A Different Republican Party

Here are some of the highlights from GOP pollster Tony Fabrizio's mammoth survey of Republicans.

First, compared to 1997, when Fabrizio last surveyed a sample this size, more Republicans describe themselves as conservatives. The average Republican is older, attends church one a week, is a little less Protestant, a little more Catholic, or -- a lot more "other".

According to Fabrizio, the party’s social/cultural wing remains about the same size, while the economic wing has “shrunk by nearly two thirds.” Replacing those Republicans have been national security and defense voters. Free marketeers, per Fabrizio, comprise about 8 percent of the GOP electorate. They’re skeptical of government action, largely male, baby-boomerish, less frequent church-goers, and they’re not moralists. Fabrizio believes that these voters comprise Fred Thompson’s strongest voting block.

Then there are the Bush hawks – 20 percent of the Republican party, again, mostly males, they love Bush, they believe in the quest to spread democracy overseas, and many are new to the GOP.

The opposite, in some ways, of the Bush hawks are what Fabrizio’s taxonomy calls the “Fortress America” crowd, or what we used to refer to as the Buchanan Brigades. 8 percent of the party, they’re protectionist, anti-illegal immigration, and want to end the war in Iraq. They ain’t Bushies. Fabrizio says that nearly 50% of these voters hail from the south.

Then there’s one of John McCain’s strongest groups – the “Gov Knows Best GOPers”. They’re focused on “social” issues (as opposed to “cultural” issues). They’re lifelong GOPers and believe that government can and should intervene to solve social and environmental problems. They tend to have a libertarian streak and many aren’t comfortable with sky-high defense spending. This group is disproportionately female and coastal in geography.

The moralists are the largest chunk of the party – 24% in Fabrizio’s reckoning. In many ways, the media uses this group as a synecdoche for the entire GOP base. The moralists are strongly partisan, they’re very conservative, they have a lower average income than the rest of the party, mostly female and have the highest share of homemakers.

What issues circumscribe Republicans today? 36% are focused on the War on Terror and Iraq. 9 percent are driven primarily by immigration, 5 percent primarily by family values, and five percent primarily by tax cuts.

Some other nuggets:

53% of Republicans say that issue positions are more important to them than leadership qualities. Moralists are more concerned about issues than any other subgroup.

53%t agree with this statement: “The Republican Party has spent too much time focusing on moral issues such as abortion and gay marriage and should instead be spending time focusing on economic issues such as taxes and government spending”.

74% believe that Pres. Bush made the right call in Iraq.

Farbizio concludes that the is GOP united in:

– Desire to balance the budget
– Belief that government spends too much
– Belief that taxes are too high
– Belief that federal government is too big and does too
many things
– Belief that current immigrations laws should be
followed and no special treatment
– War in Iraq was the right decision
– Belief that our Foreign Policy should be based on our
own security and economic interests
– Support of employment non-discrimination for gays.

** Even 60 percent of moralists believe that private businesses should not have the right to discriminate against gay people.

There’s division in the GOP on–

Top priority – cutting taxes or balancing budget
– Whether health care coverage is a right
– Fund SS or allow private investment
– Level of military/defense spending
– Role of federal government in education
– Allowing gays to serve in the military
– Role of federal government on global warming
– Private initiative vs. government safety net
– Abortion
– Influence of religion on public policy

On abortion – 28 percent want it totally banned, 16 percent favor the status quo, and 50 percent want abortion legal only in certain circumstances. 61% identify themselves as pro-life.