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 The main cause was opposition to the Kansas–Nebraska Act, which repealed the Missouri Compromise by which slavery was kept out of Kansas.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 of the general "anti-Nebraska" Movement where the name "Republican" was suggested for a new anti-slavery party was held on March 20, 1854, in a schoolhouse in Ripon, Wisconsin. 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. By 1858, the Republicans dominated nearly all Northern states.The Republican Party first came to power in the elections of 1860 when it won control of both houses of Congress and its candidate, Abraham Lincoln, was elected president. 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.
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 United States 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). "Free labor" referred to the Republican opposition to slave labor and belief in independent artisans and businessmen. "Free land" referred to Republican opposition to the plantation system whereby slaveowners could buy up all the good farm land, leaving the yeoman independent farmers the leftovers. The Party strove to contain the expansion of slavery, which would cause the collapse of the Slave Power and the expansion of freedom.
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 led by Chester A. Arthur pushed for reform of the civil service in 1883.
The Republican Party 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 Republicans would guarantee a sort of pluralism in which all groups would benefit.
The 1896 realignment cemented the Republicans 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 Republicans 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.
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 Republican Party 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. Republicans 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. 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 Republican Party 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.
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.
The second half of the 20th century saw election or succession of Republican presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H. 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 began to fade away.
Ever since he left office in 1989, Reagan has been the iconic conservative 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. 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 and acquittal of President Bill Clinton in 1998 and 1999, 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, 2012 and 2016.
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.
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. Additionally, Republicans took control of at least 19 Democratic-controlled state legislatures.
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.
After the 2014 midterm elections the Republican Party took control of the Senate by gaining nine seats. With a final total of 247 seats (56.8%) 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.
After the 2016 elections, Republicans maintained a majority in the Senate, House, Governorships, and elected Donald Trump as President. The Republican Party is set to control 69 of 99 state legislative chambers in 2017, the most it has held in history, and at least 33 governorships, the most it has held since 1922. The party will have total control of government (legislative chambers and governorship) in 25 states, the most since 1952, while the opposing Democratic Party will have full control in five states.
For most of the post-World War II era, Republicans had little presence at the state legislative level. This trend began to reverse in the late 1990s, with Republicans increasing their state legislative presence and taking control of state legislatures in the south, which had begun to vote for Republican presidential candidates decades earlier but had retained Democrats in the legislatures. 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. Following the 2014 midterm elections, Republicans control 68 of 98 partisan state legislative houses, the most in the party's history, and have control of both the governorship and state legislatures in 24 states, as opposed to only 7 states with Democratic governors and state legislatures. According to a January 2015 poll by Pew Research, 41% of Americans view the Republicans favorably while 46% view the Democrats favorably.
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. 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.
However, libertarians and libertarian-leaning conservatives increasingly found fault with what they saw as Republicans' 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". 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.
In March 2013, National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus gave a stinging report on the party's failures in 2012, calling on Republicans to reinvent themselves 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.
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". 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.
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". Former Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine stated as well that she was in agreement with Dole. 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 movement "[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." 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".
Note: When "in the Electoral College" is mentioned that means that while the Republicans secured a victory in the Electoral College, they did not receive the most popular votes.
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. 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". The name reflects the 1776 republican values of civic virtue and opposition to aristocracy and corruption. It is important to note that "republican" has a variety of meanings around the world, and the U.S. Republican Party has evolved such that the meanings no longer always align.
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.
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. An alternate symbol of the Republican Party in states such as Indiana, New York and Ohio is the bald eagle, as opposed to the Democratic rooster or the Democratic five-pointed star. In Kentucky, the log cabin is a symbol of the Republican Party (not related to the gay Log Cabin Republicans organization).
Traditionally the party had no consistent color identity. After the 2000 election, the color Red became associated with Republicans. 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, the Media has come to represent the respective political parties using these colors. The party and its candidates have also come to embrace the color red.
Republicans strongly believe that free markets and individual achievement are the primary factors behind economic prosperity. To this end, they advocate in favor of fiscal conservatism, and the elimination of government run welfare programs in favor of private sector nonprofits and encouraging personal responsibility.
Modern Republicans advocate the theory of supply side economics, which holds that lower tax rates increase economic growth. Many Republicans oppose higher tax rates for higher earners, which they believe are unfairly targeted at those who create jobs and wealth. They believe private spending is more efficient than government spending.
Republicans believe individuals should take responsibility for their own circumstances. They believe the private sector is more effective in helping the poor than government is and that social assistance programs often cause government dependency. Some agree there should be some "safety net" to assist the less fortunate, while limiting it to encourage employment and monitoring it to reduce abuse.
The party promotes free trade agreements, most notably North American Free trade Agreement, although some have a protectionist view of trade.
Republicans believe corporations should be able to establish their own employment practices, including benefits and wages, with the free market deciding the value of work. Since the 1920s Republicans have generally been opposed by labor union organizations and members. At the national level Republicans supported the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, which gives workers the right not to participate in unions. Modern Republicans at the state level generally support various "right to work" laws that weaken unions.
Most Republicans are opposed to increases in the minimum wage, believing that such increases hurt many businesses by forcing them to cut and outsource jobs and pass costs along to consumers.
The party opposes a government-run single-payer health care system, claiming such a system constitutes socialized medicine. While opposed to the Affordable Care Act and its requirement to buy insurance, many Republicans support some of its provisions, such as laws promoting coverage of pre-existing medical conditions. The Republican Party has a mixed record of supporting the historically popular Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid programs.
Many contemporary Republicans voice support of strict constructionism, the judicial philosophy that the Constitution should be interpreted as close to the original intent as is practicable. Most Republicans point to Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide, as a case of judicial activism. Republicans favor judicial restraint and have actively sought to block judges whom they see as being activist judges.
Republicans believe in federalism, with limitations on federal authorities and a larger role for states. As such, they often take a less expansive reading of congressional power under the Commerce Clause.
Historically, progressive leaders in the Republican party supported environmental protection. Republican President Theodore Roosevelt was a prominent conservationist whose policies eventually led to the creation of the National Park Service. Republican President Richard Nixon was responsible for establishing the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970. However, this position has changed since the 1980s and the administration of President Ronald Reagan, who labeled environmental regulations a burden on the economy. Since then Republicans have increasingly taken positions against environmental regulation.
Since the 1990s, a significant part of the US conservative movement has worked to challenge climate science and climate policy. Republicans are divided over acknowledging the human causes of climate change and global warming. While the scientific consensus for human activity created climate-warming is around 97%, according to a Pew Research survey, 44% of American adults in the general public acknowledged human activity as the cause of climate change, and 23% of Republicans. Republican views on global warming and scientific consensus on climate change show a similar trend, and few Republican lawmakers support climate policy that builds on international consensus.
In 2006 then California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger broke from Republican orthodoxy to sign several bills imposing caps on carbon emissions in California. George W. Bush, then U.S. President, opposed mandatory caps at a national level. Bush's decision not to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant was challenged in the Supreme Court by 12 states, with the court ruling against the Bush administration in 2007. Bush also publicly opposed ratification of the Kyoto Protocols which sought to limit greenhouse gas emissions and thereby combat climate change, a decision heavily criticized by climate scientists.
Senator John McCain has also previously proposed laws regulating carbon emissions, such as the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act, although his position on climate change is unusual among high-ranking party members. Some Republican candidates have supported development of alternative fuels in order to achieve energy independence for the US. The Republican party rejects cap-and-trade policy to limit carbon emissions. Some Republicans support increased oil drilling in protected areas such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a position that has drawn criticism from activists.
Many Republicans during the Presidency of Barack Obama have opposed the president's new environmental regulations, such as those on carbon emissions from coal. In particular, many Republicans support building the Keystone Pipeline, which is supported by businesses but opposed by indigenous peoples' groups and environmental activists.
Republicans are divided on how to confront illegal immigration between a platform that allows for migrant workers and a path to citizenship (supported by establishment types), versus a position focused on securing the border and deporting illegal immigrants (supported by populists). 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, did not advance the bill.
After the defeat in the 2012 presidential election, particularly among Latinos, several Republicans advocated a friendlier approach to immigrants. However, in 2016 the field of candidates took a sharp position against illegal immigration, with leading candidate Donald Trump proposing building a wall with Mexico and having Mexico pay for it.
Proposals calling for immigration reform with a path to citizenship have attracted broad Republican support in some polls. In a 2013 poll 60% of Republicans supported the pathway concept.
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 stance.
Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, many in the party have supported neoconservative policies with regard to the War on Terror, including the 2001 war in Afghanistan and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The George W. Bush administration took the position that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to unlawful combatants, while other prominent Republicans strongly oppose the use of enhanced interrogation techniques, which they view as torture.
Republicans have frequently advocated for restricting foreign aid as a means of asserting the national security and immigration interests of the United States.
The Republican Party generally supports a strong alliance with Israel and efforts to secure peace in the Middle East between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
According to the 2016 RNC platform, the republican principle on the status of Taiwan is that "We oppose any unilateral steps by either side to alter the status quo in the Taiwan Straits on the principle that all issues regarding the island's future must be resolved peacefully, through dialogue, and be agreeable to the people of Taiwan." In addition, if "China were to violate those principles, the United States, in accord with the Taiwan Relations Act, will help Taiwan defend itself."
In a 2014 poll 59% of Republicans favored doing less abroad and focusing on the country's own problems instead.
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. Most conservative Republicans also oppose gun control, affirmative action, and illegal immigration.
A majority of the party's national and state candidates are pro-life and oppose elective abortion on religious or moral grounds. While many advocate exceptions in the case of incest, rape or the mother's life being at risk, in 2012, the party approved a platform advocating banning abortions without exception. They oppose government funding for abortions.
Although Republicans have 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.
Republicans are generally against affirmative action for women and some minorities, often describing it as a 'quota system', and 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.
Republicans generally support gun ownership rights and oppose laws regulating guns.
Republicans have historically supported the War on Drugs, and oppose the legalization of drugs. More recently, several prominent Republicans have advocated for the reduction and reform of mandatory sentencing laws with regards to drugs.
Most Republicans support school choice through charter schools and school vouchers for private schools; denounce the performance of the urban 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, including Ronald Reagan, opposed the creation of the United States Department of Education when it was initially created in 1979.
Owing largely to the prominence of the religious right in conservative politics in the United States, the Republican Party has taken positions regarded by many as outwardly hostile to the gay rights movement. Republicans have historically strongly opposed same-sex marriage (the party's overall attitude on civil unions is much more divided, with some in favor and others opposed), with the issue a galvanizing one that many believe helped George W. Bush win re-election in 2004. In both 2004 and 2006, congressional Republican leaders promoted the Federal Marriage Amendment, a proposed constitutional amendment which would legally restrict the definition of marriage to heterosexual couples. In both attempts, the amendment failed to secure enough votes to invoke cloture, and thus, ultimately was never passed. As more states legalized same-sex marriage in the 2010s, Republicans increasingly supported allowing each state to decide its own marriage policy. Since the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015, Republicans have taken a more muted stance, and the issue has lost much of its political potency.
The Republican Party platform opposed the inclusion of gay people in the military from 1992 to present.
LGBT groups within the Republican Party include the Log Cabin Republicans. A 2014 Pew Research poll indicated that 61% of millennial Republicans are in favor of same-sex marriage.
The Republican Party opposed the inclusion of sexual preference in anti-discrimination statutes from 1992 to 2004. 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.
A 2013 poll found that 61% of Republicans support laws protecting gay and lesbian people against employment discrimination, and a 2007 poll showed 60% of Republicans supported expanding federal hate crime laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
The 2016 Republican Party Platform declares: "We support the right of the United States citizens of Puerto Rico to be admitted to the Union as a fully sovereign state. We further recognize the historic significance of the 2012 local referendum in which a 54 percent majority voted to end Puerto Rico's current status as a U.S. territory, and 61 percent chose statehood over options for sovereign nationhood. We support the federally sponsored political status referendum authorized and funded by an Act of Congress in 2014 to ascertain the aspirations of the people of Puerto Rico. Once the 2012 local vote for statehood is ratified, Congress should approve an enabling act with terms for Puerto Rico's future admission as the 51st state of the Union."
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 Conservatives and Reformists in Europe, which has close relations to the Conservative Party of the United Kingdom. According to the most recent Gallup poll, 25% of Americans identify as Republican and 16% identify as leaning Republican. In comparison, 30% identify as Democratic and 16% identify as leaning Democratic. The Democratic Party has typically held an overall edge in party identification since Gallup began polling on the issue in 1991. In another Gallup poll, 42% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents identified as economically and socially conservative, followed by 24% as socially and economically moderate or liberal, 20% as socially moderate or liberal and fiscally conservative, and 10% as socially conservative and fiscally moderate or liberal.
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, with the Southern United States becoming more reliably Republican in presidential politics, and the Northeastern United States becoming more reliably Democratic, especially since 1992. Every Northeastern state except for New Hampshire has voted Democratic six straight elections or more.
The party's current 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.
The modern Republican Party includes conservatives, social conservatives, economic liberals, fiscal conservatives, neoconservatives, paleoconservatives, populists, moderates, libertarians, and the religious right.
In addition to splits over ideology, the party can be broadly divided into the establishment and anti-establishment.
Nationwide polls of Republican voters in 2014 by the Pew Center identified a growing split in the Republican coalition, between "business conservatives" or "establishment conservatives" and "steadfast conservatives" or "populist conservatives".
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.
In Congress, Eric Cantor's position as Majority Leader went to California 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.
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 an independent-turned-Democrat former governor of Rhode Island. Former Senator Olympia Snowe and current Senator Susan Collins, both of Maine, and former Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts are notable moderate Republicans from New England. Former Senator Mark Kirk is another example of a moderate Republican from a Democratic stronghold, Illinois, who ironically held the Senate seat once held by President Barack Obama. From 1991 to 2007, moderate Republicans served as governors of Massachusetts. Prominent Republican moderates have included former Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and George Bush Sr., as well as former Senate leaders Howard Baker and Bob Dole, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, and former New York City Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg.
Some well-known conservative and Libertarian 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.
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. 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, Charles Mathias, Lowell Weicker, and Jacob Javits. Since 1976, liberalism has virtually faded out of the Republican Party, apart from a few Northeastern holdouts.
Republicans are 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.
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.
The Democrats do better among younger Americans and Republicans among older Americans. In 2006, Republicans won 38% of the voters aged 18–29.
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. 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%.
Since 1980, a "gender gap" has seen slightly stronger support for the Republican Party among men than among women. In 2012, Obama won 55% of the women and 45% of the men—and more women voted than men. In the 2006 House races, 43% of women voted Republican, while 47% of men did so. In the 2010 midterms, the "gender gap" was reduced with women supporting Republican and Democratic candidates equally 49% to 49%. In recent elections, Republicans have found their greatest support among whites from married couples with children living at home. Unmarried and divorced women were far more likely to vote for Kerry in 2004. The 2012 returns reveal a continued weakness among unmarried women for the GOP, a large and growing portion of the electorate. Although Mitt Romney lost women as a whole 44–55 to Barack Obama, he won married women 53–46. Obama won unmarried women 67–31,
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.
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.)
Republicans have been winning under 15% of the black vote in recent national elections (1980 to 2012). While historically the party had been supporters of rights for African Americans starting in the 1860s, it lost its leadership position in the 1960s. The party abolished slavery under Abraham Lincoln, defeated the Slave Power, and gave blacks the legal right to vote during Reconstruction in the late 1860s. Until the New Deal of the 1930s, blacks supported the Republican Party by large margins. Black voters shifted to the Democratic Party beginning in the 1930s, when major Democratic figures such as Eleanor Roosevelt began to support civil rights, and the New Deal offered them employment opportunities. They became one of the core components of the New Deal coalition. In the South, after the Voting Rights Act to prohibit racial discrimination in elections was passed by a bipartisan coalition in 1965, blacks were able to vote again and ever since have formed a significant portion (20–50%) of the Democratic vote in that region.
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.
In the 2010 elections, two African American Republicans were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. The party has recently nominated African American candidates for senator or governor in Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland, though none were successful.
In recent decades, Republicans have 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. 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. He is the first elected minority governor in Louisiana and the first state governor of Indian descent. 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.
In 2012, 88% of Romney voters were white, while 56% of Obama voters were white. 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. In the 2010 House election, Republicans won 60% of the white votes, 38% of Hispanic votes, and 9% of the African American vote.
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. 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 Republican 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. 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.
While Catholic Republican leaders try to stay in line with the teachings of the Catholic Church on subjects such as abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research and same-sex marriage, they differ on the death penalty and contraception. Pope Francis' 2015 encyclical Laudato si' sparked a discussion on the positions of Catholic Republicans in relation to the positions of the church. The pope's encyclical on behalf of the Catholic Church officially acknowledges a man-made climate change caused by burning fossil fuels. The Pope says the warming of the planet is rooted in a throwaway culture and the developed world's indifference to the destruction of the planet in pursuit of short-term economic gains. According to The New York Times, Laudato si' puts pressure on the Catholic candidates in the 2016 election: Jeb Bush, Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio, and Rick Santorum. With leading Democrats praising the encyclical, James Bretzke, a professor of moral theology at Boston College, has said that both sides are being disingenuous: "I think it shows that both the Republicans and the Democrats... like to use religious authority and, in this case, the Pope to support positions they have arrived at independently... There is a certain insincerity, a hypocrisy I think, on both sides." While a Pew Research poll indicates Catholics are more likely to believe the Earth is warming than non-Catholics, 51% of Catholic Republicans believe in global warming (less than the general population), and only 24% of Catholic Republicans believe global warming is caused by human activity.
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, Michigan 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.
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. 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.
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. 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.
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 (the highest body in the party) 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 2016 it is chaired by Governor Susana Martinez of New Mexico.