The Republican Party, while divided over major issues such as abortion and gay marriage, should be moving in a more conservative direction, most Republican-minded voters surveyed say.
By a margin of 54 to 40 percent, Republican and Republican-leaning voters say the party’s leaders should move further to the right, the Pew Research Center has found in a national survey released today. This sentiment is especially strong among conservatives and those who support the loose-knit Tea Party mission of smaller government.
The moderate wing of the party is a minority and an even smaller share of the likely primary electorate, Pew found. Tea Party supporters account for almost half the party’s likely primary voters.
Republicans are divided over the question of the party compromising too much with Democrats — one of the rallying calls of Tea Party-backed candidates such as Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas, seen as two of the party’s prospective candidates for president in 2016. Among those surveyed by Pew, 35 percent said the party has compromised too much and 27 percent said not enough.
Paul holds a “very positive image” among Republicans surveyed — 55 percent view him favorably. Cruz is less-known, though generally favored by those who recognize him. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, another potential 2016 prospect, has a 50 percent favorable rating.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, seeking reelection and silent about 2016 plans for now, draws “a more mixed reaction” within his party, Pew found:47 percent view him favorably, 30 percent unfavorably.
The survey was taken before Christie engaged in a public duel of words with Paul this week, as Paul accused the governor of a “gimme gimme gimme” approach to federal aid for victims of superstorm Sandy. While Christie pointed out that New Jersey receives less federal aid than it pays the government in taxes — and Kentucky collects more than it pays — Paul called Christie “the king of bacon.”
House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the party’s 2008 nominee for vice president, has a 65 percent favorable rating — the highest of any Republicans tested in the survey. House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio stood at 44 percent, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky at 36 percent.
The survey of 1,480 adults, including 497 Republicans and Republican-leaning registered voters, was conducted July 17-21. The results for Republicans have a 5.1 percentage point margin of error.
While most want the party to move further to the right, Republicans split on some key issues. While 27 percent say the party is not conservative enough on gay marriage, 31 percent say the party is too conservative. While 26 percent say the party is not conservative enough on abortion, 25 percent say it is too conservative.
On immigration, which has divided the Democratic-run Senate and Republican-run House over a bipartisan bill that has cleared the Senate, more Republicans say the party is not conservative enough on immigration — 36 percent.
Just 17 percent say the party is too conservative on immigration, a signal of support for Republican House members concerned about heeding the sentiment of their base voters in opposing the Senate bill that offers a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Government spending stands out as the one issue on which a strong plurality of Republicans say the party is not conservative enough: 46 percent.
A majority of those surveyed — 58 percent — say the party’s position on guns is “about right.” A measure strengthening background checks for gun-buyers failed in the Senate this year with largely Republican opposition.
The Tea Party’s influence is measured not only in supporters accounting for 37 percent of all Republicans and Republican-leaning voters, Pew found. “This group is more likely than other GOP voters to say they always vote in primary elections,” Pew reports. “As a result, they make up about half of the Republican primary electorate.”