If you have ever watched or read about a presidential debate, or any political debate for that matter, then you must have heard about Democrats who are left-wing liberals or Republicans that classify themselves as right-wing conservatives. If you are confused what all of that political malarkey means, then don’t worry, this guide will help clarify what those terms mean. Below is a list of the different political views in America.

Political Parties

A political party is the competing interest groups or individuals for power and leadership. There are two major political parties in the United States (Democrats and Republicans). There are many other minor parties including the Independent American Party (IAP). The United States has a two-party system because it has two political parties (Democrats and Republicans) that dominate the government. Follow the links below to see what each party is campaigning for.

Democrats: A Democrat is a person who supports democracy. The Democratic Party was first founded as the Democratic-Republican Party by Thomas Jefferson in 1792. The modern Democratic Party is the oldest continuing party in the United States (since 1848).

RepublicansA Republican is a person who supports a republic. It used to be known as the Whig Party and the Free Soil Party prior to the founding of the Republican Party in 1854. Today, the Republican Party is now referred to as the Grand Old Party (GOP).

Independent American Party (IAP): The IAP (commonly referred to as the Independent Party) was founded in 1998 but first started as the Utah Independent Party in 1993. The IAP is not as popular as the other two major political parties, but it has a decent number of supporters given how young the party is.

Political Spectrum

The political spectrum refers to the range of different opinions of a political party. If a candidate says that they are a Left-Wing Republican or Democrat, then they believe in liberal values (they want to change the current system).

Left-Wing: The liberal, socialist, or radical section of a political party or system.

Centrist: A person whose political opinions are not extreme and whose beliefs fall between those of liberals and conservatives.

Right-Wing: The conservative or reactionary section of a political party or system.

Party Platform

A party platform is the list of values of a party that also wishes to make it happen. When a candidate explains what their platform is, they are referring to what their list of values are. There are many different platforms with each given issue such as healthcare, taxes, and defense spending.

Liberal: Believing that government should be active in supporting social and political change. This party wants change.

Moderate: A political or social beliefs that are not extreme and that falls between both liberal and conservative values.

Conservative: Believing in the value of established and traditional practices in politics and society. This party doesn’t want change.


Now that we understand which parties are running for the 2016 presidential election, which spectrum some candidates classify themselves as, and we know what a platform consists of, we should have a better understanding of our own ideas and which candidate closely resembles our own opinions. Which party do you believe in the most?

For example, if Bob refers to himself as a Left-Wing Democrat, then that means he supports the Democratic Party but wants a lot of changes to happen to the current government. Each candidate can be identified under a different political spectrum and party platform for each issue as well. During a debate, the media asks Bob a question about the current issue of tax reform. He comments that he will increase taxes on people who make more than $1 million in one year. Since there is no such tax yet, people will identify him as having liberal ideas on tax reform since he wants to change the current laws.

Let’s Hear From You!

Were you confused when you listened to political debates and wondered why each candidate classified themselves as a moderate democrat or a left-wing republican? It’s okay to admit it. Politics can be confusing! None of us are born with knowledge about our government. In fact, some people who run for office don’t completely follow the constitution all the time, but that’s another future article. Regardless, does this guide help you to understand the differences between a political party, spectrum, and platform are? What do you classify yourself as? Do you believe that you are a minority and have different values from the rest of your friends, city, or even state, or are you more like the majority and have similar values to most people around you?