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Republican Party (United States)

"GOP" redirects here. For other uses, see GOP (disambiguation).

Republican Party
Chairman Reince Priebus (WI)
House leader John Boehner (Speaker) (OH)
Senate leader Mitch McConnell (Majority Leader) (KY)
Chair of Governors Association Bill Haslam (TN)
Founded March 20, 1854 (1854-03-20)
Preceded by Whig Party
Free Soil Party
Headquarters 310 First Street SE
Washington, D.C. 20003
Student wing College Republicans
Youth wing Young Republicans
Teen Age Republicans
Membership  (2012) 30.7 million[1]
Ideology Conservatism[2]
Economic liberalism[3]
Social conservatism[4]
Fiscal conservatism[5]
International affiliation International Democrat Union
European affiliation Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists[6] (associate)
Regional affiliation Asia Pacific Democrat Union[7]
Colors      Red
Seats in the Senate
54 / 100
Seats in the House
245 / 435
31 / 50
State Upper Chamber Seats
1,134 / 1,972
State Lower Chamber Seats
3,044 / 5,411
Politics of United States
Political parties

The Republican Party, commonly referred to as the GOP (abbreviation for Grand Old Party), is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, the other being its historic rival the Democratic Party.

Founded by anti-slavery activists in 1854, the GOP dominated politics nationally and in most of the northern U.S. for most of the period between 1860 and 1932. There have been 18 Republican U.S. presidents, the first being Abraham Lincoln, who served from 1861 until his assassination in 1865, and the most recent being George W. Bush, who served two full four-year terms 2001 to 2009. The most recent Republican presidential nominee was former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney who lost in 2012.

The party's platform is generally based on American conservatism,[8][9][10] in contrast to the contemporary American liberalism of the rival Democratic Party. The Republican Party's conservatism involves supporting free market capitalism, limited government, strong national defense, opposing regulation and labor unions, and supporting socially conservative policies.[2] The party is generally split on the issue of how to deal with illegal immigration.[11]

In the 114th U.S. Congress, the Republicans have their largest majority in the U.S. House of Representatives since the 1928 election; the GOP also holds a majority of seats in the Senate.[12] The party also holds a majority of governorships and state legislatures.[13] Specifically, 68 out of 98 partisan state legislative chambers have Republican majorities.[14][15]


Founding and 19th century

File:Abraham Lincoln head on shoulders photo portrait.jpg
Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican U.S. President (1861–1865).

Founded in the Northern states in 1854 by anti-slavery activists, modernizers, ex-Whigs, and ex-Free Soilers, the Republican Party quickly became the principal opposition to the dominant Democratic Party and the briefly popular Know Nothing Party. The main cause was opposition to the Kansas–Nebraska Act, which repealed the Missouri Compromise by which slavery was kept out of Kansas. The Northern Republicans saw the expansion of slavery as a great evil. The first public meeting where the name "Republican" was suggested for a new anti-slavery party was held on March 20, 1854 in a schoolhouse in Ripon, Wisconsin.[16] The name was partly chosen to pay homage to Thomas Jefferson's Republican Party.

The first official party convention was held on July 6, 1854, in Jackson, Michigan.[17] By 1858, the Republicans dominated nearly all Northern states. The Republican Party first came to power in 1860 with the election of Lincoln to the Presidency and Republicans in control of Congress and again, the Northern states. It oversaw the preserving of the union, the end of slavery, and the provision of equal rights to all men in the American Civil War and Reconstruction, 1861–1877.[18]

The Republicans' initial base was in the Northeast and the upper Midwest. With the realignment of parties and voters in the Third Party System, the strong run of John C. Fremont in the 1856 Presidential election demonstrated it dominated most northern states.

Early Republican ideology was reflected in the 1856 slogan "free labor, free land, free men", which had been coined by Salmon P. Chase, a Senator from Ohio (and future Secretary of the Treasury and Chief Justice of the United States).[19] "Free labor" referred to the Republican opposition to slave labor and belief in independent artisans and businessmen. "Free land" referred to Republican opposition to plantation system whereby slaveowners could buy up all the good farm land, leaving the yeoman independent farmers the leftovers. The Party strived to contain the expansion of slavery, which would cause the collapse of the slave power and the expansion of freedom.[20]

Lincoln, representing the fast-growing western states, won the Republican nomination in 1860 and subsequently won the presidency. The party took on the mission of preserving the Union and destroying slavery during the American Civil War and over Reconstruction. In the election of 1864, it united with War Democrats to nominate Lincoln on the National Union Party ticket.

The party's success created factionalism within the party in the 1870s. Those who felt that Reconstruction had been accomplished and was continued mostly to promote the large-scale corruption tolerated by President Ulysses S. Grant ran Horace Greeley for the presidency. The Stalwarts defended Grant and the spoils system; the Half-Breeds pushed for reform of the civil service.

The GOP supported business generally, hard money (i.e., the gold standard), high tariffs to promote economic growth, high wages and high profits, generous pensions for Union veterans, and (after 1893) the annexation of Hawaii. The Republicans supported the pietistic Protestants who demanded Prohibition. As the northern post-bellum economy boomed with heavy and light industry, railroads, mines, fast-growing cities and prosperous agriculture, the Republicans took credit and promoted policies to sustain the fast growth.

Nevertheless, by 1890 the Republicans had agreed to the Sherman Antitrust Act and the Interstate Commerce Commission in response to complaints from owners of small businesses and farmers. The high McKinley Tariff of 1890 hurt the party and the Democrats swept to a landslide in the off-year elections, even defeating McKinley himself.

After the two terms of Democrat Grover Cleveland, the election of William McKinley in 1896 is widely seen as a resurgence of Republican dominance and is sometimes cited as a realigning election. McKinley promised that high tariffs would end the severe hardship caused by the Panic of 1893, and that the GOP would guarantee a sort of pluralism in which all groups would benefit.

20th century

File:President Theodore Roosevelt, 1904.jpg
Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States (1901–1909)

The 1896 realignment cemented the GOP as the party of big business, while Theodore Roosevelt added more small business support by his embrace of trust busting. He handpicked his successor William Howard Taft in 1908, but they became enemies on economic issues. Defeated by Taft for the 1912 nomination, Roosevelt bolted the party and led the third party ticket of the Progressive Party. The party returned to the White House throughout the 1920s, running on platforms of normalcy, business-oriented efficiency, and high tariffs. The national party avoided the prohibition issue after it became law in 1920.

Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover were resoundingly elected in 1920, 1924, and 1928 respectively. The Teapot Dome scandal threatened to hurt the party but Harding died and Coolidge blamed everything on him, as the opposition splintered in 1924. The pro-business policies of the decade seemed to produce an unprecedented prosperity until the Wall Street Crash of 1929 heralded the Great Depression.

New Deal Era

The New Deal coalition of Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt controlled American politics for most of the next three decades, excepting the two-term presidency of Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower. Blacks moved into the Democratic Party during the New Deal era; they could vote in the North but not in the South. After Roosevelt took office in 1933, New Deal legislation sailed through Congress and the economy moved sharply upward from its nadir in early 1933. However long-term unemployment remained a drag until 1940. In the 1934 midterm elections, 10 Republican senators went down to defeat, leaving them with only 25 against 71 Democrats. The House of Representatives likewise had overwhelming Democratic majorities.

The GOP split into a majority "Old Right" (based in the Midwest) and a liberal wing based in the Northeast that supported much of the New Deal. The Old Right sharply attacked the "Second New Deal" and said it represented class warfare and socialism. Roosevelt was reelected in a landslide in 1936 but everything went awry in his second term, as the economy plunged, strikes soared, and FDR failed to take control of the Supreme Court or to purge the Southern conservatives in the Democratic party. The GOP made a major comeback in the 1938 elections, and had new rising stars such as Robert A. Taft of Ohio on the right and Thomas E. Dewey of New York on the left.[21] Southern conservatives joined with most Republicans to form the conservative coalition, which dominated domestic issues in Congress until 1964. Both parties split on foreign policy issues, with the anti-war isolationists dominant in the GOP and the interventionists who wanted to stop Hitler dominant in the Democratic party. Roosevelt won a third and fourth term in 1940 and 1944. Conservatives abolished most of the New Deal during the war, but did not attempt to reverse Social Security or the agencies that regulated business.

Historian George H. Nash argues:

Unlike the "moderate", internationalist, largely eastern bloc of Republicans who accepted (or at least acquiesced in) some of the "Roosevelt Revolution" and the essential premises of President Truman's foreign policy, the Republican Right at heart was counterrevolutionary, anticollectivist, anti-Communist, anti-New Deal, passionately committed to limited government, free market economics, and congressional (as opposed to executive) prerogatives, the G.O.P. conservatives were obliged from the start to wage a constant two-front war: against liberal Democrats from without and "me-too" Republicans from within.[22]

The Democrats elected majorities to Congress almost continuously after 1932 (the GOP won only in 1946 and 1952), but the Conservative Coalition blocked practically all major liberal proposals in domestic policy. After 1945, the internationalist wing of the GOP cooperated with Harry Truman's Cold War foreign policy, funded the Marshall Plan, and supported NATO, despite the continued isolationism of the Old Right.

File:Official Portrait of President Reagan 1981.jpg
Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States (1981–1989)

The second half of the 20th century saw election or succession of Republican presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush. Eisenhower had defeated conservative leader Senator Robert A. Taft for the 1952 nomination, but conservatives dominated the domestic policies of the Eisenhower Administration. Voters liked Ike much more than they liked the GOP, and he proved unable to shift the party to a more moderate position. After 1970, the liberal wing faded away.[23]

Ever since he left office in 1989, Reagan has been the iconic Republican; and Republican presidential candidates frequently claim to share his views and aim to establish themselves and their policies as the more appropriate heir to his legacy.[24] In 1994, the Party, led by House Minority Whip Newt Gingrich campaigning on the Contract with America, was elected to majorities to both houses of Congress in the Republican Revolution. However Gingrich was unable to deliver on most of its promises, and after the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in 1998 and subsequent Republican losses in the House, he resigned. Since Reagan's day, presidential elections have been close. However, the Republican presidential candidate won a majority of the popular vote only in 2004, while coming in second in 1992, 1996, 2000, 2008 and 2012.

21st century

The Senate majority lasted until 2001, when the Senate became split evenly but was regained in the 2002 elections. Both Republican majorities in the House and Senate were held until the Democrats regained control in the mid-term elections of 2006. The Republican Party has since been defined by social conservatism, a preemptive war foreign policy intended to defeat terrorism and promote global democracy, a more powerful executive branch, supply side economics, support for gun ownership, and deregulation.

George H. W. Bush, 41st President of the United States (1989–1993)
George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States (2001–2009)
Father and son presidents of the United States

In the Presidential election of 2008, the party's nominees were Senator John McCain, of Arizona, for President and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin for Vice President. They were defeated by Senator Barack Obama of Illinois and Senator Joe Biden of Delaware. In 2009, Republicans Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell were elected to the governorships of New Jersey and Virginia.

2010 was a year of electoral success for the Republicans, starting with the upset win of Scott Brown in the Massachusetts special Senate election for the seat held for many decades by the Democratic Kennedy brothers. In the November elections, Republicans recaptured control of the House, increased their number of seats in the Senate, and gained a majority of governorships.[25] Additionally, Republicans took control of at least 19 Democratic-controlled state legislatures.[26]

In the Presidential election of 2012, the Republican nominees were former Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts for President, and Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin for Vice President. The Democrats nominated incumbents Barack Obama and Joe Biden. The campaign focused largely on the Affordable Care Act and President Obama's stewardship of the economy, with the country facing high unemployment numbers and a rising national debt four years after his first election. Romney and Ryan were defeated by Obama and Biden. In addition, in the November congressional elections, while Republicans lost 7 seats in the House, they retained control. However, Republicans were not able to gain control of the Senate, continuing their minority status with a net loss of 2 seats.

By September 2014 the GOP was confident of making gains in the November election and perhaps taking control of the Senate by gaining six seats.[27][28] With a final total of 247 seats (56.78%) in the House and 54 seats in the Senate, the Republicans ultimately achieved their largest majority in the U.S. Congress since the 71st Congress in 1929.[29]

The 2016 presidential campaign was already underway as The Wall Street Journal in September 2014 handicapped the dozen or so most prominently mentioned GOP "wannabes" or potential candidates. Two are policy wonks. Representative Paul Ryan focuses on economic policies. Senator Marco Rubio has dropped his previous emphasis on immigration issues, but has issued a long series of position papers on domestic and foreign policy. Two elder statesmen are waiting in the wings: former governor Jeb Bush, and 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Two potential nominees are engaged in late 2014 in rebuilding their reputation after serious mishaps: governors Chris Christie, and Rick Perry. Senator Ted Cruz is appealing to the most conservative elements by taking the position furthest to the right on economic, social, and national security issues. Three other governors are running as outsiders: Scott Walker, Bobby Jindall, and Mike Pence. Senator Rob Portman and former Senator Rick Santorum are long-shots. A unique position is held by Senator Rand Paul, with his distinctive strongly libertarian appeals on economics, foreign policy, and social issues.[30]

Electoral history

Name and symbols

1874 Nast cartoon featuring the first notable appearance of the Republican elephant[32]
The modern GOP elephant
The current GOP logo, incorporating the Republican elephant

The party's founding members chose the name "Republican Party" in the mid-1850s as homage to the values of republicanism promoted by Thomas Jefferson's Republican party.[33] The idea for the name came from an editorial by the party's leading publicist Horace Greeley, who called for, "some simple name like 'Republican' [that] would more fitly designate those who had united to restore the Union to its true mission of champion and promulgator of Liberty rather than propagandist of slavery".[34] The name reflects the 1776 republican values of civic virtue and opposition to aristocracy and corruption.[35]

The term "Grand Old Party" is a traditional nickname for the Republican Party, and the abbreviation "GOP" is a commonly used designation. The term originated in 1875 in the Congressional Record, referring to the party associated with the successful military defense of the Union as "this gallant old party"; the following year in an article in the Cincinnati Commercial, the term was modified to "grand old party". The first use of the abbreviation is dated 1884.[36]

The traditional mascot of the party is the elephant. A political cartoon by Thomas Nast, published in Harper's Weekly on November 7, 1874, is considered the first important use of the symbol.[37] In the early 20th century, the usual symbol of the Republican Party in Midwestern states such as Indiana and Ohio was the bald eagle, as opposed to the Democratic rooster.

After the 2000 election, the color red became associated with the GOP, although the party has not officially adopted it. That election night, for the first time, all of the major broadcast networks used the same color scheme for the electoral map: states won by Republican nominee George W. Bush were colored red, and states won by Democratic nominee Al Gore were colored blue. Although the assignment of colors to political parties is unofficial and informal, they have come to be widely recognized by the media to represent the respective political parties.

Further information: Red states and blue states

Structure and composition

The Republican National Committee (RNC) is responsible for promoting Republican campaign activities. It is responsible for developing and promoting the Republican political platform, as well as coordinating fundraising and election strategy. Its current chairman is Reince Priebus. The chairman of the RNC is chosen by the President when the Republicans have the White House or otherwise by the Party's state committees.

The RNC, under the direction of the party's presidential candidate, supervises the Republican National Convention and raises funds for candidates. On the local level, there are similar state committees in every state and most large cities, counties and legislative districts, but they have far less money and influence than the national body.

The Republican House and Senate caucuses have separate fundraising and strategy committees. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) assists in House races, while the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) does so in Senate races. They each raise over $100 million per election cycle, and play important roles in recruiting strong state candidates, while the Republican Governors Association (RGA) assists in state gubernatorial races; in 2014 it is chaired by Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey.[38]

Ideology and political positions

The modern Republican Party includes conservatives, social conservatives, economic liberals, fiscal conservatives, neoconservatives, populists, moderates, libertarians, and the religious right.[39] Prior to the formation of the conservative coalition, which helped realign the Democratic and Republican party ideologies in the mid-1960s, the party had historically advocated classical liberalism and progressivism. The party is a full member of the conservative International Democrat Union as well as the Asia Pacific Democrat Union. It is also an associate member of the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists,[6] which has close relations to the Conservative Party of the United Kingdom.

Economic policies

Republicans strongly believe that free markets and individual achievement are the primary factors behind economic prosperity. To this end, they advocate in favor of laissez-faire economics, fiscal conservatism, and the elimination of government run welfare programs in favor of private sector nonprofits and encouraging personal responsibility.

A leading economic theory advocated by modern Republicans is supply side economics. Some fiscal policies influenced by this theory were popularly known as Reaganomics, a term popularized during the Presidential administrations of Ronald Reagan. This theory holds that reduced income tax rates increase GDP growth and thereby generate the same or more revenue for the government from the smaller tax on the extra growth.[40] This belief is reflected, in part, by the party's long-term advocacy of tax cuts. Many Republicans consider the income tax system to be inherently inefficient and oppose graduated tax rates, which they believe are unfairly targeted at those who create jobs and wealth. They believe private spending is usually more efficient than government spending. Republicans oppose the estate tax.

Most Republicans agree there should be a "safety net" to assist the less fortunate;[citation needed] however, they tend to believe the private sector is more effective in helping the poor than government is; as a result, Republicans support giving government grants to faith-based and other private charitable organizations to supplant welfare spending. Members of the GOP also believe that limits on eligibility and benefits must be in place to ensure the safety net is not abused. Republicans introduced and strongly supported the welfare reform of 1996, which was signed into law by Democratic President Clinton, and which limited eligibility for welfare, successfully leading to many former welfare recipients finding jobs.[41][42]

The party opposes a government-run single-payer health care system, claiming such a system constitutes socialized medicine, and is in favor of a personal or employer-based system of insurance, supplemented by Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid, which covers approximately 40% of the poor.[citation needed][dead link][43] The GOP has a mixed record of supporting the historically popular Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid programs.[citation needed] Congressional Republicans and the Bush administration supported a reduction in Medicaid's growth rate;[44] however, congressional Republicans expanded Medicare, supporting a new drug plan for seniors starting in 2006.

In 2011, House Republicans overwhelmingly voted for a proposal named The Path to Prosperity and for major changes to Medicare, Medicaid, and the 2010 Health Care Legislation. Many Republicans support increased health insurance portability, laws promoting coverage of pre-existing medical conditions, a cap on malpractice lawsuits, the implementation of a streamlined electronic medical records system, an emphasis on preventative care rather than emergency room care, and tax benefits aimed at making health insurance more affordable for the uninsured and targeted to promote universal access.[citation needed] They generally oppose government funding for elective abortions.[45]

Labor unions

Since the 1920s the GOP has generally been opposed by labor union organizations and members; they comprise a major component of the Democratic New Deal coalition. Although unions have lost membership in the private sector since the 1970s, they have gained among public sector unions (such as school teachers). Republicans at the state level generally support various right to work laws that weaken unions. At the national level the GOP supports the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, which gives workers the right not to participate in unions, as opposed to a closed shop, which prohibits workers from choosing not to join unions in workplaces. Most Republicans are opposed to increases in the minimum wage, believing that such increases hurt many businesses by forcing them to cut jobs and services, export jobs overseas, and raise the prices of goods to compensate for the decrease in profit. As Taylor Dark has emphasized in his analysis of the enduring alliance between labor unions and the Democrats, the unions' "most virulent opponents have moved into the Republican Party".[46]

Republicans elected with Tea Party support in 2010, most notably Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, have launched major efforts against public sector unions due in part to state government pension obligations along with the allegation that the unions are too powerful.[47] Walker was challenged by a coalition of unions and Democrats, but beat back a recall effort and was reelected in 2014.[48]

Separation of powers and balance of powers

Many contemporary Republicans voice support of strict constructionism, the judicial philosophy that the Constitution should be interpreted narrowly and as close to the original intent as is practicable rather than a more flexible "living Constitution" model.[49] Most Republicans point to Roe v. Wade as a case of judicial activism, where the court overturned most laws restricting abortion on the basis of a right to privacy inferred from the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Some Republicans have actively sought to block judges whom they see as being activist judges and have sought the appointment of judges who claim to practice judicial restraint. The issue of judicial deference to the legislature is a matter of some debate—like the Democrats, most Republicans criticize court decisions that overturn their own (conservative) legislation as overstepping bounds and support decisions that overturn opposing legislation. Some commentators have advocated that the Republicans take a more aggressive approach and support legislative supremacy more firmly.[50]

The Republican Party has supported various bills within the last decade to strip some or all federal courts of the ability to hear certain types of cases, in an attempt to limit judicial review. These jurisdiction stripping laws have included removing federal review of the recognition of same-sex marriage with the Marriage Protection Act,[51] the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance with the Pledge Protection Act, and the rights of detainees in Guantanamo Bay in the Detainee Treatment Act. The Supreme Court overruled the last of these limitations in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld.

Compared to Democrats, many Republicans believe in a more robust version of federalism with greater limitations placed upon federal authorities and a larger role reserved for those of the individual States. Following this view on federalism, Republicans often take a less expansive reading of congressional power under the Commerce Clause, such as in the opinion of William Rehnquist in United States v. Lopez. Many Republicans on the more libertarian wing wish for a more dramatic narrowing of Commerce Clause power by revisiting, among other cases, Wickard v. Filburn, a case that held that growing wheat on a farm for consumption on the same farm fell under congressional power to "regulate commerce ... among the several States".

President George W. Bush was a proponent of the unitary executive theory and cited it within his Signing statements about legislation passed by Congress.[52] The administration's interpretation of the unitary executive theory was called seriously into question by Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, where the Supreme Court ruled 5–3 that the President does not have sweeping powers to override or ignore laws through his power as commander in chief,[53] stating "the Executive is bound to comply with the Rule of Law that prevails."[54] Following the ruling, the Bush administration has sought Congressional authorization for programs started only on executive mandate, as was the case with the Military Commissions Act, or abandoned programs it had previously asserted executive authority to enact, in the case of the National Security Agency domestic wiretapping program.

Environmental policies

Historically, more progressive leaders in the Republican party supported environmental protection. For example, Republican President Theodore Roosevelt was a prominent conservationist whose policies eventually led to the creation of the modern National Park Service.[55] Republican President Richard Nixon was responsible for establishing the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970.[56]

In 2006, Arnold Schwarzenegger, then the Republican Governor of California, signed into law a set of carbon emission regulations that were the country's first cap on greenhouse gases, and included vehicle emissions standards higher than those of the Federal Government. These regulations were opposed by the Bush administration.[57] President George W. Bush publicly opposed ratification of the Kyoto Protocols on the grounds that they unfairly targeted Western industrialized nations such as the United States while favoring major polluters such as China and India.[58]

In 2000, the Republican Party adopted as part of its platform support for the development of market-based solutions to environmental problems. According to the platform, "economic prosperity and environmental protection must advance together, environmental regulations should be based on science, the government's role should be to provide market-based incentives to develop the technologies to meet environmental standards, we should ensure that environmental policy meets the needs of localities, and environmental policy should focus on achieving results processes."[59]

The Bush administration,[60] along with several of the candidates that sought the Republican Presidential nomination in 2008,[61][62][63] supported increased Federal investment into the development of clean alternative fuels, increased nuclear power, as well as fuels such as ethanol, as a way of helping the U.S. achieve energy independence, as opposed to supporting less use of carbon dioxide-producing methods of generating energy. The Republican party rejects cap-and-trade policy.[64] Some Republicans support increased oil drilling in protected areas such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge John Collins Rudolf (December 6, 2010). "On Our Radar: Republicans Urge Opening of Arctic Refuge to Drilling". The New York Times. Retrieved December 11, 2014. , a position that has drawn sharp criticism from some activists. Republicans are deeply divided over the human causes of climate change and global warming "GOP Deeply Divided Over Climate Change". PewResearch Center for the People & the Press. November 1, 2013. Retrieved December 11, 2014. .

Green conservatism manifested itself as a movement in groups such as ConservAmerica, which seeks to strengthen the Republican Party's stance on environmental issues and support efforts to conserve natural resources and protect human and environmental health.

Social policies

The Republican Party is generally associated with social conservative policies, although it does have dissenting centrist and libertarian factions. The social conservatives want laws that uphold their traditional values, such as opposition to same-sex marriage, abortion, and marijuana.[65] Most conservative Republicans also oppose gun control, affirmative action, and illegal immigration.[65][66]

Abortion and embryonic stem cell research

A majority of the GOP's national and state candidates are pro-life and oppose elective abortion on religious or moral grounds. However, many hold exceptions in the case of incest, rape or the mother's life being at risk. When Congress voted on the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act in 2003, Congressional Republicans voted overwhelmingly to support the ban.

Although the GOP has voted for increases in government funding of scientific research, some members actively oppose the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research beyond the original lines because it involves the destruction of human embryos, while arguing for applying research money into adult stem cell or amniotic stem cell research. However, human embryos are not and have not been destroyed simply for the purpose of collecting stem cells; the embryos from which stem cells are obtained are already slated for destruction, resulting from extra embryos created for In-vitro-ferilization.[67][68][69] The stem cell issue has garnered two once-rare vetoes on research funding bills from President Bush, who said the research "crossed a moral boundary".

In August 2012, the party approved a platform advocating banning abortions, without exceptions for the cases of rape or incest. The text specifically stated that "the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed." It also opposed using public revenues to promote abortions, to perform them, or to fund organizations that do either such things.[70]

Civil rights

Republicans are generally against affirmative action for women and some minorities, often describing it as a racial quota system, believing that it is not meritocratic and that it is counter-productive socially by only further promoting discrimination. Many Republicans support race-neutral admissions policies in universities, but support taking into account the socioeconomic status of the student.[71][72]

Second Amendment rights

Republicans generally support gun ownership rights and oppose laws regulating guns, although some Republicans favor limited restrictions in some urban areas on the grounds of public safety.

The War on Drugs

Republicans have historically supported the War on Drugs, and oppose the legalization of drugs, believing that drugs are immoral and wrong, and the country should do its best to protect people from illegal drugs, and support Just Say No.[citation needed] More recently, several prominent Republicans have advocated for the reduction and reform of mandatory sentencing laws with regards to drugs.[73]


Most Republicans support school choice through charter schools and school vouchers for private schools; many have denounced the performance of the public school system and the teachers' unions. The party has insisted on a system of greater accountability for public schools, most prominently in recent years with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Many Republicans, however, opposed the creation of the United States Department of Education when it was initially created in 1979.[citation needed]

LGBT issues

Groups advocating for LGBT issues inside the party include the Log Cabin Republicans, Young Conservatives For The Freedom To Marry, and College Republicans.

A November/December 2013 Public Religion Research Institute poll sponsored by the Ford Foundation found that Republicans are divided in their perceptions of their own party: 45% think the GOP is friendly toward LGBT people, while 41% think the party is unfriendly.[74]

The 1992 GOP presidential platform was the first to oppose same-sex marriage.[75]

Support for same-sex marriage in the Republican Party
Republican Party % of support of same-sex marriage
Millennial Republican[74] 50 align="left" #REDIRECTmw:Help:Magic words#Other
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Generation X Republican[74] 42 align="left" #REDIRECTmw:Help:Magic words#Other
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Non-evangelical Republican[74] 42 align="left" #REDIRECTmw:Help:Magic words#Other
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All Republicans[76] 40 align="left" #REDIRECTmw:Help:Magic words#Other
This page is a soft redirect. 40
Conservative Republican[76] 28 align="left" #REDIRECTmw:Help:Magic words#Other
This page is a soft redirect. 28
Baby Boomer Republican[74] 27 align="left" #REDIRECTmw:Help:Magic words#Other
This page is a soft redirect. 27
Silent Generation Republican[74] 18 align="left" #REDIRECTmw:Help:Magic words#Other
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White evangelical Protestant Republican[74] 18 align="left" #REDIRECTmw:Help:Magic words#Other
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A May 2012 poll found that only 37% of Republicans supported a constitutional amendment defining marriage between a man and a women.[77] A November/December 2013 poll found that 63% of Republicans believe same-sex marriage should be left up to individual states to decide.[74]

Military service

The 1992 Republican Party platform adopted support for continuing to exclude homosexuals from the military as a matter of good order and discipline.[75] The support for the exclusion of homosexuals from military service would remain in the Republican Party platform until the 2012 Republican Party platform, which removed that language from it.[78]

A May 2012 United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll found that only 41% of Republicans supported restoring the prohibition against gays serving openly in the military.[77]

Anti-discrimination laws

The 1992 Republican Party platform adopted opposition to including sexual preference into anti-discrimination statutes.[75] The 2000 Republican Party platform included the statement: "We support the First Amendment right of freedom of association and stand united with private organizations, such as the Boy Scouts of America, and support their positions."[79] The 2004 Republican Party platform removed both parts of that language from the platform and stated that the party supports anti-discrimination legislation.[80] The 2008 and 2012 Republican Party platform supported anti-discrimination statues based on sex, race, age, religion, creed, disability, or national origin, but both platforms were silent on sexual orientation and gender identity.[78][81]

A November/December 2013 Public Religion Research Institute poll sponsored by the Ford Foundation found that 61% of Republicans support laws protecting gay and lesbian people against employment discrimination, with only 33% opposing such laws.[74] A 2007 Gallup poll showed 60% of Republicans supported expanding federal hate crime laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity, with only 30% opposing such laws.[82]

Foreign aid

The 2012 Republican Party platform opposes the Obama administration from attempting to impose its "cultural agenda", including a "homosexual rights agenda" in other countries by restricting foreign aid.[78] However, Republicans themselves have also frequently advocated for restricting foreign aid as a means of asserting the national security and immigration interests of the United States.[83][84][85]

Foreign policy and national defense

Republicans supported Woodrow Wilson's call for American entry into World War I in 1917, complaining only that he was too slow to go to war. Republicans in 1919 opposed his call for entry into the League of Nations. A majority supported the League with reservations; a minority opposed membership on any terms. Republicans sponsored world disarmament in the 1920s, and isolationism in the 1930s.[86] Most Republicans staunchly opposed intervention in World War II until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. By 1945, however, internationalists became dominant in the party which supported the Cold War policies such as the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, and NATO. Since 1980 the interventionist neoconservative ideologies have been influential[87] in calling for the "assertive" promotion of democracy and promotion of "American national interest" in international affairs (including by means of military force).[88][89]

In June 2014 the Quinnipiac Poll asked Americans which foreign policy they preferred:

A) The United States is doing too much in other countries around the world, and it is time to do less around the world and focus more on our own problems here at home. B) The United States must continue to push forward to promote democracy and freedom in other countries around the world because these efforts make our own country more secure.

Democrats chose A over B by 65%-32%; Republicans chose A over B by 56% to 39%; Independents chose A over B by 67% to 29%.[90]

Dwight Eisenhower

In 1952 General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the NATO supreme commander, was drafted by the Republican Party to counter the candidacy of non-interventionist Senator Robert A. Taft. Eisenhower's campaign was a crusade against the Truman administration's policies regarding "Korea, Communism and Corruption".[91]


Most Republicans supported Nixon-Ford-Kissinger policy of Vietnamization (letting Vietnam do the fighting with American arms) and their policy of détente with the Soviet Union and China. The conservative wing, led by Reagan, denounced détente with the USSR but was defeated by Ford in 1976, When Ford lost his reelection bid to Jimmy Carter, Reagan's approach dominated the party.[92]

Ronald Reagan

Cold War

President Reagan reignited the Cold War. Détente was rejected in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter in the face of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Reagan then ordered a massive buildup of the United States Armed Forces, especially the SDI project to undermine the Soviet nuclear threat by shooting down its missiles.[93]


On October 25, 1983, at the request of the regional governments, Reagan ordered Operation Urgent Fury, a military invasion of the small, Caribbean island of Grenada, where over a thousand American students and their families were in residence. A Marxist coup d'état had overthrown the established government and shot its leader Maurice Bishop. This was the first actual rollback that destroyed a Communist regime and marked the continued escalation of tensions with the Soviet Union known as the Second Cold War. Democrats had been highly critical of Reagan's anti-Communism in Latin America, but this time Reagan had strong support from the voters and leading Democrats said the invasion was justified.[94] It built the President's image of decisive strong action a year before the 1984 election, when Mondale said he too would have ordered the invasion. Indeed Mondale attacked Senator Gary Hart, his chief opponent for the Democratic nomination, as isolationist and weak on fighting dictatorships.[95]

Covert operations

Under a policy that came to be known as the Reagan Doctrine, Reagan and his administration also provided overt and covert aid to anti-communist resistance movements in an effort to "rollback" Soviet-backed communist governments in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The policy was politically controversial, with liberal Democrats especially angry with Reagan's operations in Latin America.[95] Covert operations elsewhere, especially in Afghanistan against the Soviets, however, usually won bipartisan support.[96]

George H. W. Bush

Gulf War 1990–91

Main article: Gulf War

On August 1, 1990, Iraq, led by Saddam Hussein, invaded Kuwait. President Bush formed an international coalition and secured UN approval to expel Iraq. On January 12, 1991, Congress voted approval for a military attack, Operation Desert Storm, by a narrow margin, with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed. The vote in the House was 250–183, and in the Senate 52–47. In the Senate 42 Republicans and 10 Democrats voted yes to war, while 45 Democrats and two Republicans voted no. In the House 164 Republicans and 86 Democrats voted yes, and 179 Democrats, three Republicans and one Independent voted no.[97] The war was short and successful, but Hussein was allowed to remain in power. Arab countries repaid all the American military costs.[98]

1990s opposition politics

In the 1990s, Republicans in Congress split over U.S. military intervention in the Yugoslav wars under Democratic President Bill Clinton. Examples of interventionist-minded Republicans are then Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole and Senator John McCain and examples of opposing figures are later Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and House Majority Leader Dick Armey, the latter of which who called Kosovo deployment "poorly considered and unlikely to achieve our desired ends".[99] In 2000, successful Republican Presidential candidate George W. Bush ran on a platform that generally opposed U.S. involvement in foreign conflicts, saying that the U.S. didn't have the responsibly of "nation building". As such, he advocated U.S. military withdrawal from the Balkan NATO peacekeeping mission.[100]

George W. Bush

Invasion of Afghanistan

After the September 11 attacks in 2001 in New York, Bush launched the War on Terrorism, in which the United States led an international coalition invaded Afghanistan, the base of terrorist Osama bin Laden. This invasion led to the toppling of the Taliban regime. After a surprise raid on bin Laden's compound on May 2, 2011, ordered by Barack Obama, bin Laden was killed and his body disposed of in the sea. There was bipartisan support for this action, with notable Republican and Democratic figures speaking out in support of the raid.

Invasion of Iraq

File:Bush auth jbc.jpg
President George W. Bush, surrounded by leaders of the House and Senate, announces the Iraq war resolution on October 2, 2002.

In 2003, following the bipartisan Iraq war resolution and the perceived issues regarding UN weapons inspectors, President Bush launched the invasion of Iraq, in conjunction with coalition partners, most notably, the United Kingdom. The invasion was described by Bush as being part of the general 'War on Terrorism'. Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was captured and executed, but his supporters and other opposing forces staged an insurgency that dragged on for years. It was a major election issue in 2004 (when Bush was reelected) and in 2006 and 2008 (when President Obama was first elected to the Presidency, and Democrats increased their numbers in both Houses of Congress).[101][102]

Significant public support for the war effort existed in the early days among both parties and others, but opinions changed course soon with about half of Americans surveyed in November 2003 judging the end result as not worth it. The lack of expected stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction and the failures of the military occupation of Iraq altered voters' views.[102] Polling done by CBS News on the ten-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion found that Republicans, by a margin of 61%, believed that the military action was the right thing to do, with majorities of Democrats and independents disagreeing. However, that same poll found that Republicans were divided on 46% to 45% lines on the question of if U.S. forces succeeded in their overall objectives.[103] By January 2014, 52% of Republicans were supportive of military action in Iraq, with 38% saying the war had succeeded, showing that support for the war among Republicans has declined over time.[104]

2010s opposition politics

President Barack Obama, inaugurated in January 2009 and later reelected to a second term, continued the previous policy of keeping large-scale intervention in the War in Afghanistan, with a plan of removing combat troops while Afghan forces trained to replace them until late 2014. An October 2012 Pew Research Center poll found Republicans evenly divided at 48% over the choices of keeping American military forces in Afghanistan "until the situation has stabilized" analogous to Obama's policies versus making them leave "as soon as possible". An article in the news-magazine Foreign Policy stated that this represented a move from a previous "hawkish" stance by Republicans.[105]

The Arab Spring

The Republican Party has been largely split on the attitude the United States should take in response to the events of the Arab Spring. Republican leadership in the House and Senate supported the 2011 military intervention in Libya, though many conservative congressional Republicans, such as Michele Bachmann, voted in opposition to the intervention.[106] Similarly, many senior Republicans, including presidential nominees John McCain and Mitt Romney as well as the Tea Party-affiliated Florida Senator Marco Rubio supported arming the Syrian rebels,[107][108][109] while conservative Republicans in Congress proclaimed their opposition to this.[110][111] Congressional Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, were overwhelmingly opposed to the proposed US military intervention in Syria.[112] In both Libya and Syria, Republicans opposed to intervention have cited Islamist influence within the rebel groups[113][114] and a lack of U.S. national security interest[115] as the reason for their opposition.


Leading Republicans all supported sanctions against Russia in response to the 2014 Russian military intervention in Ukraine. No major politician of either party opposed the first rounds of American and EU sanctions in April 2014.[116]


As a result, some in the Republican Party support unilateralism on issues of national security, believing in the ability and right of the United States to act without external support in matters of its national defense. In general, Republican thinking on defense and international relations is heavily influenced by the theories of neorealism and realism, characterizing conflicts between nations as struggles between faceless forces of international structure, as opposed to being the result of the ideas and actions of individual leaders. The realist school's influence shows in Reagan's Evil Empire stance on the Soviet Union and George W. Bush's Axis of evil.

Republicans secured gains in the 2002 and 2004 elections, with the War on Terror being one of the top issues favoring them. Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, some in the party support neoconservative policies with regard to the War on Terror, including the 2001 war in Afghanistan and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The doctrine of preemptive war, wars to disarm and destroy potential military foes based on speculation of future attacks rather than in defense against actual attack, has been advocated by prominent members of the Bush administration, but the war within Iraq has undercut the influence of this doctrine within the Republican Party. Rudy Giuliani, mayor of New York at the time of the September 11 terrorist attacks, and a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, has stated his support for that policy, saying America must keep itself "on the offensive" against terrorists.

The George W. Bush administration took the position that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to unlawful combatants, saying they apply to soldiers serving in the armies of nation states and not terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda. The Supreme Court overruled this position in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, which held that the Geneva Conventions were legally binding and must be followed in regards to all enemy combatants. Prominent Republicans such as John McCain, Mike Huckabee, and Ron Paul strongly oppose the use of enhanced interrogation techniques, which they view as torture.

Other international policies


Republicans support the construction of the Keystone Pipeline, which would connect the Athabasca oil sands in Canada to refineries in the United States. American and Canadian environmentalists have strongly opposed the pipeline's construction, although the Canadian government has lobbied for it.[117]


The Republican Party's leadership supports a strong alliance with Israel, but supports efforts to secure peace in the Middle East between Israel and its Arab neighbors.[118]


The Republican Party claims the U.S. should promote friendship not only between the United States and Russia, but also between Russia and its neighbors. The party argues that with Russia, the U.S. needs to display patience, consistency, and a principled reliance on democratic forces. It also argues that Russia must stop encouraging the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.[119] The party stresses the common interests of the two countries, which include ending terrorism, combating nuclear proliferation, promoting bilateral trade.[120]


The party, through former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, has advocated reforms in the United Nations to halt corruption such as that which afflicted the Oil-for-Food Program. Most Republicans oppose the Kyoto Protocol. The party promotes free trade agreements, most notably North American Free Trade Agreement, Dominican Republic–Central America Free Trade Agreement and an effort to go further south to Brazil, Peru and Colombia, although some have a protectionist view of trade.


Republicans are divided on how to confront illegal immigration between a platform that allows for migrant workers and easing citizenship guidelines, and border enforcement-first approach. In general, pro-growth advocates within the Republican Party support more immigration, and traditional or populist conservatives oppose it. In 2006, the White House supported and Republican-led Senate passed comprehensive immigration reform that would eventually allow millions of illegal immigrants to become citizens, but the House, also led by Republicans, took an enforcement-first approach, and the bill failed to pass the conference committee.[121]

Lately, after the defeat in the 2012 presidential elections, and considering the low percent of Latino Americans that voted for Republicans, several Republicans are advocating a friendlier approach to immigrants. Former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez is promoting the creation of a SuperPAC for immigration reform.[122]

Proposals calling for systematic reform of the U.S. immigration system such that residents that have come into the U.S. illegally have a pathway to legal citizenship have attracted broad Republican support in some polls. For example, the Public Religion Research Institute found in late 2013 that 60% of Republicans supported the pathway concept, compared to 63% of Americans as a whole.[123]

Voter base

In general terms, the number of Americans self-identifying as Republicans has been around 30% over the past twenty years. According to Gallup polling, 29% of Americans identified as Republicans versus 31% doing so as Democrats and 38% as independents in 2010, which represented a slight drop from the 31% identified as Republicans in 1988.[124] In a 2014 Gallup survey, Republican identification was down to 25 percent, the lowest in at least 25 years.[125][126]

Historically speaking, the Republican base initially consisted of northern white Protestants and African-Americans nationwide, with the first Presidential candidate, John C. Fremont, receiving almost no votes in the South. This trend continued into the 20th century, with 1944 Republican presidential candidate Thomas E. Dewey having only 10% of his popular votes in the South. After the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the core base shifted considerably. The party's base consists of groups such as white, married Protestants, rural and suburban citizens, and non-union workers without college degrees, with urban residents, ethnic minorities, the unmarried, and union workers having shifted to the Democratic Party.[127]

Business community

The GOP is usually seen as the traditionally pro-business party and it garners major support from a wide variety of industries from the financial sector to small businesses. Republicans are about 50 percent more likely to be self-employed, and are more likely to work in management.[128]

A survey cited by The Washington Post in 2012 stated that 61 percent of small business owners planned to vote for then-Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney. Small business became a major theme of the 2012 Republican National Convention. For example, South Dakota Senator John Thune discussed his grandfather's hardware store and New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte referred to her husband's landscaping company.[129]


The Democrats do better among younger Americans and Republicans among older Americans. In 2006, the GOP won 38% of the voters aged 18–29.[130]

Low-income voters tend to favor the Democrats while high-income voters tend to support the Republicans. In 2012, Obama won 60% of voters with income under $50,000, and 45% of those with incomes higher than that.[131] Bush won 41% of the poorest 20% of voters in 2004, 55% of the richest twenty percent, and 53% of those in between. In the 2006 House races, the voters with incomes over $50,000 were 49% Republican, while those under were 38%.[130]

Republicans hold a large majority in the armed services, with 57% of active military personnel and 66% of officers identified as Republican in 2003.[132]


Since 1980, a "gender gap" has seen slightly stronger support for the GOP among men than among women. In 2012, Obama won 55% of the women and 45% of the men—and more women voted than men.[131] In the 2006 House races, 43% of women voted for GOP, while 47% of men did so.[130] In the 2010 midterms, the "gender gap" was reduced with women supporting GOP and Democratic candidates equally 49% to 49%.[133][134] In recent elections, Republicans have found their greatest support among whites from married couples with children living at home.[135] Unmarried and divorced women were far more likely to vote for Kerry in 2004.[136] 2012 returns reveal a continued weakness among unmarried women, a large and growing portion of the electorate.[137]

Although Mitt Romney lost women as a whole 44–55 to Barack Obama, he won married women 53–46.[138] Obama won unmarried women 67–31,[139] suggesting that women are not a unified voting bloc and that the divide may be between financially stable, older married women and younger, more socially liberal women rather than between women and men.


In 2012, the Pew Research Center conducted a study of registered voters with a 35–28, Democrat-to-Republican gap. They found that self-described Democrats had a +8 advantage over Republicans among college graduates, +14 of all post-graduates polled. Republicans were +11 among white men with college degrees, Democrats +10 among women with degrees. Democrats accounted for 36% of all respondents with an education of high school or less, Republicans were 28%. When isolating just white registered voters polled, Republicans had a +6 advantage overall and were +9 of those with a high school education or less.[140]

An analysis of 2008 through 2012 survey data from the General Social Survey, the National Election Studies, and the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press led to the following assessment of the overall educational status of self-identified Democrats and Republicans:
On average, self-identified Republicans have more years of education (4 to 8 months each, depending on the survey) and are probably more likely to hold, at the least, a 4-year college degree. (One major survey indicates that they are more likely, while the results of another survey are statistically insignificant.) It also appears that Republicans continue to out-test Democrats in surveys that assess political knowledge and/or current events. With respect to post-graduate studies, the educational advantage is shifting towards self-identified Democrats. They are now more likely to hold post-graduate college degrees. (One major survey indicates that they are more likely, while the results of another survey are statistically insignificant.)[141]


File:Alan Keyes speech.jpg
Alan Keyes orating in February 2008. Keyes was the first African American Republican candidate for the U.S. presidency.

A majority of the Republican voter base are white Americans. While historically the party had been supporters of rights for African Americans since the 1860s, it lost its leadership position; the GOP has been winning under 15% of the black vote in recent national elections (1980 to 2008). The party has recently nominated African American candidates for senator or governor in Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland, though none were successful. In the 2010 elections, two African American Republicans were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.[142] The Republican Party abolished slavery under Abraham Lincoln, defeated the Slave Power, and gave blacks the vote during Reconstruction in the late 1860s. Until the New Deal of the 1930s, blacks supported the GOP by large margins.[143] Most black voters switched to the Democratic Party in the 1930s when the New Deal offered them employment opportunities, and major figures, such as Eleanor Roosevelt, began to support civil rights. They became one of the core components of the New Deal Coalition. In the South, blacks were able to vote again in large numbers after 1965, when a bipartisan coalition passed the Voting Rights Act, and ever since have formed a significant portion (20–50%) of the Democratic vote in that region.[144]

In recent decades, the party has been moderately successful in gaining support from Hispanic and Asian American voters. George W. Bush, who campaigned energetically for Hispanic votes, received 35% of their vote in 2000 and 44% in 2004.[145] The party's strong anti-communist stance has made it popular among some minority groups from current and former Communist states, in particular Cuban Americans, Korean Americans, Chinese Americans, and Vietnamese Americans. The election of Bobby Jindal as Governor of Louisiana has been hailed as pathbreaking.[146] He is the first elected minority governor in Louisiana and the first state governor of Indian descent.[147] In the 2008 presidential election, John McCain won 55% of white votes, 35% of Asian votes, 31% of Hispanic votes, and 4% of African American votes.[148] In the 2010 House election, the GOP won 60% of the white votes, 38% of Hispanic votes, and 9% of the African American vote.[149] According to John Avlon in 2013, the Republican party is more diverse at the statewide elected official level than the Democratic Party, including Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott.[150]

For decades, a greater percentage of white voters identified themselves as Democrats, rather than Republicans. However, since the mid-1990s whites have been more likely to self-identify as Republicans than Democrats.[151]

Religious beliefs

Religion has always played a major role for both parties but, in the course of a century, the parties' religious compositions have changed. Religion was a major dividing line between the parties before 1960, with Catholics, Jews, and Southern Protestants heavily Democratic, and Northeastern Protestants heavily Republican. Most of the old differences faded away after the realignment of the 1970s and 80s that undercut the New Deal coalition.[152] Voters who attend church weekly gave 61% of their votes to Bush in 2004; those who attend occasionally gave him only 47%, while those who never attend gave him 36%. Fifty-nine percent of Protestants voted for Bush, along with 52% of Catholics (even though John Kerry was Catholic). Since 1980, large majorities of evangelicals have voted Republican; 70–80% voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004, and 70% for GOP House candidates in 2006. Jews continue to vote 70–80% Democratic. Democrats have close links with the African American churches, especially the National Baptists, while their historic dominance among Catholic voters has eroded to 54–46 in the 2010 midterms.[148] The main line traditional Protestants (Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Disciples) have dropped to about 55% Republican (in contrast to 75% before 1968). The mainline denominations are rapidly shrinking in size. Mormons in Utah and neighboring states voted 75% or more for Bush in 2000.[153]

This map shows the vote in the 2004 presidential election by county. All major Republican geographic constituencies are visible: red dominates the map, showing Republican strength in the rural areas, while the denser areas (i.e., cities) are blue. Notable exceptions include the Pacific coast, New England, the Black Belt, areas with high Native American populations, and the heavily Hispanic parts of the Southwest.


Since 1980, geographically the Republican "base" ("red states") is strongest in the South, the Midwest, and Mountain West. While it is weakest on the West Coast and Northeast, this has not always been the case; historically the northeast was a bastion of the Republican Party with Vermont and Maine being the only two states to vote against Franklin Roosevelt all four times. The Midwest has been roughly balanced since 1854, with Illinois becoming more Democratic and liberal because of the city of Chicago (see below) and Minnesota and Wisconsin more Republican since 1990. Ohio and Indiana both trend Republican. Since the 1930s, the Democrats have dominated most central cities, while the Republicans now dominate rural areas and the majority of suburbs.[154]

The South has become solidly Republican in national elections since 1980, and has been trending Republican at the state level since then at a slower pace.[155] In 2004, Bush led Kerry by 70%–30% among Southern whites, who made up 71% of the Southern electorate. Kerry had a 70–30 lead among the 29% of the voters who were black or Hispanic. One-third of these Southern voters said they were white evangelicals; they voted for Bush by 80–20; but were only 72% Republican in 2006.[130][145]

The Republican Party's strongest focus of political influence lies in the Great Plains states, particularly Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota, and in the Mountain states of Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah (Utah gave George W. Bush more than 70% of the popular vote in 2004). These states are sparsely populated with few major urban centers, and have majority white populations, making it extremely difficult for Democrats to create a sustainable voter base there. While still remaining notably Republican, Montana is the only state in the region with a more moderate lean.[156] Unlike the South, these areas have been strongly Republican since before the party realignments of the 1960s. The Great Plains states were one of the few areas of the country where Republicans had any significant support during the Great Depression.

Conservatives, moderates, liberals, and progressives

Republican conservatives are strongest in the South, Mountain West and Midwest, where they draw support from social conservatives. The moderates tend to dominate the party in New England, and used to be well represented in all states. From the 1940s to the 1970s under such leaders as Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford, they usually dominated the presidential wing of the party. Since the 1970s, they have been less powerful, though they are always represented in the cabinets of Republican presidents. In Vermont, Jim Jeffords, a Republican Senator became an independent in 2001 due to growing disagreement with President Bush and the party leadership. In addition, moderate Republicans have recently held the governorships in several New England States, while Lincoln Chafee, a former moderate Republican senator is the independent governor of Rhode Island. Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine, and Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts are notable moderate Republicans from New England. From 1991 to 2007, moderate Republicans served as governors of Massachusetts. Prominent Republican moderates have included Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald Ford, and George Bush Sr., as well as Senate leaders Howard Baker and Bob Dole, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, and New York Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg.

Some well-known conservative radio hosts, including national figures such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Neal Boortz, Laura Ingraham, Michael Reagan, Howie Carr, and Michael Savage, as well as many local commentators, support Republican causes, while vocally opposing those of the Democrats.[157]

Historically, the Republican Party has included a liberal wing made up of individuals who, like members of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, believe in the power of government to improve people's lives. Before 1932 leading progressive Republicans included Theodore Roosevelt, Robert M. La Follette Sr., Charles Evan Hughes, Hiram Johnson, William Borah, George W. Norris, Hiram Johnson, and Fiorello La Guardia.[158] Prominent liberal Republicans, 1936 to the 1970s, included Alf Landon, Wendell Willkie, Earl Warren, Thomas Dewey, Prescott Bush, Nelson Rockefeller, Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., George W. Romney, William Scranton, and Jacob Javits. Since 1976, liberalism has virtually faded out of the GOP, apart from a few Northeastern holdouts.[23]

Republican factions: populist vs establishment

Nationwide polls of Republican voters in 2014 by the Pew Center identified a growing split in the GOP coalition, between "business conservatives" or "establishment conservatives" and "steadfast conservatives" or "populist conservatives".[159] Each group is over 84% Republican, and together they comprise 70% of the Republicans who played who pay close attention to politics and typically vote in most elections. Both factions are solidly inside the conservative coalition, and they agree on most issues. However they sharply disagree on economic issues of concern to business. 71% of the populist faction believe that too much power is concentrated in the hands of large companies, compared to only 35% among the establishment faction. Asked whether Wall Street helps the economy, 74% of the establishment faction agreed compared to 49% of the populist faction. The factions differ sharply on whether the US should be more or less active in world affairs. On foreign trade, 68% of the establishment faction believes that free trade agreements benefit the American economy, compared to only 39% of the populist faction. In the immigration debate, the establishment faction favors a path to citizenship, and 64% says that immigrants strengthen the nation, compared to only 17% of the populists. The tension exploded into front-page news and June 2014, when an establishment leader, house Majority Leader Eric Cantor was upset by Prof. Dave Brat, a little-known populist conservative and economics professor, in the Republican primary in Virginia. The establishment Republicans fought back in the Mississippi primary in June, as incumbent U.S. Senator Thad Cochran narrowly defeated populist state senator Chris McDaniel in a bitter fight that featured heavy spending by national organizations.

The Tea Party movement is typically aligned with the Republican Party, but it feuds with the pro-business wing of the party, which it sees as too moderate and too willing to compromise.[160]

In Congress, Cantor's replacement as Majority Leader is Congressman Kevin McCarthy, who had been an advocate of the Export-Import Bank. It finances overseas purchases of American products, especially airplanes. However after meeting with populist Congressmen, McCarthy changed positions and decided to support the termination of the Bank.[161][162]

Recent electoral data and trends

For most of American history after the ending of the Second World War, the Republicans performed poorly in state legislative elections and faced difficulties in terms of mass organization in many states. The Democrats controlled the majority of chambers across the nation for several decades, but the trend became more mixed during the 1990s. For example, while the state of Texas has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1976, the Republicans were unable to win over the state legislature until after the beginning of the new millennium. Trends have shifted over the past ten years or so in significant part to re-organization efforts; for instance, from 2004 to 2014, the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) raised over $140 million targeted to state legislature races while the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLSC) raised less than half that during that time period.[14]

With the inauguration of Republican George W. Bush as President, the Republican Party remained fairly cohesive for much of the two-thousands, as both strong economic libertarians and social conservatives opposed the Democrats, whom they saw as the party of bloated and more secular, liberal government.[163] The Bush-era rise of what were known as "pro-government conservatives", a core part of the President's base, meant that a considerable group of the Republicans advocated for increased government spending and greater regulations covering both the economy and people's personal lives as well as for an activist, interventionist foreign policy. Survey groups such as the Pew Research Center found that social conservatives and free-market advocates remained the other two main groups within the party's coalition of support, with all three being roughly of the same number.[164][165]

However, libertarians and libertarian-leaning conservatives increasingly found fault with what they saw as the GOP's restricting of vital civil liberties while corporate welfare and the national debt hiked considerably under Bush's tenure. For example, Doug Bandow, former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan, criticized in The American Conservative how many Republican defenders of Bush thought that opposition to any Bush "decision is treason" as well as how many Bush defenders charged "critics with a lack of patriotism".[166] In contrast, some social conservatives expressed dissatisfaction with the party's support for economic policies that they saw as sometimes in conflict with their moral values.[167]

In January 2013, the Republican Party's favorability ratings reached an all-time low of 33% as measured by Pew Research Center, and only 25% approved of the GOP leadership.[168] In February 2013, a follow-up poll showed that 62% of Americans polled and 65% percent of independent voters viewed Republicans as "out of touch with the American people".[169] However, as of November 12, 2014, according to Gallup, the GOP had a better approval rating than the Democratic Party (42% vs. 36%).[170]

In March 2013, National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus gave a stinging report on the GOP's failures in 2012, calling on the party to reinvent itself and officially endorse immigration reform. He said, "There's no one reason we lost. Our message was weak; our ground game was insufficient; we weren't inclusive; we were behind in both data and digital; and our primary and debate process needed improvement." He proposed 219 reforms that included a $10 million marketing campaign to reach women, minorities and gays as well as setting a shorter, more controlled primary season and creating better data collection facilities.[171]

With a majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents under the age of 49 supporting legal recognition of same-sex marriages versus the opposition remaining from those over 50, the issue remains a particular divide within the Party. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has remarked that the "Party is going to be torn on this issue" with some constituents "going to flake off".[172][173] A Reuters/Ipsos survey from April 2015 found that 68% of Americans overall would attend the same-sex wedding of a loved one, with 56% of Republicans agreeing. Reuters journalist Jeff Mason remarked that "Republicans who stake out strong opposition to gay marriage could be on shaky political ground if their ultimate goal is to win the White House" given the divide between the social conservative stalwarts and the rest of the U.S. that opposes them.[174]

It has been reported recently (as of late 2011, early 2012) that the Republican Party has veered far more towards the right or conservative side of the political spectrum in the most recent election cycle. As the republican party veers more conservative, an independent study group examining the economic situation of the United States, known as "Simpson-Bowles", (of which the two main members are a high powered democrat and republican, specifically a former Chief of Staff of President Clinton and Republican whip for 20 some years) has determined that the position put forth by President Obama in the 2011 debt crisis is the best overall path for the United States to travel, economically.[175][176][177][178][179][180]

The Republican candidate for President in 2012, Mitt Romney, lost to incumbent President Barack Obama, the fifth time in six elections the Republican candidate received fewer votes than his Democratic counterpart. In the aftermath of the loss, some prominent Republicans spoke out against their own party; for example, 1996 Republican Presidential candidate and longtime former Senator Bob Dole said, "today's GOP members are too conservative and overly partisan. They ought to put a sign on the National Committee doors that says closed for repairs".[181] Former Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine stated as well that she was in agreement with Dole.[182] Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs (under George H.W. Bush) and former Secretary of State (under George W. Bush) Colin Powell remarked that the GOP has "a dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the party", commenting about the birther movemen "[w]hy do senior Republican leaders tolerate this kind of discussion within the party?" and "I think the party has to take a look at itself."[183] The CRNC released a report in June 2013 that was highly critical of the party, being titled "Grand Old Party for a Brand New Generation".[184]

In terms of the latest U.S. electoral politics, the Republicans currently have 68 out of 98 partisan state legislative chambers entirely under their control. Analysts such as David Byler of RealClearPolitics have remarked that Republican footholds "are not permanent" as "their control in some blue states and swing states is built on sound strategy, significant monetary expenditures and a favorable political climate", and thus the future is uncertain given that "in future cycles, Democrats might match the GOP in funds and strategic acumen."[14]

State and territorial parties

See also

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  1. Samuel Kernell, Gary C. Jacobson, and Thad Kousser. "Background of Political Parties in the United States". Retrieved November 9, 2012. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Paul Gottfried, Conservatism in America: Making Sense of the American Right, p. 9, "Postwar conservatives set about creating their own synthesis of free-market capitalism, Christian morality, and the global struggle against Communism." (2009); Gottfried, Theologies and moral concern (1995) p. 12
  3. Laissez-faire capitalism and economic liberalism. Retrieved on 2014-08-12.
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  • American National Biography (20 volumes, 1999) covers all politicians no longer alive; online at many academic libraries.
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  • Ehrman, John, The Eighties: America in the Age of Reagan (2005)
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  • Jensen, Richard. Grass Roots Politics: Parties, Issues, and Voters, 1854–1983 (1983)
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  • Mayer, George H. The Republican Party, 1854–1966. 2d ed. (1967)
  • Perlstein, Rick. Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus (2002) broad account of 1964
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  • Reinhard, David W. The Republican Right since 1945 (1983)
  • Rutland, Robert Allen. The Republicans: From Lincoln to Bush (1996)
  • Sabato, Larry J. Divided States of America: The Slash and Burn Politics of the 2004 Presidential Election (2005)
  • Sabato, Larry J. and Bruce Larson. The Party's Just Begun: Shaping Political Parties for America's Future (2001) textbook.
  • Schlesinger, Arthur Meier Jr. ed. History of American Presidential Elections, 1789–2000 (various multivolume editions, latest is 2001). Essays on the most important election are reprinted in Schlesinger, The Coming to Power: Critical presidential elections in American history (1972)
  • Shafer, Byron E. and Anthony J. Badger, eds. Contesting Democracy: Substance and Structure in American Political History, 1775–2000 (2001), long essays by specialists on each time period:
    • includes: "To One or Another of These Parties Every Man Belongs": 1820–1865 by Joel H. Silbey; "Change and Continuity in the Party Period: 1835–1885" by Michael F. Holt; "The Transformation of American Politics: 1865–1910" by Peter H. Argersinger; "Democracy, Republicanism, and Efficiency: 1885–1930" by Richard Jensen; "The Limits of Federal Power and Social Policy: 1910–1955" by Anthony J. Badger; "The Rise of Rights and Rights Consciousness: 1930–1980" by James T. Patterson; and "Economic Growth, Issue Evolution, and Divided Government: 1955–2000" by Byron E. Shafer
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External links

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