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Fixing the GOP: Party Like It’s 1949

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Americans by a 15-point margin in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll say the Republican Party needs less conservative policies that are more focused on middle- and lower-income Americans, rather than better leaders to sell its existing positions.  And 63 years ago, Americans by an 11-point margin said precisely the same thing.

Mark it up to the swinging pendulum of American politics: Six decades after Republican presidential nominee Thomas Dewey’s unexpected loss to incumbent Democrat Harry S. Truman, the GOP is back in the same doghouse.

The question was last asked in 1949, months after Truman’s victory in what’s widely considered to be the greatest upset in presidential election history.  The GOP, at that point, had lost five presidential races in a row, leading Gallup to ask:
“One group holds that the Republican Party is too conservative -- that it needs a program concerned more directly with the welfare of the people, particularly those in the lower- and middle-income levels.  The other group says that the policies of the Republican party are good -- but the party needs a better leader to explain and win support for these policies.”

In 1949, respondents, asked which view best fit their own, took the first option by 41-30 percent, with an additional 12 percent volunteering that both applied equally.

Fast forward to 2012.  Defeated last month by an incumbent Democrat, the Republican Party has lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections.  After hitting a 20-year high in 2003, allegiance to the GOP has dropped and shows no sign of recovery.

This poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, repeated the 1949 Gallup question.  The result: Fifty-three percent of Americans say the Republicans need to work on their policies.  Thirty-eight percent see it, instead, as a leadership problem.

See a PDF with full results, charts and tables here.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio