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CBS/NYT poll: GOP voters have deep concerns about government

By Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Anthony Salvanto, and Fred Backus

Views of the Federal Government

Republican voters are divided as to whether they see the federal government as mostly a protector of or mostly a threat to their life and liberty. But among very conservative Republicans, two thirds see the federal government as a threat. Only 33 percent of Americans overall view the federal government as a threat.


Sixty percent of Republicans say the federal government in Washington is violating their constitutional rights, rising to 78 percent among very conservative Republicans. Among Americans overall, 47 percent say the same.

In December 2001, just after the September 11th terrorist attacks, amid a wave of support for the President and government, only 18 percent of Republicans said their rights were being violated.

Twenty-two percent say it is ever justified for citizens to take violent action against the government; that rises to 32 percent of very conservative Republicans. In a January 2011 poll, 28 percent of Republicans said this was ever justified. Views of Americans overall are similar to Republicans.

Republicans express negative views of the government on more specific issues as well. About half of Republicans are very concerned about the federal government interfering with the ability of people to freely practice their religion. That concern is especially acute among those who are very conservative and among evangelical Republicans.


There is concern among Republicans -- and especially among the most conservative -- that stricter gun laws will lead to the federal government trying to take guns away from Americans who legally own them.

An overwhelming majority of Republicans are either dissatisfied or angry with the way things are going in Washington. Thirty-four percent of Republicans -- and 44 percent of very conservative Republicans -- say they are angry with Washington.

Just 12 percent of Republicans, and only five percent of very conservative Republicans, think the country is headed in the right direction.

Gridlock in Washington

Most Republican voters believe in compromise by Republicans in Congress in order to get things done - but nearly four in ten would prefer to see the Republicans in Congress not compromise. Fifty-nine percent of Republicans who are very conservative think Republicans in Congress should stick to their positions and not compromise.

Three in four Republican voters think the U.S. political system is not working because of all the fighting and gridlock. Very conservative Republican voters - who are less supportive of compromise -- are twice as likely as moderates to say the system is working, although two thirds say it is not.

Most Republican voters -- 70 percent -- think that Republicans in Congress share at least some of the blame for the gridlock in Washington, though most -- 92 percent -- are far more likely to blame President Obama and the Democrats in Congress.

Very conservative Republican voters are less likely to place any blame on their own party for the gridlock in Washington. Forty-two percent of very conservative Republican voters say their party is either not much or not at all to blame for the gridlock.

And the poll suggests unrest with their party's Congressional representatives, as Republicans overwhelmingly disapprove of the job Congress is doing, and also disapprove of the job being done by members of their own party. Similar to Americans overall, eight in 10 Republican voters disapprove of the job Congress is doing, and nearly seven in 10 Republican voters disapprove of how Republicans in Congress are handling their job.

Paul Ryan and John Boehner

With Paul Ryan widely expected to become the next Speaker of the House of Representatives, views of the Wisconsin Congressman and former vice presidential candidate are largely positive among voters in his own party. 40 percent of Republican voters view Ryan favorably, while just 12 percent have an unfavorable opinion of him. Still, nearly half of Republican voters - 47 percent - don't yet have an opinion of him.

Ryan enjoys his widest support from the most conservative wing of the Republican electorate. 50 percent who say they are very conservative (and who make up 38 percent of Republican voters) have a favorable opinion of Ryan, just nine percent of these voters view him unfavorably.

Ryan's relative popularity among Republican voters stands in contrast to how they view the job performance of the outgoing Speaker of the House. While 38 percent of Republican voters approve of the job John Boehner is doing as Speaker, more - 46 percent - disapprove. Forty-six percent of moderate Republicans (who are less than a quarter of Republican voters) approve, while those who consider themselves either somewhat or very conservative - and who make up nearly seven in 10 Republican voters combined - disapprove.

Assessing the Grand Old Party

As the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives changes hands, three in four Republican voters see divisions within their own party. Seventy-five percent of Republican voters describe the Republican Party as divided, while just 22 percent say it is united. In April 2011 - flush from a commanding victory in the 2010 midterm elections - just over half -- 51 percent -- of Republican voters described their party as united.

Still, most Republican voters remain optimistic about their party's future: 64 percent are mostly hopeful when they think about the future. Sixty-nine percent of conservative Republicans are hopeful.

Three in four Republican voters -- 74 percent -- have a favorable opinion of the Republican Party, just a quarter view their party unfavorably. Again, conservative Republicans are more positive than moderates.

Gun Policy

Most Americans would like to see gun sale laws made stricter - but fewer Republicans share that view. While four in ten Republicans think that gun sale laws should be made stricter, just under half think they should be kept as they are.

Only 29 percent of very conservative Republicans want stricter gun laws, and they are more likely to support making gun laws less strict.

While a majority of Americans overall (57 percent) oppose allowing teachers and school officials to carry guns in schools, 64 percent of Republicans favor that approach.

Allowing Teachers and School Officials to Carry Guns in Schools

There are sizable differences among Republicans; three in four of the most conservative favor this measure. Most moderates oppose it.

Nearly nine in 10 Republicans favor background checks on all gun buyers, similar to the views of Americans overall.


While just 39 percent of Republicans think stricter gun laws would have at least some impact on gun violence, they are more apt to expect better mental health screening would help prevent it (81 percent think it would help at least some).



More Republicans than Americans overall think any deficit reduction plan should include only cuts to spending. Among the most conservative Republicans, more than half want to reduce the deficit through spending cuts alone.

Most Americans continue to think it should be legal for same-sex couples to marry, however, over half of Republicans hold the opposing view.

There are some differences within Republicans, moderates are more inclined to support same-sex marriage than those who are conservative.

More than half of Americans say illegal immigrants in the U.S. should be allowed to stay and apply for citizenship, but that figure drops to 44 percent among Republicans, and just 33 percent among those who are very conservative.


Two-thirds of Americans say the money and wealth in the U.S. should be distributed more evenly, but more than half of Republicans think it is being distributed fairly.

Conservative Republicans are more likely than moderates to think the distribution of money and wealth in the U.S. is fair.

Six in 10 Americans, including most Republicans, think the condition of the national economy is bad. Just 10 percent think it's improving, compared to 23 percent of all Americans.

This poll was conducted by telephone October 21-25, 2015 among a random sample of 1,289 adults nationwide, including 1,136 registered voters. Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News and The New York Times by SSRS of Media, PA. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones.

The poll employed a random digit dial methodology. For the landline sample, a respondent was randomly selected from all adults in the household. For the cell sample, interviews were conducted with the person who answered the phone. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish using live interviewers. The data have been weighted to reflect U.S. Census figures on demographic variables.

The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus four percentage points. The error for subgroups may be higher and is available by request. The margin of error includes the effects of standard weighting procedures which enlarge sampling error slightly.

An oversample of registered voters who are Republican was interviewed for a total of 512 interviews with Republican registered voters. The results were then weighted in proportion to the adult population. The margin of error for the Republican registered voters is 7 percentage points.

The margin of error for the sample of 575 Republican primary voters is 6 percentage points.

This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

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