November 17th, 2009
04:13 PM ET
4 years ago

CNN Poll: Does the GOP want ideologically pure candidates?

Washington (CNN) - A new national poll suggests that the Democrats may be the party of pragmatism and Republicans may be the party of ideological purity.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey's release on Tuesday comes just two weeks after internal party divisions led to the GOP loss of a seat in the House of Representatives that it had held since the 19th century.

The poll indicates that a slight majority, 51 percent, of Republicans would prefer to see the GOP in their area nominate candidates who agree with them on all the major the issues even if they have a poor chance of beating the Democratic candidate. Forty-three percent of Republicans say they would rather have candidates with whom they don't agree on all the important issues but who can beat the Democrats.

Democrats polled seemed to place a slightly higher priority on electoral victory: 58 percent say that they would like their party to nominate candidates who can beat Republicans, even if they don't agree with those candidates on all the issues. Fewer than 4 in 10 Democrats say they would rather see their party nominate candidates who agree with them on all major issues, but have a poor chance of beating the Republican candidate.


"One reason for the difference between the parties: the Democrats have a relatively even split on ideological grounds. Thirty-four percent of Democrats are liberal, 40 percent are moderates and less than one in four call themselves conservatives," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

By contrast, 73 percent of Republicans questioned in the poll say they are conservatives, with only 26 percent describing themselves as liberal or moderate Republicans.

The Republican split that led to a victory by the Democrat in the special election in New York's 23rd congressional district could also be a factor in numerous Republican party primary contests next year.

"Some Republican groups say they plan to run conservative candidates in next year's primaries against GOP incumbents who vote the wrong way on certain issues. It looks like a majority of grassroots Republicans are fine with that tactic," says Holland. "Some Democratic groups had suggested that they may mount their own primary challenges. The poll indicates that rank-and-file Democrats may not be happy with that."

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted November 13-15, with 1,014 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points for Democrats and plus or minus 5.5 percentage points for Republicans.

Full results (pdf)

CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report

Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn


Filed under: CNN Polls • GOP
soundoff (69 Responses)
  1. C. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    I hope the GOP pick Palin so we can really put an end to their hate and their so called greater than thou attitudes.

    November 17, 2009 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  2. T'SAH from Virginia

    The REPUBLI-CAN'T's "ideas are NOT PURE!!! This is what they THINK they represent and it's not true! If that were the case, there will be diversity in the party.... LQQK at them!!! The majority of them are WHITE and they LQQK like MEN!! The REPUB women are exploited and led to believe they have a FUTURE in the party............... NOT!!!

    November 17, 2009 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  3. Rhea

    "People seem to think that they are citizens of the Republican Party and that this is patriotism and sufficiently good patriotism. I prefer to be a citizen of the United States." - Mark Twain

    November 17, 2009 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  4. tarheel

    I would vote for the Dims before I would vote for a "Republican" that I consider a RINO. I can live with a right- center Republican, but only a little right-center and even then there are certain things like killing an unborn child that will not compromise on. This is a deal breaker, no matter what. I'm sure that some of the Dims who strongly believe in a womans right to kill her unborn child would also not compromise his or her beliefs.

    November 17, 2009 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  5. Anne

    Do as I say and not as I do. Now, that is the true GOP motto!!!!!
    And, best, lielike he!! if they questions you.

    November 17, 2009 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  6. Nick

    The GOP see themselves as God, so, yes, they only want the purest...trouble is, they are the dirtiest.

    November 17, 2009 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  7. Randolph Carter, I'm no expert, but....

    "The folks that will do their duty at the polls in 2010, will be called Republicans, Conservatives, Independents, Rednecks, Christians, and Fed Up. But they'll band together to take back America. Obama will stay longer but with no support."

    Take back America? Then what? More tax cuts, unregulated capitalism, teaching "intelligent design" in science classes, increased income disparity, cuts to social programs and edumacation, more no-bid contracts to cater illegal wars? Thanks but no thanks. America is better off without a bunch of corporate tools who believe in a big invisible man in the sky running things. Have a nice day!

    November 17, 2009 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  8. What???

    I wish we had a two party system were there were checks and balances but its impossible to reason with republicans. These people are so out of touch with reality, the needs of middle america, the acceptance of responsibility; that one would have to be insane to make any attempt to deal with them.

    We need intelligent opposition to the democrats but not the circus that is currently the GOP

    November 17, 2009 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  9. GI Joe

    How are all those wealthy tax cuts working for YOU?

    November 17, 2009 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  10. GetOverIt

    There's your choice in a nutshell: the party of tolerance, or the party of intolerance. Less and less difference between the Republicans and the Taliban. They both hate infidels.

    Good luck with that position in a pluralistic democracy.

    November 17, 2009 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  11. Drone Pilot

    Ron Paul 2012

    November 17, 2009 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  12. LuigiPastrami

    Since "Ideologically pure" is such an oxymoronic phrase- (the Nazis were ideologically pure, but so not-pure in practice,) I can't imagine how you can think it applies to a group of confused tea-bag toting, ideologically befuddled and nay-saying critics like the party that lost the last presidential election. Go figure.

    November 17, 2009 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  13. New Age Independent

    One doesn't need a poll to know that Democrats are all about winning at any cost, regardless of what is right or wrong.

    At least Republicans are more apt to stay with their beliefs, than to abandon the people for greed. I can live with that, then to sell out for power.

    November 17, 2009 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  14. Tired

    Intolerance is not acceptable if it coming from the Taliban or some of these purist Republicans. It is everything their way or not at all. What a thing to teach our children.

    November 17, 2009 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  15. Limbaugh is a liberal

    There are two kinds of republicans: those who believe what they say and are actually representing their constituents, and those who just parrot Rush Limbaugh. The latter has been suppressing the earlier for years. They think being stubborn and close minded is equivalent to being 'strong.' Well, that intolerance within even their own ranks is what led to their historic downfall in 2006, and further marginalization in 2008. If the GOP wants to get back into power, they need to purge Limbaugh and all his followers!

    November 17, 2009 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  16. Peter E

    As if there really is a difference between democrats and republicans... They are all spoiled, irresponsible partisan hacks bent on preserving the status quo, slaves to corporate interests. Despite what the media has been trying to sell you, Obama's policies are direct continuation of Dubya's presidency. There is barely any difference between the current government and any other we had for the past 30 years! If you want real change, vote libertarian!

    November 17, 2009 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  17. They call me "tater salad"

    It will be refreshing when 2010 finally gets here and the Republicans lose even more seats in both houses of Congress. Maybe then they'll finally get the hint that "we the people" just aren't that into you or your bulls**t! Apparently NY-23 wasn't enough of a red flag! A seat that they dominated and held since the days of the CIVIL WAR, gone just like that!!! A sign of things to come for the GOP, you can count on it! Oh by the way, I live in what some would call a RED STATE.........What's that tell you?

    November 17, 2009 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  18. magella

    The only problem is, there is no "purity" to the Republicans' "ideology." They are incredibly inconsistent and hypocritical. They believe in less government–until it's time to meddle in people's personal business, like their bedrooms or their bodies. I could go on, but we all know the issues. The reason they are splintering right now is that they have no real commitment to their ideology–and they know it.

    November 17, 2009 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  19. snowflake

    No! At this point they are eating each other alive so it really doesn't make any difference! The GOP as we once knew it is now history!!

    November 17, 2009 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
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