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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Republican Divisions

Last week Mark Ambinder of The Atlantic did a post reporting some of the findings from a big survey of Republicans done by Tony Fabrizio, including some comparisons to a similar survey ten years ago. And last night, Tom Edsell, at HuffingtonPost, supplied a link to the Fabrizio-McLaughlin power point presentation on the survey.
You can read it yourself, and try to absorb Fabrizio’s segmentation of rank-and-file Republicans into seven categories (Free Marketers, Dennis Miller Republicans, Heartland Republicans, Government Knows Best Republicans, Moralists, Fortress America, and Bush Hawks). More interesting IMHO are the survey’s conclusions about divisions in the GOP ranks, particularly given the clear 1997-2007 trend it shows towards a self-consciously conservative party (71 percent of those in the survey self-indentify as conservatives–up from 55 percent ten years ago).
The divisions cut across a broad swath of economic and social policies. While big majorities of Republicans claim to favor both balanced budgets and additional tax cuts, they’re split 52 % (tax cuts) to 44% (budget balancing) on the highest fiscal priority. Perhaps more significantly, GOPers support the proposition that “universal health coverage should be a guaranteed right for every American” by a 51%-43% margin, with interesting splits among the seven segments. 44% of Republicans appear to dislike private accounts for Social Security. They’re all over the place on global warming and federal involvement in education.
On cultural issues, the two things that stand out are: (a) while 61% of Republicans call themselves “pro-life,” and 80% appear to support significant restrictions on abortion, 53% also agree with the proposition that “the Republican Party has spent too much time focusing on moral issues like abortion and gay marriage”; and (b) a startling 49% (with 42% opposed) favor allowing gays and lesbians to openly serve in the military.
The issues where Republicans are united are interesting, too. 74% of GOPers still think the invasion of Iraq was the right thing to do; a host of surveys show large majorities of independents, and overall majorities of Americans, feel differently. And on immigration, 76% agree that enforcing the laws against illegal immigrants, even if that means deporting them, should be the main goal of national policy. Aside from illustrating why John McCain’s campaigning is tanking, this finding could mean trouble down the road for presidential candidates whose opposition to the “grand bargain” approach to immigration reform (i.e., Rudy Giuliani) is technical rather than fundamental. It could also mean trouble for the GOP generally if the immigration debate begins to focus not on “amnesty” but on “deportation.”
The survey also includes presidential candidate questions, but since the data’s about a month old, it’s interesting mainly in terms of the preferences of different segments. Giuliani runs first in all seven categories, but is (unsurprisingly) weakest among “Moralists.” Fred Thompson’s nascent bid also appears to have reasonably broad support; his weakest segment is one (‘Heartland Republicans”) that is basically a midwestern regional grouping.
All in all, Fabrizio displays a Republican Party that’s more of a coalition than is generally assumed; whose points of unity could be problematic in a general election; and where relative support for Bush’s Iraq/terrorism policies has complicated the old economic/cultural fault lines among GOPers.

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