How Republicans and Democrats Differ on 11 Key National Issues [w/Downloadable Chart]

Ah, election season. How I love thee.

In the tsunami of allegations and attack ads marking the run-up to November's hotly contested midterm races, it's easy to lose track (and interest) of what the candidates and their political parties actually stand for, and just how much is at stake. Midterm elections generally garner far less attention than presidential contests, leaving a huge segment of eligible voters in America largely uniformed and disinterested about outcomes. Perhaps most consequential in this election is the fate of the U.S. Senate, which Democrats stand to lose to control of.

The question, then, is so what? Are America's two ruling political parties really all that different from each other?

Short answer: yes.

Browse through the official platforms of the Democratic and Republican parties (adopted in 2012), and you'll notice some pretty extreme contrasts in philosophy on everything from taxes to abortion. In these documents, both parties have laid out a set of fundamentally different visions for America and the role government should play in our lives.

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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' drastically contrasting 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 lengthy debate). Likewise, mention of "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. And while Democrats make multiple references to the "climate change" and the urgency of addressing it, there is not single mention of it in the entire Republican platform.

Click the image above to download the PDF. Excepts are taken directly from the platforms of both parties platforms, illustrating some of the widest divides on a range of major national issues. Download the PDF above or browse through the interactive version below.

Not sure what side you're on? Take this Procon.org party platform identity quiz.