 1956
283 / 437
Increase 49
64 / 98
Increase 15 1958
262 / 437
Decrease 21 John F. Kennedy
64 / 100
Decrease 1 1960
258 / 435
Decrease 4
66 / 100
Increase 3 1962
295 / 435
Increase 37 Lyndon B. Johnson
68 / 100
Increase 2 1964
248 / 435
Decrease 47
64 / 100
Decrease 3 1966
243 / 435
Decrease 5 Richard Nixon
57 / 100
Decrease 5 1968
255 / 435
Increase 12
54 / 100
Decrease 3 1970
242 / 435
Decrease 13
56 / 100
Increase 2 1972
291 / 435
Increase 49 Gerald Ford
60 / 100
Increase 4 1974
292 / 435
Increase 1 Jimmy Carter
61 / 100
Steady 0 1976
277 / 435
Decrease 15
58 / 100
Decrease 3 1978
243 / 435
Decrease 34 Ronald Reagan
46 / 100
Decrease 12 1980
269 / 435
Increase 26
46 / 100
Increase 1 1982
253 / 435
Decrease 16
47 / 100
Increase 2 1984
258 / 435
Increase 5
55 / 100
Increase 8 1986
260 / 435
Increase 2 George H. W. Bush
55 / 100
Increase 1 1988
267 / 435
Increase 7
56 / 100
Increase 1 1990
258 / 435
Decrease 9 Bill Clinton
57 / 100
Increase 1 1992
204 / 435
Decrease 54
47 / 100
Decrease 10 1994
206 / 435
Increase 2
45 / 100
Decrease 2 1996
211 / 435
Increase 5
45 / 100
Steady 0 1998
212 / 435
Increase 1 George W. Bush
50 / 100
Increase 5 2000[e]
204 / 435
Decrease 7
49 / 100
Decrease 2 2002
202 / 435
Decrease 2
45 / 100
Decrease 4 2004
233 / 435
Increase 31
51 / 100
Increase 6[f] 2006
257 / 435
Increase 21 Barack Obama
59 / 100
Increase 8[f] 2008
193 / 435
Decrease 63
53 / 100
Decrease 6[f] 2010
201 / 435
Increase 8
55 / 100
Increase 2[f] 2012
188 / 435
Decrease 13
46 / 100
Decrease 9[f] 2014
194 / 435
Increase 6 Donald Trump
48 / 100
Increase 2[f] 2016
235 / 435
Increase 41
47 / 100
Decrease 1[f] 2018
222 / 435
Decrease 13 Joe Biden
50 / 100
Increase 3[f] 2020[g]
213 / 435
Decrease 9
51 / 100
Increase 1[f] 2022

In presidential elections: 1828–present

Presidential ticket Votes Vote % Electoral votes +/– Result
1828 Andrew Jackson/John C. Calhoun 642,553 56.0
178 / 261
Increase178 Won
1832 Andrew Jackson/Martin Van Buren 701,780 54.2
219 / 286
Increase41 Won
1836 Martin Van Buren/Richard Mentor Johnson 764,176 50.8
170 / 294
Decrease49 Won
1840 Martin Van Buren/None[h] 1,128,854 46.8
60 / 294
Decrease110 Lost
1844 James K. Polk/George M. Dallas 1,339,494 49.5
170 / 275
Increase110 Won
1848 Lewis Cass/William O. Butler 1,223,460 42.5
127 / 290
Decrease43 Lost
1852 Franklin Pierce/William R. King 1,607,510 50.8
254 / 296
Increase127 Won
1856 James Buchanan/John C. Breckinridge 1,836,072 45.3
174 / 296
Decrease80 Won
1860 Stephen A. Douglas/Herschel V. Johnson 1,380,202 29.5
12 / 303
Decrease162 Lost
1864 George B. McClellan/George H. Pendleton 1,812,807 45.0
21 / 233
Increase9 Lost
1868 Horatio Seymour/Francis Preston Blair Jr. 2,706,829 47.3
80 / 294
Increase59 Lost
1872 Horace Greeley/Benjamin G. Brown (Liberal Republican) 2,834,761 43.8
69 / 352
Decrease11 Lost
1876 Samuel J. Tilden/Thomas A. Hendricks 4,288,546 50.9
184 / 369
Increase115 Lost[A]
1880 Winfield Scott Hancock/William H. English 4,444,260 48.2
155 / 369
Decrease29 Lost
1884 Grover Cleveland/Thomas A. Hendricks 4,914,482 48.9
219 / 401
Increase64 Won
1888 Grover Cleveland/Allen G. Thurman 5,534,488 48.6
168 / 401
Decrease51 Lost[B]
1892 Grover Cleveland/Adlai Stevenson I 5,556,918 46.0
277 / 444
Increase109 Won
1896 William Jennings Bryan/Arthur Sewall 6,509,052 46.7
176 / 447
Decrease101 Lost
1900 William Jennings Bryan/Adlai Stevenson I 6,370,932 45.5
155 / 447
Decrease21 Lost
1904 Alton B. Parker/Henry G. Davis 5,083,880 37.6
140 / 476
Decrease15 Lost
1908 William Jennings Bryan/John W. Kern 6,408,984 43.0
162 / 483
Increase22 Lost
1912 Woodrow Wilson/Thomas R. Marshall 6,296,284 41.8
435 / 531
Increase273 Won
1916 Woodrow Wilson/Thomas R. Marshall 9,126,868 49.2
277 / 531
Decrease158 Won
1920 James M. Cox/Franklin D. Roosevelt 9,139,661 34.2
127 / 531
Decrease150 Lost
1924 John W. Davis/Charles W. Bryan 8,386,242 28.8
136 / 531
Increase9 Lost
1928 Al Smith/Joseph T. Robinson 15,015,464 40.8
87 / 531
Decrease49 Lost
1932 Franklin D. Roosevelt/John Nance Garner 22,821,277 57.4
472 / 531
Increase385 Won
1936 Franklin D. Roosevelt/John Nance Garner 27,747,636 60.8
523 / 531
Increase51 Won
1940 Franklin D. Roosevelt/Henry A. Wallace 27,313,945 54.7
449 / 531
Decrease74 Won
1944 Franklin D. Roosevelt/Harry S. Truman 25,612,916 53.4
432 / 531
Decrease17 Won
1948 Harry S. Truman/Alben W. Barkley 24,179,347 49.6
303 / 531
Decrease129 Won
1952 Adlai Stevenson II/John Sparkman 27,375,090 44.3
89 / 531
Decrease214 Lost
1956 Adlai Stevenson II/Estes Kefauver 26,028,028 42.0
73 / 531
Decrease16 Lost
1960 John F. Kennedy/Lyndon B. Johnson 34,220,984 49.7
303 / 537
Increase230 Won
1964 Lyndon B. Johnson/Hubert Humphrey 43,127,041 61.1
486 / 538
Increase183 Won
1968 Hubert Humphrey/Edmund Muskie 31,271,839 42.7
191 / 538
Decrease295 Lost
1972 George McGovern/Sargent Shriver 29,173,222 37.5
17 / 538
Decrease174 Lost
1976 Jimmy Carter/Walter Mondale 40,831,881 50.1
297 / 538
Increase280 Won
1980 Jimmy Carter/Walter Mondale 35,480,115 41.0
49 / 538
Decrease248 Lost
1984 Walter Mondale/Geraldine Ferraro 37,577,352 40.6
13 / 538
Decrease36 Lost
1988 Michael Dukakis/Lloyd Bentsen 41,809,074 45.6
111 / 538
Increase98 Lost
1992 Bill Clinton/Al Gore 44,909,806 43.0
370 / 538
Increase259 Won
1996 Bill Clinton/Al Gore 47,401,185 49.2
379 / 538
Increase9 Won
2000 Al Gore/Joe Lieberman 50,999,897 48.4
266 / 538
Decrease113 Lost[C]
2004 John Kerry/John Edwards 59,028,444 48.3
251 / 538
Decrease15 Lost
2008 Barack Obama/Joe Biden 69,498,516 52.9
365 / 538
Increase114 Won
2012 Barack Obama/Joe Biden 65,915,795 51.1
332 / 538
Decrease33 Won
2016 Hillary Clinton/Tim Kaine 65,853,514 48.2
227 / 538
Decrease105 Lost[D]
2020 Joe Biden/Kamala Harris 81,268,924 51.3
306 / 538
Increase79 Won

See also


  1. ^ There are 48 senators who are members of the party; however, three independent senators, Angus King, Bernie Sanders, and Kyrsten Sinema, caucus with the Democrats, effectively giving the Democrats a 51–49 majority.
  2. ^ Grover Cleveland in 1884 and 1892
  3. ^ Elected as Vice President with the National Union Party ticket in the 1864 presidential election. Ascended to the presidency after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln in 1865. Rejoined the Democratic Party in 1868.
  4. ^ a b Died in office.
  5. ^ Republican Vice President Dick Cheney provided a tie-breaking vote, giving Republicans a majority until June 6, 2001, when Jim Jeffords left Republicans to join the Democratic Caucus.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Includes Independents caucusing with the Democrats.
  7. ^ Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris provided a tie-breaking vote, giving Democrats a majority throughout the 117th Congress.
  8. ^ While there was no official Democratic nominee, the majority of the Democratic electors still cast their electoral votes for incumbent Vice President Richard Mentor Johnson.
  1. ^ Although Tilden won a majority of the popular vote, Republican Rutherford B. Hayes won a majority of votes in the Electoral College.
  2. ^ Although Cleveland won a plurality of the popular vote, Republican Benjamin Harrison won a majority of votes in the Electoral College.
  3. ^ Although Gore won a plurality of the popular vote, Republican George W. Bush won a majority of votes in the Electoral College.
  4. ^ Although Clinton won a plurality of the popular vote, Republican Donald Trump won a majority of votes in the Electoral College.


  1. ^ "About the Democratic Party". Democratic Party. Archived from the original on April 6, 2022. Retrieved April 15, 2022. For 171 years, [the Democratic National Committee] has been responsible for governing the Democratic Party
  2. ^ Democratic Party (March 12, 2022). "The Charter & The Bylaws of the Democratic Party of the United States" (PDF). p. 3. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 27, 2022. Retrieved April 15, 2022. The Democratic National Committee shall have general responsibility for the affairs of the Democratic Party between National Conventions
  3. ^ Cole, Donald B. (1970). Jacksonian Democracy in New Hampshire, 1800–1851. Harvard University Press. p. 69. ISBN 978-0-67-428368-8.
  4. ^ Winger, Richard (December 29, 2023). "December 2023 Ballot Access News Print Edition". Ballot Access News. Archived from the original on December 28, 2022. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  5. ^ a b c Arnold, N. Scott (2009). Imposing values: an essay on liberalism and regulation. Oxford University Press. p. 3. ISBN 9780495501121. Archived from the original on October 2, 2020. Retrieved April 28, 2020. Modern liberalism occupies the left-of-center in the traditional political spectrum and is represented by the Democratic Party in the United States.
  6. ^ "President Obama, the Democratic Party, and Socialism: A Political Science Perspective". The Huffington Post. June 29, 2012. Archived from the original on March 24, 2019. Retrieved January 9, 2015.
  7. ^ Hale, John (1995). The Making of the New Democrats. New York: Political Science Quarterly. p. 229.
  8. ^ Dewan, Shaila; Kornblut, Anne E. (October 30, 2006). "In Key House Races, Democrats Run to the Right". The New York Times. Archived from the original on July 27, 2019. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  9. ^ Irwin, Lauren (October 13, 2023). "Democratic centrists offer to back McHenry as temporary House leader".
  10. ^ "Centrist Democrats target Lauren Boebert and Derrick Van Orden in 2024".
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  19. ^ a b "The Democratic Party, founded in 1828, is the world's oldest political party" states Janda, Kenneth; Berry, Jeffrey M.; Goldman, Jerry (2010). The Challenge of Democracy: American Government in Global Politics. Cengage Learning. p. 276. ISBN 9780495906186.
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  86. ^ Black, Earl; Black, Merle (2003). "The Rise of Southern Republicans". Harvard University Press. Archived from the original on June 12, 2018. Retrieved June 9, 2018. When the Republican party nominated Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater—one of the few northern senators who had opposed the Civil Rights Act—as their presidential candidate in 1964, the party attracted many racist southern whites but permanently alienated African-American voters. Beginning with the Goldwater-versus-Johnson campaign more southern whites voted Republican than Democratic, a pattern that has recurred in every subsequent presidential election. ... Before the 1964 presidential election the Republican party had not carried any Deep South state for eighty-eight years. Yet shortly after Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, hundreds of Deep South counties gave Barry Goldwater landslide majorities.
  87. ^ Miller, Gary; Schofield, Norman (2003). "Activists and Partisan Realignment in the United States". American Political Science Review. 97 (2): 245–260. doi:10.1017/S0003055403000650. ISSN 1537-5943. S2CID 12885628. By 2000, however, the New Deal party alignment no longer captured patterns of partisan voting. In the intervening 40 years, the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts had triggered an increasingly race-driven distinction between the parties. ... Goldwater won the electoral votes of five states of the Deep South in 1964, four of them states that had voted Democratic for 84 years (Califano 1991, 55). He forged a new identification of the Republican party with racial conservatism, reversing a century-long association of the GOP with racial liberalism. This in turn opened the door for Nixon's "Southern strategy" and the Reagan victories of the eighties.
  88. ^ Valentino, Nicholas A.; Sears, David O. (2005). "Old Times There Are Not Forgotten: Race and Partisan Realignment in the Contemporary South". American Journal of