In the storm of political bickering, allegations and attack ads this election season, it’s easy to lose track of what the candidates and their political parties actually stand for. Many potential voters who’ve grown weary of the endless stream of negative campaigning may have the misconception that Barack Obama and the Democrats really aren’t all that different from Mitt Romney and the Republicans.

But take a quick look at the official 2012 platforms of the Democratic and Republican parties, and you’ll quickly some pretty extreme contrasts in philosophy on everything from taxes to abortion. In their national party platforms, the Democrats and Republicans have laid out a set of fundamentally different visions for America and the role its government should play in our lives.

On the public radio show This American Life, host Ira Glass notes the widening chasm between the two parties:

“Everyone knows that politics is now so divided in our country that not only do the two sides disagree on the solutions to the country’s problems, they don’t even agree on what the problems are. It’s two versions of the world in collision.”

Even the frequency of key words used in the two documents is indicative of the parties’ very differing perspectives. Take the mention of “God” for example: In the Republican party platform it appears 10 times. In the Democratic platform: once (added in only after a lengthy debate). Likewise, the Constitution (or some variation thereof, like “constitutional”) is referenced 60 times in the Republican platform as compared to just six in the Democratic one.

Taken directly from the Republican and Democratic party Platforms, here are some of the widest divides on major issues that may impact you (click on the image link – above left – to download PDF).

Take the party platform quiz to see which party you best fit into.

Nine Big Differences Between Republicans and Democrats 22 February,2016Matthew Green


Matthew Green

Matthew Green produces and edits The Lowdown, KQED’s multimedia news education blog, an online resource for educators and the general public. He previously taught journalism at Fremont High School in East Oakland, and has written for numerous local publications, including the Oakland Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle. Email:; Twitter: @MGreenKQED

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