Lacking direction

LACKING DIRECTION…. The Washington Post released a poll today on what Republican voters are thinking, and how satisfied they are with their party. The results were all over the place.

The Republican rank and file is largely in sync with GOP lawmakers in their staunch opposition to efforts by President Obama and Democrats to enact major health-care legislation, but a new Washington Post poll also reveals deep dissatisfaction among GOP voters with the party’s leadership as well as ideological and generational differences that may prove big obstacles to the party’s plans for reclaiming power.

What’s tricky about all of this is trying to get a sense of direction. Rank-and-file Republicans aren’t happy, but it’s not altogether clear what they’re looking for, either.

In 2005, 76% of Republicans were satisfied with the direction set by the party’s leadership; now that number is 49%. About a third believes GOP leaders do not stand up for the party’s “core values.”

The next question, of course, is what Republican leaders should do in response, and that’s where the poll offers few clues. It’s one thing to learn that the party is off-track; it’s another to know what to do about it.

It’s not like there’s a clamoring for an even more right-wing party — 58% of Republicans want to see the party work with Democrats, and 69% said they approve of GOP candidates who take moderate positions on some issues.

There’s also no real sense of what the party’s priorities ought to be. About a third of Republicans believe the GOP should spend more time opposing gay marriage, but nearly as many believe the party should do the opposite. About a third of Republicans want to see more focus on abortion, and nearly as many prefer less. GOP voters expressed concern about taxes, spending, and the economy, but that’s pretty much what the party leadership focuses on already.

This is not entirely unexpected — when the party has a small congressional minority, no clear leadership, and no policy agenda to speak of, it stands to reason that rank-and-file attitudes would be all over the place. But the poll isn’t much of a roadmap for what party supporters expect their representatives to do.