19 Biggest Issues Separating Republicans from Democrats Today

There is an expansive political divide in the United States between Republicans and Democrats. Some are basic levels of how the government should work, and others go into deep social and moral issues. Here are 19 divisive issues between the parties.

Role of Government

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Democrats generally favor a larger government role in society, including economic issues, regulations, and social welfare programs. Republicans typically advocate for a smaller government that is less involved in the economy. You can see the size of government reflected in tax issues as well as social welfare programs.

Taxes

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Democrats generally support progressive taxation, where wealthier individuals pay a higher percentage of their income. Republicans typically favor lower taxes for all, arguing that it stimulates economic growth. Democrats also believe in setting a minimum wage, while Republicans believe it should be based on the free market.

Healthcare

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Democrats generally support universal healthcare or government-funded healthcare programs, while Republicans often oppose such measures, favoring private-sector solutions. According to Pew Research, “the public is more likely to say they agree with the Democratic Party on a number of issues, including abortion policy, health care policy, and climate change policy.”

Immigration

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Republicans often prioritize stricter immigration policies, while Democrats generally advocate for more lenient immigration policies and pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Immigration is one of the leading issues in the upcoming election, with many Republicans looking to crack down on the “immigration crisis” with deportation and stronger border control. Democrats worry about deportation without asylum options.

Gun Control

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Gun control is an extremely polarizing subject, with some wanting a complete ban on gun ownership, others demanding no government control, and some falling in between, wanting strong regulation but no bans. Democrats typically favor more gun control laws, while Republicans often oppose such measures, citing the Second Amendment.

Abortion

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Democrats generally support abortion rights and keeping elective abortions legal. Republicans typically oppose abortion. This issue was brought back to the forefront when Roe v. Wade was overturned and many red states began to take away abortion availability.

Climate Change

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Democrats often prioritize addressing climate change and supporting environmental regulations, while this issue is typically less important to Republicans. “Eight in 10 Democrats (82%) see climate change as a critical threat, while just 16 percent of Republicans see it the same way; Independents meet them in the middle, at 51 percent,” according to GlobalAffairs.org.

Economy

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With inflation rising and an overall negative view of the current economy, politicians will be hammering this divide home on the campaign trail. Bloomberg reports that Republicans are often seen as better equipped to manage the economy, while Democrats focus more on income inequality and worker rights.

Foreign Policy

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Generally speaking, Democrats prefer an internationalist approach: cooperating with other countries, amplifying U.S. participation in international organizations and agreements, and providing aid to other nations. In contrast, Republicans prefer a nationalist approach: putting U.S. interests above those of other countries, creating economic self-sufficiency, and taking a unilateral approach to diplomacy and global engagement.

Education

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Democrats often prioritize education reform and increased funding for public schools. Some go as far as wanting student loan forgiveness and free higher education for all. This issue is typically less important to Republicans, who find the options for public and private higher education acceptable.

Social Issues

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Democrats generally seek greater freedoms and less government intervention in social issues, while Republicans often support more traditional values and government intervention in such matters. A few of the social issues that have come up in recent years have been the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, book banning, and reproductive rights.

Patriotism

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Conservative Republicans are more likely to mention their country or patriotic sentiments as a source of meaning in life. There’s a 32-point gap between the share of Democrats who say they’re “extremely proud” to be Americans, which is 26%, compared to Republicans who say the same (58%), per Gallup. This could account for the higher percentage of people who identify as Republican in military service.

Military Spending

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While overall the Republican Party is for a smaller government, they’re generally in support of a large military and vote to increase military budgets and spending. Democrats typically advocate for a smaller military budget.

Criminal Justice

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Republicans often prioritize crime reduction and support tough-on-crime policies. Democrats typically focus on criminal justice reform and addressing systemic biases. Often, people consider this a racial divide that further splits the nation instead of unifying it.

Government Regulation

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In an article by TheStreet, they cite an example of the different views the parties have on Wall Street regulation. “The Democratic and Republican parties disagree on most major issues. When it comes to Wall Street, however, it’s a mixed bag. Take the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. Democrats believe the bill has reined in the type of out-of-control behavior that led to the near collapse of the banking industry in 2008 and prevented a similar crisis. Republicans have criticized the legislation calling it ‘the Democrats’ legislative Godzilla.’ They feel the financial regulations have made it too difficult for small lenders and community banks and has indirectly slowed the growth of small businesses.”

Social Welfare

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While Republicans and Democrats are just as likely to receive welfare benefits at 32% and 33%, the politics are completely at odds. Democrats generally support social welfare programs, while Republicans often oppose these programs, arguing they create dependency. “The myth of the welfare queen is alive and well, unfortunately, and I don’t think Americans understand how much welfare programs have changed over the last 30 years,” says Mariam Rashid, Associate Director of Racial Equity and Justice at the Center for American Progress.

Labor Rights

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Democrats typically support strengthening labor rights such as a higher minimum wage and unions. Republicans often oppose such measures, arguing they can harm the economy and showing support for “right to work” laws. In these cases, Democrats are perceived as for the people, while Republicans are viewed as for big business.

Energy Policy

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Republicans often prioritize energy independence and support fossil fuels, while Democrats typically support renewable energy and reducing reliance on fossil fuels. “The Republican path, focused on increasing natural gas supply, involves reductions in coal and nuclear generation,” a team at Carnegie Mellon University writes. “The Democrat path, focused on restricting natural gas supply in favor of renewables, involves increases in coal and nuclear generation since there is no cost currently associated with CO2 emissions in the 2020 Democratic Party platform (like there was for the 2016 election). In both cases, the tradeoffs in generation sources offset both the positive and negative effects, leading to functionally similar outcomes in emissions reductions.”

Federal Budget Deficit

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Republicans often prioritize reducing the federal budget deficit, while this issue is typically less important to Democrats. The federal budget deficits as a percentage of GDP under Republican presidents are collectively 9% higher than under Democratic presidents.

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