Political parties rate among the least popular institutions of American government. Poll after poll has revealed that a sizable percentage of Americans hold the two major parties — the Republicans and Democrats — in low esteem. In many respects, however, political parties are the lubricant that allows democracy to function smoothly. Parties inform citizens of the issues, teach democratic values, and reach out to voters. They bring citizens and officeholders together in policy coalitions, and facilitate the wheels of government, turning public preferences into policy.