Despite losing two straight congressional elections, more Republicans say they would prefer to support a candidate who was ideologically pure than one who could win.
A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation released on Tuesday afternoon asked respondents whether they would rather see their political parties nominate candidates who "don't agree with you on some major issues but have a good chance" of winning or candidates who "agree with you on all major issues but have a poor chance of beating" the opposition.
The results were fairly telling and counter-intuitive: Republicans, despite being in the minority, are more interested in philosophical consistency than power. Democrats, who run both chambers of Congress, prefer holding on to power.
58% Prefer candidates who can beat the other party
38% Prefer candidates who agree with you on issues
43% Prefer candidates who can beat the other party
51% Prefer candidates who agree with you on issues
Considered in the current political landscape, the numbers explain many of the conservative primary challenges erupting in congressional contests throughout the country. It also shows the influence that the tea party movement has had with the broader Republican party.
Conservatives often respond to studies like these by arguing that the findings are based on a flimsy pretense: a doctrinaire candidate, they insist, stands the best chance of winning an election anyway. But not everyone in the party agrees. And the results in the special election in upstate New York suggest otherwise as well.
Regardless of the debate, it has become increasingly clear (as punctuated by this CNN poll) that a majority of the Republican party is willing to go down swinging come 2010.