Political parties are less about ideology and more about getting individual elected.
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Check this article, especially the section about the history of presidential elections in the USA:
From 1789 to 1832, political parties were only a convenience to assemble together people with the same ideology. However, candidates only represented themselves in elections and having several candidates from the same party was the norm.
The 1838 and 1840 presidential elections saw the transition between that old state of affairs and the one which we know today: political parties became electoral machines whose main (and sometimes sole) purpose was to get individuals elected.
The important thing to understand, as the article above demonstrates, is that this is due to the poor election method used (Plurality Voting) in our modern (post 18th century) democracies. We would have something very different if we used better election methods, like those implemented in this web site.
Today, in the USA as in other countries, candidates leave and join parties not for the ideology they purportedly represent, but for the opportunity they represent to get elected. How many politicians left the Libertarian Party to run as a Republican or left the Green Party to run as a Democrat? What unites Dennis Kucinich and Barak Obama apart from their apparent political affiliation?
The advanced polling features used in this web site allows to create polls to accurately gauge the popularity of individual politicians, whether or not they belong to the same party.