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Democratic voters divided, GOP voters united over social issues, survey says

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Republican voters are essentially united but Democratic voters sharply divided on social issues such as “gay marriage” and the display of the Ten Commandments, a new nationwide survey shows.

The survey of 2,000 adults by the Pew Research Center shows that while Republicans have their disagreements — such as over economic issues — Democrats are split over many of today’s hot-button cultural issues.

“Despite differing degrees of religious intensity among core Republican groups, there is little evidence that the current slate of moral and values-oriented issues threatens to divide the Republican electoral base in any significant way,” the survey says. “… Overall, divisions over social and religious issues continue to be far more intense on the left than on the right.”

By asking a series of questions Pew divided voters in each party into three groups. Republicans consist of enterprisers (those who are pro-business), social conservatives and pro-government conservatives. Democrats are made up of liberals, disadvantaged Democrats (those who are struggling financially) and conservative Democrats.

On a host of issues, the survey, which was released May 10, says the liberal wing of the Democratic Party “stand[s] far apart from the rest of the electorate.” For instance:

— Eighty percent of liberals in the Democratic Party favor “gay marriage.” By contrast, the other two Democratic groups oppose it — 74 percent of conservative Democrats and 55 percent of disadvantaged Democrats. The Republican groups oppose “gay marriage” by 90 percent (enterprisers), 84 percent (social conservatives) and 76 percent (pro-government conservatives).

— Ninety-two percent of liberals and 51 percent of disadvantaged Democrats say homosexuality is a way of life that “should be accepted by society.” But 58 percent of conservative Democrats say homosexuality “should be discouraged by society.” All three Republican groups say homosexuality should be discouraged — 64 percent of enterprisers, 65 percent of social conservatives and 59 percent of pro-government conservatives.

— Sixty-one percent of liberals oppose Ten Commandments displays in government buildings. The other Democratic groups support them: 82 percent of conservative Democrats and 84 percent of disadvantaged Democrats. All the Republican groups also support the displays — enterprisers (89 percent), social conservatives (92 percent) and pro-government conservatives (92 percent).

— Eighty-eight percent of liberals oppose “making it more difficult for a woman to get an abortion.” The other two Democrats groups agree with the liberals on this issue, but by smaller margins — 51 percent of conservative Democrats and 67 percent of disadvantaged Democrats. All three Republican groups — 54 percent of enterprisers and social conservatives and 53 percent of pro-government conservatives — favor making it more difficult to obtain an abortion.

“Conservative Democrats who represent 14 percent of the general public and a quarter of John Kerry’s voting base in 2004 tend to agree with Republican groups more than other Democratic groups when it comes to key social issues such as gay marriage and abortion,” the study says. “Of equal importance, Liberals, who represent 17 percent of the general public and 39 percent of John Kerry’s voting base in 2004 are distinct from all other typology groups for their secular values.”

The survey says social conservatives represent 11 percent of the general population, although because of the questions and groupings, some voters who consider themselves social conservatives may have been placed into other categories. Enterprisers and pro-government conservatives each are 9 percent of the population, according to Pew.

“While agreeing with the conservative position on most key issues, Enterprisers are distinguished from other Republican-leaning groups by their relative lack of intensity with respect to individual or social moral beliefs,” the survey says.

The division among Democratic voters extends to church attendance. Only 18 percent of liberals say they attend church at least once a week. By comparison, 46 percent of conservative Democrats and 43 percent of disadvantaged Democrats attend church at least weekly, as do 48 percent of Republican enterprisers, 53 percent of social conservatives and 52 percent of pro-government conservatives.

Pew identified two main groups of independent voters — the upbeats (optimistic moderate voters) and the disaffecteds (less affluent moderate voters). Right now, both groups lean Republican.

“In effect, Republicans have succeeded in attracting two types of swing voters who could not be more different,” the study says. “The common threads are a highly favorable opinion of President Bush personally and support for an aggressive military stance against potential enemies of the U.S.”

The survey consisted of 2,000 interviews Dec. 1-16 and then 1,090 subsequent re-interviews March 17-27.

The entire study — which covers a wide range of issues — can be read online at: www.people-press.org/reports/display.php3?ReportID=242

    About the Author

  • Michael Foust