If you’re a Republican presidential hopeful, who you are may matter less to potential Republican voters than what you stand for.
Large majorities of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents say traits such as gender, race and religion would not matter in their vote for president across a variety of traits tested in the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Social issues and values, however, do matter. More than half – 54 percent – say they’re be less likely to vote for a candidate who has had an extramarital affair. This peaks at 72 percent among Republicans who describe themselves as “very conservative” as well as 65 percent of those who “strongly support” the tea party political movement.
Fully 50 percent say they would be less likely to support a candidate who favors civil unions for gay couples. Again, the most conservative and strong tea party supports are most apt to say this will matter. But for younger Republicans and GOP leaning independents – those under age 50 – fewer, 39 percent, say this would matter to them, 46 percent say it would make no difference and 13 percent say it would make them more likely to support such a candidate.
Three-quarters of Republicans and GOP leaners say the fact that a candidate is a Mormon wouldn’t matter in their vote. That’s been increasingly good news for Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and a Mormon. When first asked in 2006, 36 percent of Republicans said this made them less likely to vote for a candidate, shrinking to 20 percent today.
Fully 27 percent of white evangelical Protestants – a mainstay of the Republican base – say a Mormon candidate would make them less likely to vote. But that’s down from 38 percent in 2007.
Jon Huntsman, Jr., also a Mormon and former governor, has defended his role serving in the Obama Administration as Ambassador to China. Seven in 10 don’t see this affecting their vote. But for those who say it matters, four times as many it makes them less likely to support him than say more.
Two of the items tested were clearly net positives: 31 percent say a candidate supported by the tea party political movement would make them more likely to vote versus 14 percent less likely. Among strong tea party supporters, this is almost a prerequisite, with 73 percent saying it would make them more likely to support.
The same is true of a candidate who supports major changes in Medicare. By 45 to 21 percent, Republicans say they are more rather than less likely to support such a candidate. The appeal is particularly high among the most conservative and tea party supporters here too.
Seniors are a little less likely than younger Republicans to see Medicare reform as a positive position for a candidate: 47 percent of those under age 65 are made more likely to vote for such a candidate. That slides to 40 percent among seniors.
The telephone poll was conducted June 2-5 among a random national sample of 1,002 adults. The results reported here are among 435 Republicans and GOP-leaning independents and have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.