Family Feud: Democratic Activists v. Democratic Voters - The Ideological Gulf that Thwarts a Sustained Majority

Members of the press should read this report:

Family Feud: Democratic Activists v. Democratic Voters - The Ideological Gulf that Thwarts a Sustained Majority

The GOP voters and activists aren't very far apart, ideologically. However, there is a statistically significant gap separating Democratic Party Activists from mainstream voters.

I believe the press and chattering class are closer to the activists than the voters — which is why they can't believe Rick Santorum might run a close national campaign against Pres. Obama. Santorum is like an "alien" to Democratic activists.
Ruth Marcus writes at the Washington Post:
In the 10 presidential elections since 1972, Democratic activists — those who attended a campaign event and donated money — rated themselves an average of 3.06 on a 7-point liberal-to-conservative ideological scale, with 4 being “moderate.” By contrast, those who merely identify as Democrats or lean that way were significantly closer to the center, an average of 3.77.

This “ideological gulf,” Eberly argues, coincides with — and helps explain — decreased party loyalty. Since 1970, Democratic-leaning independents have increased from fewer than one in five members of the Democratic coalition to one in three. This shifting composition makes a difference.

In short, Democrats are a distinctly purple party with blue leadership. Republicans are a uniformly red party becoming redder by the year. Those clashing palettes frame the parties’ very different challenges.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/democrates-must-chase-independents-to-win/2012/02/21/gIQA74p3RR_story.html
So, the Democrats have a split party, while the GOP is more uniform. However, I'd argue that GOP leadership is more "purple" than its base, which is why party elders support moderate candidates, overall, while the average GOP voter and activists alike want more conservative alternatives.

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