The Republican Party must temper its emphasis on moral issues like abortion and same-sex "marriage" if the party is to regain seats lost during the 2006 congressional elections, a new poll says.
Fifty-three percent of Republicans say the party "has spent too much time focusing on moral issues such as abortion and gay marriage and should instead be spending time focusing on economic issues such as taxes and government spending."
"The results of this poll confirm what we have long believed — that what holds the GOP together is a belief in core economic principles," said Charles F. Bass, president and chief executive of the Republican Main Street Partnership, one of four moderate and liberal Republican groups that helped fund the survey.
"Republicans want us to get back to the basics," he said.
Republican voters are most concerned with economic issues, and say the party should put greater emphasis on fiscal responsibility,said the national survey of 2,000 Republican voters by Fabrizio, McLaughlin and Associates, headed by longtime Republican consultant Tony Fabrizio.
Of those responding, 78 percent said they want a balanced federal budget, and 80 percent said the federal government spends too much money.
Sixty-nine percent said taxes are too high, and 66 percent think the government is too big, according to the poll that was also underwritten by the Republican Leadership Council, the Republican Majority for Choice and the Log Cabin Republicans.
"Rank-and-file GOPers want our party to be focused on issues that unite us, not divide us," said Mr. Bass, a former Republican U.S. House member from New Hampshire.
The study showed strong support for foreign policy that protects national-security interests and wins the war on terror. Seventy-nine percent of those surveyed said U.S. foreign policy should be based on protecting our own economic and national-security interests, and 16 percent said foreign policy should be based on spreading democracy around the world.
Regarding the Bush administration's decision to go to war in Iraq, 74 percent said it was the correct decision.
The report said that 72 percent of respondents say the government should not control personal decisions on abortion, and 60 percent said they would support a presidential candidate who held a different view of abortion if they agreed on other main issues.
"The extreme far-right rhetoric and focus of many presidential candidates speaks only to a fringe minority," said Jennifer Stockman, co-chairwoman of Republican Majority for Choice, a pro-abortion-rights group. "The true beliefs of the real Republican majority show tolerance on moral issues and a clear demand that GOP leaders focus on areas where we unite as a party."
Ms. Stockman added that without an infusion of "creative" and broad-reaching ideas that span the party's entire ideological spectrum, Republican candidates can expect to lose support and elections.
On issues of homosexual rights, 77 percent of respondents say an employer shouldn't have the right to fire an employee based solely on their sexual orientation. Forty-nine percent say homosexuals should be able to serve openly in the U.S. military, while 42 percent are opposed.
The survey "validates what we've been saying for a long time — average Republicans are much more supportive of gay rights than some on the far right would like people to believe," said Patrick Sammon, president of the pro-homosexual-rights Log Cabin Republicans.
The 87-page study, an update of a 1997 survey, was conducted from May 28 to June 3. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.2 percentage points.