Republicans want their party to change, by becoming more conservative

August 23, 2013

Republicans agree on one thing: They want their party to change.


A new Pew Research Center study shows 65 percent say their party needs to address "major problems" to compete in future presidential elections, while 59 percent say it needs to reconsider some of its core positions.

But just exactly what kind of changes they want has been a little harder to pin down. As we've noted before, displeasure with party leadership is pretty universal, from the most conservative Republicans to the most moderate ones.

If anything, Republicans want their party to be more conservative, the Pew poll finds.

Given the choice between a more moderate course and a more conservative one, 54 percent choose a more conservative one, while 41 percent choose moderation.

And asked about whether their party has compromised too much, too little or just the right amount, Republicans split into three pretty equal camps. Just 29 percent say it hasn't compromised enough.

Much of the debate in Washington in recent years has centered on Democrats' argument that Republicans are obstructionists who stand in the way of anything Democrats try to do. And the GOP in a lot of ways has gotten more conservative.

This poll makes clear that that's just fine with the party's base, which is in no rush to come to the middle on issues like immigration -- even as it recognizes that it needs to change in some way.

As we've written before, if you're a GOP leader or a potential presidential candidate, we're not sure what you take away from these numbers -- apart from that it's probably best to err on the side of being more conservative.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix, the Post’s top political blog.
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Sean Sullivan | August 23, 2013