I’ve often spoken about the gap in political opinion between conservative media and right-wing groups, on the one hand, and, on the other, the mass of Republican voters in the country. A few polling figures make that divide quite apparent.
In the latest CBS poll (aside from the usual disapproval figures nationwide for President Obama, for his performance on an array of issues and for Obamacare), we see Republicans are much more pro-immigration reform than the voices you hear in right-wing media. The poll shows 44 percent of Republicans favor a path to citizenship for those here illegally and another 10 percent favor allowing these people to stay, but not pursue citizenship. Independent voters favor these positions by 54 percent and 16 percent respectively. Immigration reform may have ground to a halt for now, but when it returns Republican lawmakers should understand support for immigration reform is not a political death sentence. (Support is even higher, other polls show, when the major items in a reform package are included, such as enhanced border security and retaining highly educated students.)
Republicans overwhelmingly (78 percent) think America’s image in the world has gotten worse under Obama. A whopping 76 percent have little or no confidence in his ability to handle international matters. And still, with all those concerns, 41 percent think the U.S. should take a leading role in international crises while 54 percent do not. That’s a rather pro-interventionist resolve when you consider how poorly they regard the president. The conclusion should not be, as a policy or political matter, to mimic the president, but to provide an alternative and strong approach to international crises. Republicans, like the large majority of Americans, understand what Obama is doing is badly, and they should be wary of candidates who want to double down on Obama’s failed foreign policy notions. In short: Republican politicians should lead on national security and recapture the party’s traditional role as the party tough on defense.
When it comes to accommodating religious objectors, Republicans are much more sympathetic than Democrats, as you might imagine. Only 15 percent of Republicans as opposed to 51 percent of Democrats think religious organizations should be forced to cover contraception in their health-care plans; for non-religious groups the numbers are 30 and 69 percent respectively. You can understand why the White House has no problem steamrolling over those with religious objections; it’s frankly a mainstream Democratic view these days.
On the electoral front Republicans are much more excited about the 2014 election (70 to 58 percent) than are Democrats and much more certain to vote (81 to 68 percent). That suggests the GOP wave may be formidable.
And finally from an analysis conducted by group Young Conservatives For The Freedom to Marry comes more evidence that conservatives, like all Americans, are moving toward accepting gay marriage:
Recent surveys from Washington Post/ABC News and New York Times register 40% of Republicans supporting marriage for same-sex couples. Between 2006 and 2011, GOP support grew a total of 8 percentage points. Now, support is growing even faster: one poll shows a 15% increase in support among Republicans in less than two years. Such accelerated growth speaks volumes. “On no issue in American life have opinions changed as fast as they have on gay rights,” said prominent Republican pollster Whit Ayres. “It is truly a stunning development.”
To sum up, actual GOP voters are more pro-immigration, more pro-internationalist and more pro-gay marriage than you would imagine listening to some loud GOP voices. When you consider how willing they are to accept gay marriage and cater to religious employers who may not share their views, Republicans are a whole lot more “tolerant” than the mainstream media would have you believe. Lawmakers and candidates should keep all this in mind and remember that it is voters, not talk show hosts, whose views matter the most.