Parties Within the Parties: Republicans
The Religious Conservatives
Big Business Republicans
Big Government Conservatives
They say they're Republicans. But it's difficult to understand why.
Many are largely indifferent to religion and tolerate lifestyles and behaviors that make other Republicans blush. They're far more moderate than any other Republican group: Just one in five identify themselves as politically conservative. Two in three support abortion rights.
They're mostly women, one of two Republican groups that are majority female.
For these voters, the scales of partisanship tip only slightly in favor of the GOP. Eight in 10 say they share at least some of the values of the Republican Party, though nearly as many -- seven in 10 -- say they also share at least some Democratic values as well.
They're GOP-identifying swing voters. In 1996, these voters were among the keys to Clinton's narrow victory over Republican Robert J. Dole. Fewer than half of these Republicans said they voted for Dole, the largest proportion of defectors of any group in either party.
They're issue voters -- barely one in seven say a presidential candidate's ethics and morals will determine their vote in 2000. In other ways, traditional morality intrudes only lightly into their politics. Majorities accept divorce, premarital sex and having children out of wedlock, and are far more tolerant of homosexuality than other GOP voters (but less tolerant than most Democrats).
They also are the Republicans who view big government most favorably: Fully half say they support a "larger government with more services" over a smaller government. Six in 10 view government regulation of business as "necessary," while two in three say government needs to protect consumers in managed care health plans.
These voters are the conservative Christian core of the Republican Party.
They're the most religious and politically active group in either party and see their activism as a natural and necessary extension of their religious beliefs. Eight in 10 say it's important for religious people to "stand up for their beliefs in poli tics." Three out of four say religious values should have a greater influence in politics and public life, the highest of any group.
These voters also are the most conservative in contemporary American politics. Nearly eight in 10 say they are conservative -- and more than a third say they are "very conservative" -- three times higher than any other Republican group.
They're well-educated -- one in seven has attended graduate or professional school -- and financially comfortable. Half make at least $50,000 a year, and one in four have household incomes of $75,000 or more.
They're also loyal. Just under half say they strongly identify with the GOP, the highest in either party. They're voters, too: Three out of four say they're certain to vote; that's at least 17 percentage points higher than any other group. Nearly half say a candidate's "morals and ethics" will be the most important factor in choosing a president, the most of any group.
Their numbers, voting history and commitment to the GOP combine to give them political muscle. But their extreme positions on many issues isolate them from other Republicans as well as from Democrats.
Nearly 60 percent say sex before marriage is not merely wrong but should not be tolerated, more than 20 percentage points higher than any other Republican group. Six in 10 strongly agree that "government controls too much of our daily lives" -- easily the highest of any group.
They strongly oppose legalized casino gambling and physician-assisted suicide and are the most likely of any group to support school vouchers.
If you stay on your side of the fence, they'll stay on theirs. And what exactly you're doing over there, they don't really want to know.
These voters are financially successful. Three in 10 live in the western United States. The majority are mar ried but only a third have young children at home.
Religion -- or the lack thereof -- separates these voters from other Republicans. They are the least religious among GOP groups -- only 3 percent say their religious faith is the single most important thing in their lives, compared with 42 percent of Religious Conservatives.
They also want religion kept out of public life. Seven in 10 say that organized religious groups of all kinds should stay out of politics, the most of any Republican faction. They're the only GOP group in which a majority opposes school vouchers.
To those who would translate their moral beliefs into laws prohibiting this or requiring that, they say: Butt out. Three-fourths say the country should be more tolerant of alternate lifestyles, even if they don't agree with them (which they often don't). The majority don't approve of homosexuality, but two in three are willing to tolerate it.
Hard work, not religion, is the salvation of Big Business Republicans. Seven in 10 strongly agree that people should take responsibility for their own lives and not expect others to help; no other Republican group was higher.
They bond with the GOP over government: They want it small and out of the way of business. Nearly nine in 10 say they prefer a smaller government providing fewer services over a larger one providing more.
In key ways, these voters are very much like Religious Conservatives -- but with the volume turned down and minus many of the exclamation points.
They're morally conservative -- but don't get quite so vexed by premarital sex or bearing a child out of wedlock.
They're deeply religious, though they attend church somewhat less frequently, pray less often and are less likely to say their faith is the single most important thing in their lives.
They believe that religion has an important place in politics but are less sympathetic to groups like the Christian Coalition. Still, their religious and moral beliefs strongly correlate with their policy preferences; six in 10 oppose legalized casino gambling and physician-assisted suicide, while nearly nine in 10 would allow school prayer and the majority favor vouchers for religious and private schools.
These Republicans lack the fire and commitment to the GOP that distinguishes their more activist party members. Barely a quarter identify strongly with the Republican Party. Fewer here than in any other Republican group say they're certain to vote in November.
They're disproportionately female and the least affluent of any Republican group. Nearly half -- 45 percent -- live in the South. Six in 10 never went past high school.
These Republicans are far more sympathetic to big government than most other Republicans and many Democrats. Six in 10 say government regulation of big business is necessary to protect the public. And nearly two in three believe that the government "should do everything possible to improve the standard of living of all Americans," a view that would put them comfortably in the middle of the Democratic Party.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company