Democrats vs. Republicans: Here are the 5 biggest differences between the parties in 2016


Democrats and Republicans often have different policy positions. But this election, between the presidential nominees and the party platforms, the two parties are completely opposed on many issues. Here are the five most important policy areas where the two parties fundamentally disagree.


The platform released at the Republican National Convention reaffirmed the longtime party position on abortion: Republicans vehemently oppose it. They say public funds should not go to Planned Parenthood because the organization helps women get abortions. Donald Trump drew criticism earlier in the campaign when he said women should be punished if they receive an abortion where it is outlawed, a position he later withdrew. 

As in past years, Democrats are on the other end of spectrum. The party's position is broadly in-favor of reproductive choice for women, a position Hillary Clinton has long advocated.

LM Otero/AP

LGBT Rights

The GOP platform makes no mention of the terms "LGBT" or "transgender," while the Democratic platform mentions them dozens of times, but there's no doubt Republicans have a strong stance on the subject. The Republicans remain opposed to gay marriage while Democrats continue to support it. Democrats say they will advocate aggressively for transgender Americans, a reference to a national debate over whether public bathrooms should be gender-neutral.  

Clinton has painted herself as the candidate in lock-step with LGBT rights. But Trump is not entirely out-of-step with the equality many LGBT Americans seek. Trump initially opposed the North Carolina law that prohibits transgender people from using a bathroom different from the gender they were born with, but later flip-flopped to support the law.  Gay rights activists in the GOP view Trump as a far more acceptable candidate than other anti-LGBT Republicans. 

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Global Warming and Energy Production

In this election, Republicans are calling to extract and burn vast quantities of fossil fuels from underneath American soil. But Democrats, following the lead of President Barack Obama, want to dial down the use of coal, oil and other fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy. Democrats say they want to evaluate all federal decisions to ensure they do not "exacerbate" global warming. Republicans want the free market to independently determine what energy source will power the country. 

Trump has campaigned strongly in favor of coal, blasting Obama's "war on coal" in places like Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Clinton has said use of fossil fuels needs to decrease. But she seemed "inclined" to support the Keystone XL pipeline as secretary of state — a project opposed by many environmentalists and a position Bernie Sanders needled her on in the primary — before saying she opposed the project in late 2015. 

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This one is fairly simple: Republicans and Trump want a wall, while Democrats and Clinton favor making immigration to the U.S. easier. The Democrats favor a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in America. Trump has called for deporting those people, all 11 million of them, and issuing a religious test to people coming to the U.S. from countries that have produced terrorists, though he may have softened on those positions.

While not all Republicans have stood with Trump's hardline immigration positions, the party opposes the actions Obama has taken to extend amnesty to immigrants already in the U.S. and wants to ensure public funds do not go to people in the country illegally. Democrats want to soften rules that create substantial barriers to legal immigration, like several-year waiting periods. 

Gregory Bull/AP


Republicans and Democrats have fundamentally different visions about how to amend the American tax code. Republicans say they oppose tax policies that "promote class warfare" and want to cut corporate income taxes. Meanwhile, Democrats want wealthy Americans and corporations to "pay their fair share."