The many faces of the Republican Party

Under the two big tents that are the Democratic and Republican parties are a number of different types of partisans. A major poll from the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation segments people who affiliate with a political party into distinct groups based on their differing values, views on politics and policies. The analysis identifies four groups of Democrats and five Republican groups. Read on for a full rundown of the key differences within the groups and see where you might fit. Explore all the poll questions and detailed results.

 Old School Republicans – 22 percent of all Republicans

Large shares are male, white, and wealthy with relatively liberal views on social issues, but more conservative views on other issues, particularly economic ones.

Demographics  

  • Six in 10  (59 percent) are male;
  • Nearly all are white (93 percent);
  • Most apt of any group to have a college degree (40 percent), and have incomes of $100,000+;
  • Highest levels of employment – seven in 10 are employed either full-time or part-time
  • A third live in a military household;
  • Least religious of the Republican groups – about four in 10 seldom or never attend religious services.

Values

  • Almost all prefer a smaller government with fewer services (96 percent) and nearly all say that it isn’t the government’s responsibility to improve people’s standard of living;
  • Almost three-quarters say government regulation does more harm than good;
  • Six in 10 say that abortion should be legal, slightly fewer, but a majority - 54 percent - say that gay marriage should be legal;
  • 80 percent think that we should be more tolerant of others who don’t share our morals;
  • Only one in 10 agrees that one of the big problems in this country is that we don’t give everyone an equal chance;
  • Religion in public life is NOT a priority for this group. Eight in 10 (82 percent) say organized religion has no role in politics and a similar share think there should be a high degree of separation between church and state;
  • 83 percent strongly agree that people are responsible for their own well-being.

Politics

  • Six in 10 describe themselves as a “strong Republican” and almost all (92 percent) support Romney;
  • Seven in 10 say their political views are conservative, but with most of that group saying they are just “somewhat conservative”;
  • Three in 10 view their stance on social issues as moderate, another one in 10 say their views on this topic are liberal;
  • On fiscal issues, 84 percent say their views are conservative.

Policy   

  • Almost nine in 10 would like to avoid a big increase in the deficit rather than increasing federal spending to create jobs;
  • Not surprisingly, a majority (56 percent) opposes raising taxes on the rich to decrease the deficit;
  • While 58 percent have a very unfavorable view of the health reform law, they are split on whether they prefer to keep Medicare as is or whether they want to switch to a Ryan-like plan;
  • Half say illegal immigrants should be deported, two-thirds strongly oppose stricter gun controls;
  • But, a majority (58 percent) would like to see Republicans compromise with Democrats.

“Tea party” movement Republicans – 28 percent of Republicans

These are the most conservative group of Republicans, with most identifying themselves as tea party supporters and large shares holding extremely strong views on the issues.

Demographics  

  • Evenly split between men and women;
  • Almost everyone in this group is white (92 percent);
  • Overall, they are fairly well-off with half reporting a household income of more than $75,000;
  • Few are young (only 7 percent are between the ages of 18-29), half are older than 50;
  • Most are married (84 percent, largest of any group of Republicans) and a small, but notable share say they are homemakers (12 percent);
  • Nearly all own their own home (93 percent);
  • Seven in 10 attend regularly attend religious services.

Values

  • 98 percent prefer smaller government with fewer services, 86 percent say regulation harms businesses, 97 percent think that it isn’t the government’s responsibility to take care of people;
  • 86 percent strongly think we should NOT adjust our morals to the changing times;
  • Similar share (87 percent) say that abortion should be illegal in all or most cases and more (94 percent) say gay marriage should be illegal;
  • 84 percent disagree with the statement that equal treatment will lead to fewer problems;
  • 84 percent say that it’s important for religious groups to stand up for their beliefs;
  • Eight in 10 strongly feel that people should be responsible for their own economic well-being.

Politics

  • 86 percent say they support the tea party movement with 46 percent STRONGLY supporting it;
  • 83 percent identify themselves as “strong Republicans” and 98 percent plan to vote for Romney in November;
  • This group is very politically motivated – eight in 10 are “very interested” in the presidential campaign, 86 percent have made up their mind on who to vote for, and they have the highest proportion among all the Republican groups who are registered to vote;
  • Six in 10 say their political views are VERY conservative, same goes for their views on social issues. When it comes to fiscal issues, that number rises to 74 percent;
  • They are the most in sync with GOP leaders – 71 percent say leaders are taking the party in right direction. Similarly, 72 percent say the GOP shares most of their values, and 81 percent say the Democratic Party shares hardly any or none;
  • They have a very “homogenous” social circle, with 77 percent saying most of their friends and family are Republicans.

Policy   

  • Two-thirds are very dissatisfied with our political system and 73 percent say that Republicans should stick to their guns and not compromise with the Democrats;
  • Seven in 10 rate the economy as poor, and nearly all (94 percent) prefer to avoid an increase in the deficit rather than spend more to create jobs;
  • Nearly two-thirds don’t see government as playing a crucial role in delivering goods and services;
  • One thing this group is optimistic about: four in 10 (42 percent) believe people that who hold values similar to their own are gaining influence;
  • The only partisan group where a majority supports a Ryan-like switch in Medicare;
  • Most supportive of deporting undocumented immigrants (60 percent);
  • Half – 52 percent -- are focused on the deficit as the top economic issue facing the country (jobs a distant No. 2 at 22 percent;
  • Their views on the issues are of course, staunchly Republican, but the difference is the intensity of those views. In general, their views are stronger than any other Republican group:
    • 83 percent have a VERY unfavorable view of the health reform law;
    • 66 percent strongly oppose a tax on junk food;
    • 40 percent strongly feel that greenhouse gases SHOULD NOT be regulated;
    • 74 percent strongly oppose stricter gun control laws.

Religious values voters – 21 percent of Republicans

More female, focused on the country’s religious heritage, conservative on social and fiscal issues – the most middle-range on “equality” measures.

Demographics  

  • More female, they represent 58 percent of this group;
  • Nearly all are white (91 percent) and few are extremely low-income (10 percent report having an income less than $20,000);
  • This group is moderately religious – 58 percent attend church weekly, 70 percent of Christians identify as Evangelical;
  • 17 percent have a college degree or higher, which is lower than most Republican groups;
  • Few of these Republicans live in the West (17 percent, lowest of any group) and a sizable share live in rural areas (28 percent).

Values 

  • Although they are only moderately religious, religion in public life is a defining group characteristic;
  • Eight in 10 think organized religion has a role in politics and similar shares say that the government should take special steps to protect “America’s religious heritage”;
  • Three-quarters say abortion should be illegal and seven in ten strongly feel that gay marriage should be illegal;
  • Three-quarters strongly feel that people should be responsible for their own economic well-being and six in 10 say that those who don’t get ahead can only blame themselves;
  • Compared to other GOP groups, their views on the size of government are fairly moderate, but still most prefer a smaller government structure than a larger one;
  • Two-thirds say that regulation of business does more harm than good and seven in 10 think that individuals should take care of themselves and not rely on the government;
  • Most of this group is in the middle of the road on equality with 44 percent agreeing that one of the problems in the United States is that we don’t give people an equal chance.

Politics

  • Many (72 percent) identify as a “strong” Republican;
  • About seven in 10 consider themselves to be conservative on most political and social issues. Three-quarters say they are conservative on fiscal issues;
  • Nine in 10 plan to vote for Romney in November, similar to the share that voted for McCain in 2008.

Policy   

  • These Republicans are fairly moderate on their policy positions;
  • Seven in 10 support regulating greenhouse gases, two-thirds would like to keep Medicare as is, a majority supports a tax on junk food, offering illegal immigrants a chance to apply for legal residency;
  • Like Republicans overall, they dislike the health reform law (84 percent unfavorable);
  • When it comes to the economy, they still prefer to avoid a big increase in the deficit rather than spending more money to improve the job situation;
  • They are very opposed to reducing military spending in order to lower the deficit.

Pro-government conservatives (12 percent of Republicans)

This highly religious group holds very conservative views on social issues, but are also open to the idea of a larger government.

Demographics  

  • About equal shares of men and women;
  • Over a quarter (27 percent) have an annual household income under $20,000;
  • Going hand in hand with income, only a third (35 percent) report being employed full-time;
  • The group is slightly younger;
  • A lower share of whites (78 percent);
  • Arguably the most religious with three quarters saying they attend church weekly. A quarter have never been married, higher than most groups.

Values 

  • Six in 10 say that the government should do everything possible to improve the standard of living for everyone;
  • Pro-government conservatives are divided on whether government regulation is necessary or whether it does more harm than good (44 percent vs 48 percent);
  • This group is much more sympathetic towards others; seven in 10 disagree with the statement that people who don’t get ahead can only blame themselves;
  • About three-quarters think religion has a place in politics and that government should take steps to protect religious groups;
  • Over half say abortion should be illegal and 80 percent strongly feel that  gay marriage should be illegal.

Politics

  • Even though many hold somewhat moderate views on the size of the government, six in 10 still identify as a “strong” Republican;
  • Six in 10 consider themselves to be conservative on most political matters, similar to the share that say the same for social and fiscal matters;
  • Only four in 10 say they support  the tea party movement, the lowest of any Republican group.

Policy   

  • Similar to Window Shoppers and Religious values voters, this group, has fairly moderate views on policy;
  • A third have a favorable view of the health reform law, over half support allowing illegal immigrants to stay, and about half favor stricter gun control and a tax on junk food. Three-quarters are in favor of regulating greenhouse gases;
  • While their views on policies tend to lean more towards the middle, this group is dissatisfied with the way the political system is working and a majority would like Republicans to stick to their positions, rather than cooperate with the Democrats;
  • Breaking the status quo among most groups of Republicans, a slim majority (53 percent) would like to see more federal dollars devoted to creating jobs and improving the economy, rather than avoiding an increase in the deficit.

Window shoppers (17 percent of Republicans)

Young Republicans, whose values and policy views approach Democrats.

Demographics  

  • Four in 10 (41 percent) are 18-29 years old;
  • A little over half (55 percent) are female;
  • Smallest share of whites (68 percent) – over a third of all non-white Republicans are in this group;
  • Because this group is younger, most likely to say they are renters (36 percent) and never married (38 percent);
  • Not very religious (36 percent attend services seldom or never).

Values 

  • More favorable towards the idea of “big government”;
  • Seven in 10 say government regulation of big business is necessary to protect the public, similar share says government should do everything possible to improve the standard of living for all Americans;
  • Over half (54 percent) prefer a larger government with many services;
  • About as many disagree as agree that government controls too much of daily life;
  • Half strongly think that gay marriage should be legal, another quarter somewhat;
  • Six in 10 (63 percent) think organized religion should stay out of politics;
  • Compared with other Republicans, fairly moderate when it comes to economic individualism: only three in 10 strongly agree that people who don’t get ahead only have themselves to blame.

Politics

  • Don’t really identify with the Republican party – 62 percent describe themselves as “not a very strong Republican”;
  • Only half say most of their friends and family are Republicans, a quarter say most are independents;
  • One in five are not registered to vote;
  • Nearly four in 10 (37 percent) are leaning towards voting for Obama, 40 percent voted for in him 2008 and a similar share say the vote for Republicans and Democrats about equally when it comes to presidential elections;
  • 18 percent describe their views on political issues as “liberal”, 22 percent say the same for social issues (the highest among any Republican group).

Policy   

  • In general, this group is more open to progressive policies, more satisfied with the political system and the economy;
  • Four in 10 are satisfied with the country’s political system and fewer say that the economy is “poor” compared with other groups;
  • Seven in 10 say the GOP should cooperate with Democrats;
  • 69 percent say that the Democratic party shares at least some of their values, close to the 83 percent who say the same thing about the Republican party;
  • They are also more supportive of traditionally Democratic policies;
  • Half prefer to increase federal spending to create jobs, rather than avoid an increase in the deficit;
  • 35 percent favorable towards the health reform law, 68 percent want to keep Medicare as is;
  • Over half (56 percent) strongly believe that greenhouse gases should be regulated, 49 percent say they favor stricter gun control.

 

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