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. Steve in Denver

    "Democrats may be the party of pragmatism and Republicans may be the party of ideological purity."

    No, really? The party that blindly followed GWB for the six years it controlled Congress under Bush, never asked a question, never challenged a decision, even when GWB decided to invade a country that had done nothing to us and posed no threat? The party that spent like drunken sailors in lockstep with GWB until it was kicked out of power? They value ideological purity over what's best for America? Say it ain't so!

    Republicans (at least the ones running the party) are 100% party first, then maybe they'll consider what is good for the country.

    So glad we went with the smart one this time!

    November 17, 2009 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  2. Steve in Denver

    This is the party that is considering censuring Lindsay Graham (Lindsay Grahm, of all people) because he voted his conscience on a few issues rather than with the party line. Party first, country last.

    Sooo glad we went with the smart one this time!

    November 17, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  3. Fox Filbert

    The republican party is the big tent of diversity: we have birthers, deathers, tea baggers and Fox news.

    November 17, 2009 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  4. WIlly Brown

    No just one's smarter than the dumbest democrats in office.

    November 17, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  5. Jeri

    Republicans are just like their party mascot, their heads are full of ivory, they have long memories, and each one follows the one ahead of it by holding onto it's tail. I don't need a political party to tell me what to think or how to vote.

    November 17, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  6. Michael

    The big-tend Democratic Party is obviously good for electoral victory but it makes it harder to get legislation through the Congress. However I would rather have a mixture of opinions and experiences that be forced to follow a lock-step ideological agenda set by the party bosses.

    November 17, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  7. Fox Filbert

    I am outraged that Obama would bow to the Japanese Emperor. Other than Eisenhower bowing to Emperor Hirohito, Nixon bowing in China, and Bush kissing and hugging Saudis, no other republican showed respect for any head of a foreign government.

    November 17, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  8. GI Joe

    The Greedy Obstructionists want only the people that march in lockstep with their PaRTY rules.

    This is the USA – vote them out, unless they vote to help US.

    (Looks like the republicans all need to go – they are PARTY FIRST)

    November 17, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  9. Tram

    Idealogical purity.

    1930's Germany, anyone?

    November 17, 2009 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  10. Lewdog3

    That's what it means to be conservative. No changes ever. Most of them still believe the world is flat....

    November 17, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  11. Expat American

    Ideological Purity – does this mean go to church every Sunday, read your bible, take your vitamins and then turn around and vote for the ‘Republican Values' that fired missiles into civilians during shock and awe?

    Where do I cast my vote for more 'values'?

    November 17, 2009 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  12. Russ in Benton

    GOP's ideologically pure stands for wingnuts who can't even spell
    "ideologically"

    November 17, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  13. mjm

    I don't know if it's considered "pragmatism" when the Democrats don't really care who they get as long as he has a "D" after his name.

    We see this in Chicago all the time. If you have a "D" after your name, you're getting elected. Look up Todd Stroger and you'll see what I mean

    Obama is another great example. He accomplished nothing of importance while in the Senate, he is the farthest thing from Bill Clinton and JFK, and still he's treated like the second coming.

    They are stunned when the republicans reject someone like McCain and Dede because of what they stand for rather than what party they represent.

    Why? Because we know what works for America.

    November 17, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  14. Sniffit

    That's...well...just plain old stupid strategy, GOPers. Nose, spite, face...kapiche? Claptrap minds will get you nowhere. Either they open or the GOP continues to suffer.

    "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."
    -Ralph Waldo Emerson

    November 17, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  15. Richp

    I'll settle for either republicans or democrats that does not make it their lifes goal to generate new bills that cost money so they can feather their nests. Show me in the constitution or bill of rights the section that covers health care, I must have missed it in civics class back when they used to teach that boring stuff, before all the touchy feely PC courses displaced them.

    November 17, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  16. I am the Not-So-Great and Powerless Wizard of Rush

    The Rebirther Tea Party members are all inclusive, however anyone that cooperates at all with Obama is dead meat.

    November 17, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  17. Brad

    Whether the GOP wants ideologically pure candidates or not is irrelevant. The right wing of the GOP does and...as the events that unfolded in NY-23 demonstrated (soon to unfold in the Florida GOP Senate primary and other GOP primaries), that's all that matters.

    The GOP has been hijacked by its right wing.

    November 17, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  18. victim of republican greed

    I can only say that the wingnuts are the type of people who would have denied Joseph and Mary room at the inn because they were Jewish.

    November 17, 2009 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  19. bob in LA

    Knowing how polls are worded, I'm sure there is a problem with answers.
    The question should be- Would you vote for a candidate with simliar, if not exact , views if it meant your party would win the seat?
    you want a result of 98% – there's your question.
    What the article gave us was two distinctly different questions and act as if they were the same.

    November 17, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  20. phoenix86

    CNN. Now in competition with MSNBC, ABC, CBS and NBC to see who can best kiss the Obama rear.

    Shoddy journalism without courage will eventually lead to censorship, and you and the left will support it all the way until it closes its vice around your throats.

    November 17, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  21. charlie in Maine

    The biggest difference is this: the Democrats believe that the govenment can help make life better for people. They do everything they can with varying degress of success to make this happen.
    The Republicans believe that government is the problem. They do everything they can, with varying degrees of success to make this happen.

    So in the end improvement is made only when the Democrats are right and Republicans are wrong. Fortunately this is not infrequent.

    November 17, 2009 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  22. GI Joe

    Did anyone see the look on Limbaugh's face today when Failin-Palin was talking about her policies?

    Speaks very loudly when Limbaugh is worried and "ashamed".

    November 17, 2009 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  23. Hypocrisy

    The truth is, BOTH parties are demanding ideological purity; it's just the party out of power that seems more ideology-driven at this time. Don't forget; Democrat Maxine Waters was demonizing the blue dogs for opposing the healthcare bill. I still believe the Democrats are far more polarized: if you are anti- abortion, gay marriage, or union, you have NO CHANCE of beccoming the Democratic nominee for president. If I'm lying, I'm dying.

    November 17, 2009 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  24. jajja

    No, GOP, as a general group does not want ideological pure candidates. However, CNN, as a network does want to spin it to distort the truth so it creates a perception that the GOP is seeking ideological pure candidates.

    Talking of pure, is it like how CNN pushed Lou Dobbs out in order to have a more ideologically pure liberal view to support the network's political agenda?

    See how I spin that issue? silly willy wabbit!!

    November 17, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  25. Kevin B

    The GOP/Republican brand is the victim of self inflicted wounds. It has confused fear and xenophobia with patriotism. The last republican president with an ounce of courage and thoughtfulness was Eisenhower.

    The GOP hasn't stood up for average americans since the 1950's, since then it has been nothing but an outlet for corporate interest at the expense of average americans. i.e. opposition to health care reform at the expense of americans, even though it is obviously needed.

    GOP=Chicken hawk !

    November 17, 2009 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
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