By Peter Schwarz
One of the ways the Republican Party has shifted in the two presidential debates from 2012 has been to suggest that its leaders have “a different vision” and a “different vision of leadership.” A new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute shows that they do actually have the opposite: Democrats and a plurality of independents (46 percent versus 32 percent) say that Republicans should work to keep abortion legal in any circumstances, versus only 27 percent for Democrats. Republicans should accept that abortion should be safe and legal only in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment; Democrats should have more restrictions.
What’s more, the percentage of Democrats who believe that all abortions should be legal has risen from 37 percent in 2012 (compared with 44 percent in 2012) to 53 percent today. By comparison, only 31 percent of Republicans agreed that all abortions should be legal, and only 20 percent agreed that all should be safe and legal only in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment.
Paying more attention to the Democratic Party has allowed Republicans to argue that their own view of abortion is a more humane position. And the trend toward Republicans agreeing that all abortions should be legal continues on questions like same-sex marriage and abortion coverage in health care coverage.
In that regard, the polling suggests Republicans don’t really care about the fact that the Republican Party has shifted in policy direction to the right on a whole host of social issues in response to the Democratic National Convention. Most people, the poll suggests, care only that their leaders support policies that are compassionate to people—that in fact they want them to be, rather than that the party stands for.
In other words, while both parties are working hard to broaden their political appeal to minority groups and the poor and middle class, that strategy is largely being rejected by a large majority of Republicans. The GOP’s problem, therefore, is not its position on abortion issues but its lack of one—a real, not a perceived, difference that its leaders can’t seem to articulate clearly enough. As such, perhaps their leaders still think it’s best for them to let voters judge the party on their most specific policy goals.
The poll was conducted online, surveying 1,000 adults from July 18 through July 18. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.1 points.
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