Last November, Republicans made impressive gains in the House, winning their largest majority since the 1920s. The GOP wave added 43 freshmen, more than 40 percent of whom are “Obama Republicans” – Republicans from districts that Mitt Romney either won by less than five points or lost to President Obama.
How do these freshmen “Obama Republicans” differ from the rest of the GOP?
The Brookings Institution recently released data that helps answer this question. The researchers at Brookings scoured nearly every 2014 congressional candidate’s press releases, websites and endorsements to create a dataset describing their positions on a variety of issues. By using this data instead of voting records or third party sites,
Brookings measured how these candidates advertise themselves to their constituents.
Brookings Senior Fellow Elaine Kamarck already used this data to analyze how Obama Republicans – both freshmen and non-freshmen – differ from the rest of their party on gun control, climate change, immigration and same-sex marriage. We took a somewhat different approach. We looked at how freshmen Obama Republicans differed from other GOP freshmen on abortion, the Affordable Care Act and taxes, along with the issues Kamarck examined. This approach not only drives home the divide between the Obama Republicans and the rest of the party, but also shows how the freshmen Republicans differ from the more senior members of their caucus.
Specifically, Obama Republicans and the rest of the party are deeply divided in their approach to hot-button social issues, but they are united on taxes and Obamacare. More complex generational patterns emerge on immigration and climate change.