July 31st, 2013
02:54 PM ET
12 months ago

GOP wants change but split on which way to go

Washington (CNN) - Most Republicans agree: Major changes are needed if the party wants to be competitive in future presidential elections.

But a new poll of Republicans nationwide also indicates that there's little agreement on the direction the GOP should take.

The Wednesday release of the Pew Research Center survey comes amid a very public squabble between possible 2016 presidential contenders Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie that illustrates the difference among Republicans between sticking to conservative principles or trying reach out to the growing segment of minority and younger voters.

With losses from the last two presidential elections still stinging, two-thirds of Republicans questioned in the poll say that to do better in future presidential contests, the GOP needs to address major problems. Three in 10 disagree, saying the party just needs to address minor problems. Along those lines, nearly six in 10 say the party needs to reconsider some positions, with 36% saying the GOP needs to make a stronger case for its current policies.

But there's less agreement on what the party needs to do.

By 54%-40% margin, Republican and Republican-leaning voters say party's leaders should move in a more conservative direction, with four in 10 urging a more moderate direction.

"Not surprisingly, conservatives and those who agree with the Tea Party overwhelmingly favor moving in a more conservative direction, while moderates and liberals would like to see the party take more centrist positions. Yet the more moderate wing of the party is a minority generally, and makes up an even smaller share of the likely primary electorate," says a release from the Pew Research Center.

Has the GOP compromised too much or too little?

The poll indicates Republican voters are divided, with 35% saying the party has compromised too much with Democrats, 27% saying not enough, with 32% saying party leaders have handled this about right. More than half of tea party Republicans questioned say there's been too much compromise, with that number falling to just 22% among non-tea party Republicans.

The new numbers come as Paul and Christie have fired away at each other in a war of words that began last week when Christie, at a forum with other GOP governors, slammed Paul for his criticism of government surveillance to battle terrorists.

"This strain of libertarianism that's going through parties right now and making big headlines I think is a very dangerous thought," Christie said.

Asked if Paul was one of the people he was pointing towards, Christie added that "You can name any number of people and he's one of them."

Paul pushed back, and the fight continued Tuesday.

"I'm the one trying to grow the party by talking about libertarian ideas of privacy and the Internet and attacking me isn't helping the party. He's hurting the party," Paul said in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer on "The Situation Room."

Paul has accused Christie of harming national security by hoarding federal relief money for Hurricane Sandy victims.

Christie has called on Paul to cut federal pork barrel spending in Kentucky.

"But I doubt he would because most Washington politicians only care about bringing home the bacon so that they can get re-elected," Christie charged Tuesday morning.

"This is the king of bacon talking about bacon," Paul responded later in the day on "The Situation Room."

Could this be a coming attraction of future intra-party fights?

"The Republicans are going to have a very spirited debate," says CNN Chief National Correspondent John King. "They have to deal with the immigration issue again. They have that ditch with Latino voters. Taxes and spending."

King says Christie and Paul are leading the fight right now, but that, "This is just the beginning. This is not going to stop."

"I think we are going to end up with a Republican primary that looks a lot like a cage match," says GOP strategist and CNN contributor Ana Navarro.

Another reason for the squabble: There's no one person leading the party right now. When asked in the poll who is leading the GOP, 56% of Republicans said that either nobody was or that they didn't know. One in 10 named House Speaker John Boehner as the leader, with other names offered all scoring in single digits.

The poll indicated that among seven leading Republican politicians questioned, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin had the highest favorable rating. Nearly two-thirds said they see the 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee and House Budget chairman in a favorable light. Paul was second, at 55%, with Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, another possible White House contender, at 50% and Christie at 47%.

"If I was asked who the leader of the Republican party is right now I couldn't give you the name of that person," adds Navarro.

In an effort to rebuild their brand, the Republican National Committee last week announced a"50 state strategy" to deploy paid field staffers in every state to reconnect with voters.

"Republicans are united in helping the middle class, rebuilding the economy and tackling Obama's debt. We are busy establishing a permanent campaign to connect with voters in communities across all 50 states so candidates up and down the ticket will reap the benefits," RNC Press Secretary Kirsten Kukowski tells CNN.

The Pew Research Center poll was conducted July 17-21, with 497 Republicans and independents who lean towards the GOP questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 5.1 percentage points.


Filed under: Chris Christie • Rand Paul • Republicans • Uncategorized
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. Rudy NYC

    "Not surprisingly, conservatives and those who agree with the Tea Party overwhelmingly favor moving in a more conservative direction, while moderates and liberals would like to see the party take more centrist positions. Yet the more moderate wing of the party is a minority generally, and makes up an even smaller share of the likely primary electorate," says a release from the Pew Research Center.
    ------------------
    Shows you how little Pew knows. Most Democrats actually would rather see more conservative candidates running for office because it would be a slam dunk win at the ballot box.

    July 31, 2013 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  2. Data Driven

    54% of Republicans want their party to be more conservative, eh?

    Yeah, that's the ticket ... to continuing Presidential defeat. Hang onto those gerrymandered districts, boys!

    July 31, 2013 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  3. Tampa Tim

    We now have a Republican Party that leans to the right of the Taliban, and that is not conservative enough? The advice I would give is, "Proceed wingnuts!"

    July 31, 2013 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  4. NATHAN WIMBERLY

    The Guns Over People Shutdown Government tea potty are desperate. Nov 6 was their Waterloo.

    July 31, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  5. Jim Hahn

    This is going to be one hell of a Kindergarten brawl. Cheesy popcorn anyone?

    July 31, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  6. Laverne

    The republicans recipe for doing better and winning is to restrict voters right to vote, decrease or stop early voting, redistricting and cry voter fraud when there is such little evidence of any kind of fraud. The only way for them to win is to supress others and try and steal and cheat their way back into the White House.

    July 31, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  7. JustAO

    No worries. Three times the charm come 2016 and i'm sure GOP will make it quite easy to make themselves extinct since their voter demographic is shrinking since they are getting older and even more predominantly whiter each election.

    They obviously have been losing their shhh ever since America twice elected a black man as President and that's why they can't even support their own ideas when he supports them as well. They must think a black President taints their ideas. Where have we seen this mentality before. Jim Crow anyone?

    July 31, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  8. Wake up People!

    This story just gives me such a warm, fuzzy feeling........

    Keep up the good work klan!!

    July 31, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  9. sonny chapman

    Same message. Just yell louder.

    July 31, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  10. Wake up People!

    I'm still trying to figure out how "Randy" has the experience to be POTUS, but Barack Obama didn't. And if I'm not mistaken, President Obama had been in the Senate longer. There is one obvious difference between the two, but come on and give me some BS lame excuse.

    July 31, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  11. CB FL

    As long as they treat women, latinos and lgbt like second class citizens they will go the way of the wigg party.

    July 31, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  12. TomInRochNY

    "By 54%-40% margin, Republican and Republican-leaning voters say party's leaders should move in a more conservative direction, with four in 10 urging a more moderate direction."

    If they become more conservative they will crash and burn. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

    July 31, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  13. Mica

    Which ever way they go, they'd better go without a few of the nut jobs they are saddled with now. Paul, is one of the biggest, and hopefully left behind.

    July 31, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  14. ThinkAgain

    Maybe the GOP should change from a party that actually does something other than whine and push divisive social issues, from a group that always puts party before country.

    Nah, who am I kidding ... they'll never change. Have fun imploding, boys!

    July 31, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  15. Jules

    So 54% of the GOP are out of touch with reality and with the American people. I thought it was more than that.

    July 31, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  16. Rudy NYC

    CB FL

    As long as they treat women, latinos and lgbt like second class citizens they will go the way of the wigg party.
    ------------
    The Whigs were the conservatives. The Republican Party arose from its' ashes.

    July 31, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  17. tom l

    @Sniffit
    The only reason it doesn't "get me anywhere" is because you are far too stubborn and far too dug in on your democrat side. You are everything that is wrong with our country today. You think you know it all and always blame the other side. You never, ever listen to the other side's point of view other than so that you can prove yourself correct. You demonize the other side as bad people (call them names and throw out ad hominem attacks like it's going out of style) and refuse to even try to understand why the other side feels the way they do.

    You are the problem with our country today. That's why you're a "POLIDIOT". You have bought into the "us" vs. "them" diatribe that all the politicians want you to buy into. You listen to your side only and believe everything they say. You are a sucker and actually think that your side cares about the average American and that the other side is just a bunch of horrible people. Then...you'll come out with the token criticism of your side for something random and unimportant to prove that you're "independent".

    You are the problem, Sniffit. You, and people like you, are why our country is so divided now. You have zero perspective.

    You are so gullable and naive to think that democrats and Obama actually care about the average American. It's so sad and pathetic. Here's some news for you...they don't care. The only thing they care about is getting re-elected so they can have more money and power. And that goes for repubs too.

    You are the problem.

    July 31, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  18. rs

    This is a sobering story, and the end results will not bode well for the party. If the TEA Party radicals (they are not "conservatives" by most definitions) win, the party is doomed,. It will never get a plurality of voters. If the moderates win, the TEA Party element may withdraw support or worse, split to form a new more radical party effectively split the "conservative" vote in this country- with the same results.

    July 31, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  19. DKennedy

    When losing... the GOP ALWAYS doubles down. It's a rule.

    July 31, 2013 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  20. Dori

    @Rudy, re your first comment at 3:01, you're right in that as a Democrat, I'd rather the R nominees be flaming nutcase types. However, Pew had it correctly– the poll wasn't of the general electorate, but ONLY of people self-identifying as Republicans.

    July 31, 2013 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  21. Lynda/Minnesota

    "I think we are going to end up with a Republican primary that looks a lot like a cage match," says GOP strategist and CNN contributor Ana Navarro."

    There is that. However they chose to go, count me out. Again.

    July 31, 2013 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  22. Rudy NYC

    This is a sobering story, and the end results will not bode well for the party. If the TEA Party radicals (they are not "conservatives" by most definitions) win, the party is doomed,. It will never get a plurality of voters. If the moderates win, the TEA Party element may withdraw support or worse, split to form a new more radical party effectively split the "conservative" vote in this country- with the same results.
    ---------------
    You're right. But, they've already come up with a solution. It has been decades in the making. Most Republican voters are totally unaware of it and would probably never understand when you told them. So, anyway, here goes.

    "Take the money and run."

    July 31, 2013 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  23. Lynda/Minnesota

    You are the problem, Sniffit. You, and people like you, are why our country is so divided now. You have zero perspective.

    You are so gullable and naive to think that democrats and Obama actually care about the average American. It's so sad and pathetic. Here's some news for you...they don't care. The only thing they care about is getting re-elected so they can have more money and power. And that goes for repubs too.
    ----------------

    Hey, Sniffit. I see you've got yourself a ticker BFF. He's been, well ... shadowing you for days now. Weeks actually.

    July 31, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  24. emskadittle

    Hey what could be wrong with your base being elderly white guys, many may not make it to 2016

    July 31, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  25. CB FL

    @Rudy NYC
    They always like to talk about the bible so I think ashes to ashes is what will appropriate.

    July 31, 2013 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
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