As the 2024 presidential contest slowly draws closer — only 512 days to go! — the national political conversation is heavily centered on right-wing outrage about what are colloquially called “culture war” issues. Pride merchandise at Target. How race is taught in schools. That sort of thing.

There are some obvious reasons for this. The first is that there is no competitive primary fight underway on the left. Sure, Robert Kennedy Jr. is ostensibly challenging President Biden, but his efforts are mostly being elevated by right-wing critics of the administration who frame his candidacy in conservative terms.

Another reason is that the increasingly competitive Republican primary fight is mostly centered on the possibility of unseating Donald Trump as the party’s front-runner. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has both leveraged and stoked the “culture war” issues because he recognizes them as places where Trump’s track record is weak. DeSantis is trying to run to the right of Trump on LGBTQ issues and race and, as a result, has for months focused on these issues.

New polling from CBS News, conducted by YouGov, indicates that support for the most extreme positions on LGBTQ issues is reflected by only a fraction of likely primary voters. But they’re supported most by the most conservative members of that population — a group that in 2016 was much more likely to turn out to vote.

In other words, while many Republicans don’t espouse fringe positions, the most-coveted primary voters do.

YouGov asked Republicans how they wanted a Republican presidential nominee to address businesses that are “expressing public support for LGBTQ people.” Most said that the president should not get involved. But likely primary voters who were moderate were 10 points more likely to say such businesses should be rewarded for doing so. (Conservative voters were slightly more likely to say they should be punished, but that difference wasn’t significant.)

By itself, this is an important finding. For all of the often-performative outrage at brands that are using Pride Month as a marketing ploy, most Republicans don’t think a nominee should punish such companies.

Asked whether they wanted the Republican presidential nominee to support limiting the rights of trans people — a broad formulation of anti-trans rhetoric — half of Republican primary voters (which includes some independents) said this was at least somewhat important. Conservatives were nine points more likely to say that doing so was very important.

The ideological gap was even wider on the question of how a nominee should respond to schools that teach “racial issues,” a phrase meant to evoke a range of discussions about racism and the history of race in the United States. Conservatives were 20 points more likely to say schools that teach such issues should be punished. Moderates were 22 points more likely to say that such schools should be supported.

You may have noticed that the views of the conservative primary voters more closely matched the views of primary voters overall. That’s in part because Republican primary voters are more likely to be conservative.

In 2016, data from the American National Election Studies indicates that about a third of Republicans who self-identified as “moderate” voted in the primary. Nearly two-thirds of those who identified as “extremely conservative” did so.

The ANES also indicates that more conservative Republicans are more likely to donate money to candidates. For a Republican seeking the presidential nomination, then, there’s more than one incentive to try to appeal to the positions of more right-wing Republicans. And that means taking a more extreme position on the “culture war” issues mentioned above.

There’s another important divide that is represented in the CBS-YouGov poll. Respondents were also asked how they wanted a Republican president to deal with Democrats once in office. Most said that they thought the Republican should find common ground with the opposition. But a quarter of conservative Republican primary voters said that a Republican should “investigate and punish” members of the opposition party. Moderate primary voters were about 20 points less likely to endorse this approach.

Overall, more than a fifth of Republican primary voters think that a Republican president should investigate and punish Democrats once in office. Fourteen percent think that a Republican president should punish businesses that use LGBTQ pride for marketing purposes. More than half of primary voters think that trans people should have their rights limited.

And those most supportive of those ideas are the voters most likely to actually vote in the primary.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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