Are conservative priorities shifting?

If you followed CPAC news at all, you know the big story of the conference was that Congressman Ron Paul improbably won the presidential straw poll. While I don’t think Paul has a chance at the 2012 nomination (sadly), the poll was revealing in other ways.

2395 attendees voted — the highest number in the history of the conference (up from 1757 last year). A good 48% were college students, though as David Franke points out, that figure is down from last year’s 52%.

The big news for readers of InsideCatholic is found later in the poll. Those who consider ending abortion their first or second priority dropped from 15% last year to 10% now. “Promoting traditional values” dropped from 8% to 3%. And “stopping gay marriage” sits at 1%.

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David Franke says this is part of a trend:

As the nation’s economic and fiscal stability deteriorates, voter priorities are changing.

In the nation at large, independents are the sexiest voters around. Both Republicans and Democrats are wooing them as if every day is Valentine’s Day. And all the polls show that the independents are “fiscal conservatives” who put economic issues above social issues.

In the GOP, the three big victors this year — in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts — placed more emphasis on economic issues than social issues, and won by capturing the independent vote. Indeed, Scott Brown has become a Republican hero for capturing “Teddy Kennedy’s seat” and returning it to the people, and got a rousing welcome at CPAC. It doesn’t seem to matter that he’s soft on the social issues.

Even in Congress — the most backward part of the nation — who would have guessed two years ago, or even one year ago, that Rep. Ron Paul would have hundreds of cosponsors for his bill to audit the Fed?

While voter priorities change, political positions don’t. These people are still pro-life, but they’re not voting on the issue right now. What do you think? Is this a sign of a larger shift, or just part of the political ebb and flow?



  • Brian Saint-Paul

    Brian Saint-Paul was the editor and publisher of Crisis Magazine. He has a BA in Philosophy and an MA in Religious Studies from the Catholic University of America, in Washington. D.C. In addition to various positions in journalism and publishing, he has served as the associate director of a health research institute, a missionary, and a private school teacher. He lives with his wife in a historic Baltimore neighborhood, where he obsesses over Late Antiquity.

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