March 7, 2014

5 facts about Republicans

The annual Conservative Political Action Committee kicked off its annual conference Thursday, providing an early test for potential GOP presidential candidates who are addressing the thousands of activists. And while CPAC is an independent organization, it has been tackling many of the issues that are being debated among Republicans.

One of the first speakers, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz—a much-mentioned presidential hopeful and a thorn in the side of Republicans who want to move the party away from some of the hardline positions of recent years—ticked off a list of the more mainstream Republican presidential candidates who went down to defeat in recent years and said, “When you don’t stand and draw a clear distinction, when you don’t stand for principle, Democrats celebrate.”

Here are five facts about conservatives and Republicans:

Republican presidential candidate preferences1At this early point, polls so far this year by ABC News/Washington Post and McClatchy/Marist show a wide open field for the Republican presidential nomination without a front-runner like the party had in Mitt Romney in 2012. A big focus at CPAC will be on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was not invited last year at a time when his star was rising, and whose image has since been damaged by the bridge scandal in his home state. Less than a third (30%) of Republicans said they would definitely not vote for him if he ran for president, according to an ABC News/Post poll conducted Feb. 27-Mar. 2.

Direction of the Republican Party2 After two consecutive losses in presidential elections, most Republicans agree the party needs to address major problems, but there is little agreement on what a new direction should be. More than half (54%) of Republicans said in a Pew Research Center survey last July that the party should move in a more conservative direction while 40% said a more moderate approach was needed. While about six-in-ten of Republicans overall said the party needed to reconsider some of its positions, Republicans aligned with the Tea Party, by a 51% to 46% margin, wanted to mainly make a stronger case for current positions. (About four-in-ten (41%) Republicans and Republican leaners agree with the Tea Party movement, while 45% say they have no opinion either way and an additional 2% volunteer that they haven’t heard of the movement, according to a survey conducted last October.) 

3 GOP voters are divided on several major issues on whether the party’s positions are too conservative or not conservative enough, according to the July survey. The general sentiment is that the party should commit to more conservative positions. But there is disagreement on abortion and gay marriage, where about as many Republicans want the party to move in a more moderate direction as those who support a more conservative stance.

4 Republicans aren’t in agreement about out how and whether to address poverty and economic inequality. House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan has put the issue of how to deal with poverty on the GOP agenda this year, but conservative and centrist Republicans differ widely on how to approach that subject, as well as income inequality, according to a January survey that analyzed Republicans and leaners. Nearly eight-in-ten (78%) liberal and moderate Republicans believe their government should do some or a lot to reduce poverty compared to 60% of conservatives Republicans. About six-in-ten (61%) liberal and moderate Republicans say government should do some or a lot to reduce the gap between the rich and everyone else. But only 40% of conservative Republicans share this view.

Republicans unhappy with the job the GOP is doing on pushing its traditional issues5 While conservative and more moderate wings of the GOP may disagree on a range of issues, there is simmering dissatisfaction among all Republicans with the job the party is doing. Just 28% of Republicans believe the party is doing a good job in standing up for its traditional positions of smaller government, tax-cutting and conservative social values, according to a January survey. The percentage of Republicans and leaners who rate the party’s performance positively has fallen 12 points since the GOP took control of the House in November 2010.

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Political Attitudes and Values, Political Issue Priorities, Political Party Affiliation, U.S. Political Parties

  1. Photo of Bruce Drake

    is a senior editor at Pew Research Center.

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  1. Dana Garner2 years ago

    Looks pretty negative to me. I don’t agree at all. Looks like main stream media bias to me.

  2. Karen Manrique2 years ago

    It is increasingly difficult to identify sources to trust. Thank you for being one we can ALWAYS rely on.