As you may have heard, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus recently acknowledged the GOP has a branding problem. However, a recent opinion piece published in the Washington Post by Andrew Kohut, founding director of the Pew Research Center, argues GOP problems may reach much deeper. In Kohut’s view, the political values of staunch far-right conservatives with an outsized impact on the party are proving detrimental and driving the party away from the center.
To offer some sense of where American voters stand in relation to the views of staunch conservatives such as those found within the Tea Party, consider this point: "The values gap between Republicans and Democrats is now greater than the one between men and women, young and old, or any racial or class divides." According to Pew Center polling that is the largest partisan divide over American values in 25 years.
Pew Research polling also points to three specific areas of GOP conservative politics driving a divide between conservatives and American voters: "ideological resistance to President Obama’s policies, discomfort with the changing face of America and the influence of conservative media." As most anyone who reads or watches the news is aware, the political hot topics sparking the most ideological resistance include gun control, abortion rights, global warming, and most significantly, the size and role of government.
The conservative media plays no small roll in shaping this divide. Interestingly Pew Research polling finds the influence of the liberal media pales in comparison to that of the conservative media. Business Insider reported on this back in 2010 but Kohut confirms that "conservative Republicans make up as much as 50% of the audiences for Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly. There is nothing like this on the left. MSNBC’s Hardball and The Rachel Maddow Show attract significantly fewer liberal Democrats."
It will also likely come as little surprise to learn the make-up of the staunch conservatives outlined in the piece is generally white, male, married, Protestant, well-off, and at least 50 years old. Is this really who Priebus thinks can create the "branding" the party needs?
Also to consider is the GOP's ever-present discomfort with the changing face of America, or what he calls "ethnographic attitudes," when looking to reach new demographics. But hey, support comprehensive immigration reform and maybe this can all change!
This perception, of course, is just the depiction of the state of the GOP through the eyes of one long-standing pollster with a whole lot of data points and polling to back him up. But if there is any truth to what these polls find, it looks like any attempt to "broaden appeal" of the GOP may require a serious overhaul of the role of most conservative Republicans.