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Five Things to Know About Republicans Ahead of the First GOP Debate
Daniel Cox, Joanna Piacenza,

With 17 candidates vying for the Republican ticket, this election season’s primary debates are particularly important for the GOP. While only 10 will battle it out Thursday in the first debate, here are five things every Republican presidential hopeful should know about their electorate.

(1) Republicans are more likely to have a negative view of immigrants. Republicans are more likely to say newcomers from other countries threaten traditional American customs and values (48 percent) than they are to say immigrants strengthen our country (36 percent). Majorities of Democrats (63 percent) and independents (54 percent) believe immigrants strengthen the country.

(2) But most Republicans support a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. A majority (57 percent) of Republicans favor allowing immigrants who are currently living in the U.S. illegally a way to become citizens provided they meet certain requirements. Only roughly one in four (26 percent) Republicans say that immigrants living in the U.S. illegally should be identified and deported.

GOP immigration table 2

(3) A majority of Republicans still oppose same-sex marriage. Fifty-seven percent of Republicans oppose same-sex marriage, while only 37 percent express support for the policy. In comparison, 67 percent of Democrats, 59 percent of independents, and 55 percent of Americans overall support same-sex marriage. Notably, 53 percent of young Republicans (age 18-29) support same-sex marriage, but, as PRRI Research Director Daniel Cox points out, a rapid shift on this issue among Republicans is unlikely.

(4) Support for LGBT nondiscrimination laws is strong across the political spectrum. Despite strong opposition to same-sex marriage, more than six in ten (65 percent) Republicans favor laws that protect gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people from discrimination in jobs, public accommodation, and housing. Support for these policies is also robust among Democrats (76 percent) and independents (68 percent).


(5) Republicans unlikely to say humans are causing earth’s warming; majority oppose government intervention. Only 22 percent of Republicans say the earth’s temperature is rising because of human activity, compared to 65 percent of Democrats. Nearly half (46 percent) of Republicans do not believe that the average temperatures on earth are increasing. A majority of Republicans oppose the government’s involvement on this issue: 54 percent disagree that the government needs to do more to address the issue of climate change, while 54 percent agree.

Be sure to follow @publicreligion Thursday evening—we’ll be live-tweeting the first Republican debate.