November 17th, 2009
04:13 PM ET
5 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. D. Tree

    Exactly the reason Democrats won the election: Americans want pragmatists who will solve problems, not rigid extremists who put ideology before Country!

    November 17, 2009 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  2. Mike Syracuse, NY

    So that's why Nancy Pelosi threatened Democratic Congressmen that she'd find substitutes to support if they failed to back health care? And that's why the democratic Party forced Leiberman to become an independent because he supported the Iraq War? Face it, the 'big tent' only includes those who toe the party line.

    November 17, 2009 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  3. fred

    Here's the reasons. Republicans stand for individual freedom, and limited government interference. They also stand for life. What does a democrat stand for? anyone? democrats really are just people who like the name "democrat" because that name is more electable than the name "republican". When it comes to democrats vs. republicans, there are more registered democrats. However, more people see themselves as conservative than as liberal. Really, people don't exactly know what a democrat stands for, whereas, a conservative stands for limited government and the social conservatism of being pro-life and pro-man/woman marriage.

    November 17, 2009 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  4. ThinkAgain

    No DUH! The GOP has really lost its way ... I have so many moderate Republican friends and family who are socially progressive and fiscally conservative who are tremendously offended by the litmus testing and intimidation the GOP uses these days, not only to vet their candidates, but to prove party "loyality."

    Here's another trait of the GOP: They constantly accuse their opponents of their own bad behavior (psychologists call it "transference"). It's a sign of an insecure and immature personality, one incapable of being accountable and admitting wrong doing.

    For example, they accuse the Democratic Party of wanting to take away our freedom, and yet it's the Republicans who won't tolerate any differences of opinion when it comes to their party's goals and platform.

    November 17, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  5. If my people, which are called by my name shall humble themselves,and pray,and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and will heal their land. 2 Chron. 7 S Callahan

    Frankly, I would be happy to have someone serve as my rep who Believes in a LIving God, is not interested in reaping the bucks through deception, is honest in his/her evaluation of what is good for the people, is truthful in all things, seeks moderation in all things,
    and refuses to over tax the population with reveiw of it's impact...that is a starter..and there are many good people out there with these values yet have restrained themselves because of the ugliness of fundraising and politico loyalties.

    November 17, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  6. MikeH

    I now believe the number 86 is the I.Q. of most of the right wing wackadoodles who post here. Some even use the number in their moniker.

    November 17, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  7. Palin/Bachmann 2012

    We sure do, ya betcha!

    November 17, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  8. Brian from NJ

    I laugh at Democrats saying the GOP has been hijacked by the right wing but are all set to go after anyone from their own party in next year's elections who does not vote for the Pelosi/Reid public option. What a bunch of hypocrites!

    November 17, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  9. ThinkAgain

    Further proof of the GOP's intolerance of differences: People are posting here that CNN is in President Obama's pocket, simply because it has written an article that is potentially negative about the GOP.

    The GOP is incapable – like George W. Bush – of admitting mistakes and taking responsibility for its and its candidates' actions.

    For a group of people who thump their chests about how patriotic they are, they seem to have completely missed the boat on why our country was founded (religious freedom) and the freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment (speech, assembly, religion and press).

    GOP = Party Before Country

    November 17, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  10. Preco

    Like saying one thing and doing the opposite!

    November 17, 2009 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  11. victim of republican greed

    I wonder how 'fred' would explain the 8 years of Bush/Cheney.

    November 17, 2009 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  12. victim of republican greed

    Republicans stand for individual freedoms except for women's bodies which they think government should control. Wiretapping citizens is OK if you are a wingnut. Being pro-life is not being pro-war.

    November 17, 2009 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  13. Patrick

    These Republican nut jobs are obstructing progress in America whether it's a good idea from the Democratic party or their own.

    It's doesn't matter if it benefits all or most americans – only if it benefits themselves.

    These people are dangerous and would be a Christian Taliban or allow a 1930's Germany atomsphere if in power again.

    We all need to be aware of these Nut jobs and only vote for canidates (both republican or democratic) that are willing to work together and compromise for the better of the American people

    November 17, 2009 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  14. Andy

    No, Republicans stand for government interference in our lives, giving trillions of tax dollars to greedy corporate CEOs and ripping up our Constitutional rights. If you were to shred the Constitution and leave only the amendment allowing non-felons to own a gun, they'd be happy.

    That would allow them to spy on Americans with impunity, force their religious ideology onto everyone and forget that we are a nation of immigrants, including those that emigrated from northern Europe countries like myself. They had the most anti-freedom, communist-like government ever seen this side of China or the old Soviet Union.

    Cruel and unusual punishment. Separation of Church and State. Search and Seizure without a warrant. Even the right to see evidence against you or the right to know what you've been charged with. All these things the Republicans abandoned. These were people who swore to uphold the Constitution and every one of them, from the President to those that voted for the Patriot Act, broke that oath.

    November 17, 2009 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  15. G. Bridges

    I had been a registered republican all my life. I am now a independent. I was hoping the W. years was just a bad patch, and the republican party would get it's head together. Unfortunately the last 6 months has proven to me that the party has changed. It is now run by lazy, ignorant, do-nothings who have no ideas on how to fix or run this country. NO is not an idea. I may not agree with the Dems on some issues or ideas, but at least when they go to work, they work.

    November 17, 2009 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  16. Ancient Texan

    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.

    November 17, 2009 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  17. guy from NM

    Republicans? Pure. It is an oxymoron , they are the most corrupt politicos.

    November 17, 2009 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  18. jon

    Ideologically pure candidates??? What ridiculous liberal psycho-babble. Conservatives want conservative candidates who are actually conservative. What a weird, scary, radical, dangerous, malicious, crazy concept that is.

    November 17, 2009 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  19. Bob in Pa

    No, we want Canidates that go to DC and will do no harm to our country and our way of life. SIt on their hands if they have to.

    November 17, 2009 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  20. Pragmatic

    Stay "pure" – that just means with only 20% of Americans willing to admit they are republicans ...and some of those more rational that "pure" – the Democrats will be in power for a long, long time.

    republicans: party first – what is best for America a distant second ... never compromise -never open your mind .... just keep that calendar tuned to 1980 ... never look back to see that no one is following ....

    November 17, 2009 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  21. Razorback

    I love how all these Democrats know just exactly what Republicans and conservatives are thinking. There were a lot of us during the Bush era that didn't agree with the spending or the scandals; we knew it was counter to the fiscal and personal responsibility that Republicans traditionally stood for. And guess what-they first lost the Congress, then the Presidency. Many are now regretting voting for a candidate or candidates just becaust they "weren't Republican". Extremists and wingnuts on both sides are dangerous. I don't know the whole story behind NY-23 but I do know the Republicans violated Ronald Reagan's 11th commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican. By regaining party unity-with conservatives, moderates and even "Rockefeller Republicans" the GOP will have a hope of viability in the future.
    Of course if Obama, Pelosi, Reid and company continue their wasteful ways, that will help the GOP as well!

    November 17, 2009 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  22. Kevin B

    We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence,[1] promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. ”

    What part of establishing justice, insuring domestic tranquility and promoting the general welfare do republicans not get ?

    The GOP is quick to tell americans that health care as a right is not in the consitutional, however they are wrong as usual, read the preamble above

    November 17, 2009 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  23. Razorback

    BTW-count me in the 43%!

    November 17, 2009 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  24. Kevin B

    We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence,[1] promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. ”

    The GOP is quick to tell americans that health care as a right is not in the consitutional, however they are wrong as usual, read the preamble above.

    The only part of the constitution the GOP wing nuts allow themselves to read is part about defense which they still get wrong.

    November 17, 2009 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  25. Truth-Bomb Thrower

    What the GOP better START wanting are candidates who are not simply wanna-be democrats who find it easier to get nominated and win elections as a republican (Scozzafava, Schwarzenegger, Graham, McCain). The republicans had better get back to basics and remember the principles that made it a major political party (limited government, fiscal responsiblity, pro-business, and the will to effectively take on America's enemies abroad).

    This country does not even need ONE democratic party, much less TWO!!

    November 17, 2009 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
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