A liberal is a person who supports viewpoints that focus on equality and freedom. This is a broad ideology that has existed for centuries and has many different interpretations. A Democrat is a member of the Democratic Party which has historically been in support of liberalism.
Democrats have been moving leftward over the last several election cycles, but there are some who don’t feel this trend toward liberalism is a good thing. Some in the party have been worried that a move too far to the left could alienate moderate or conservative voters in the party. This is particularly true if the party’s leaders push for policies such as government-run healthcare or reducing defense spending.
The polarization within the Democratic Party is even more pronounced when looking at the ideological beliefs of voters. As seen in the graph below, those with college degrees are significantly more likely to identify as liberal than those without a degree. This pattern has been consistent for years, but more recently the gap between those with a degree and those without a degree has widened.
In an age when third-party candidates often have a wide range of political views, it’s important to understand that not all Democrats fit neatly into a progressive or liberal category. It’s not uncommon for someone to be pro-choice but against affirmative action, or to favor gun control but oppose taxes and welfare. This is where the term “progressive” really caught on in recent years.