Although the left and right ideological wings of the Democratic and Republican parties seem to grab all the oxygen in the room, a Pew Research study released late Thursday indicated "they make up a minority of the public."
"The center is large and diverse," the study noted, "unified by frustration with politics and little else."
The study, in drawing its conclusions, sorted voters into groups based on their attitudes and values. Among the partisan voters, it said, are steadfast conservatives, business conservatives and solid liberals. Among the less partisan, less predictable voters are young outsiders (conservative views on government, not social issues), hard pressed skeptics (financially stressed and pessimistic), next-generation left (young, liberal on social issues, less so on social safety net), faith and family left (racially diverse and religious) and bystanders (young, diverse, on the sidelines of politics).
Below are some of the surprising findings inside the study:
• Questions on individualism provide a very telling story on the current state of politics but offer hope for the future. Only 29 percent of solid liberals say "most people can get ahead if they're willing to work hard." But 82 percent of the faith and family left, 77 percent of the next-generation left, 76 percent of young outsiders, 88 percent of business conservatives and 81 percent of steadfast conservatives say what has been true in the United States for more than 200 years -- that individualism is a bulwark for success -- is still valid.
• A third of solid liberals (33 percent), even more than steadfast conservatives (31 percent), understand "some reductions in [Social Security] benefits will be necessary.
• Racism, a trait solid liberals often hang with impunity on conservatives, is not overtly characterized in any set of voters, at least as far as being "sometimes uncomfortable ... around people not of my race." The percentages range from only 13 percent (bystanders) to 4 percent (next-generation left).
• The percentage of voters satisfied with the state of the nation was not a majority in any category. The most satisfied (49 percent) were the next-generation left. Indeed, only 39 percent of solid liberals were satisfied after six years under the most liberal president in the country's history, yet the same group gave the president his highest (84 percent) approval rating. Meanwhile, only 2 percent of business conservatives approved of him.
• Oddly, 5 percent of solid liberals always or usually always vote Republican, and 4 percent of steadfast conservatives always or usually always vote Democratic.
• The highest numbers in the study on any issue are the percentage of business conservatives (96 percent) who disapprove of the job President Obama is doing and the percentage of solid liberals (96 percent) who believe undocumented immigrants "should be eligible [for citizenship] if [they] meet certain requirements."
• The lowest percentage on any issue is the percent of steadfast conservatives (0 percent) who say they "trust government just about always." Those who do most (10 percent) -- still not many -- are the bystanders because they are, well, bystanders.
• The left, interestingly, is most skewed on the necessity "to believe in God to be moral and have good values." Of its faith and family left, 91 percent agree on the necessity, but only 7 percent of the next-generation left go along with it.
• With the exception of solid liberals (30 percent), the majority of people in all other categories of voters "favor building the Keystone XL pipeline."
• Being a "fast-food lover" and "couldn't vacation without my smartphone" do not play political favorites. Fast food is craved most by hard pressed skeptics (21 percent) and least by solid liberals (14 percent), while those who can't be without their smartphones range from bystanders (29 percent) to steadfast conservatives (15 percent).
• Business conservatives (81 percent) most often "feel proud to be an American." Those who least often feel such pride are bystanders (39 percent) and solid liberals (40 percent).
• Steadfast conservatives (72 percent) most often describe themselves as a "religious person." Solid liberals (27 percent) least often describe themselves as such.
• About the same number of steadfast conservatives (26 percent) as solid liberals (20 percent) believe "not everything in [the Bible] should be taken literally, word for word."
• Sadly, something just about every voter can agree on, which explains some of the apathy in the electorate and should give all candidates pause, is that "elected officials in Washington lose touch quickly with the people they represent." A majority in every category said that, ranging from the faith and family left (64 percent) to steadfast conservatives (91 percent).