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.
–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report
Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn