Veteran pollster and political analyst Andrew Kohut sees the Republican party leaning so far right it's handcuffing their ability to retake the White House.
In an opinion piece for the Washington Post, Kohut, former Pew Research Center president, writes "In my decades of polling, I recall only one moment when a party had been driven as far from the center as the Republican Party has been today."
He sees little hope for change, seeing "little reason to believe that the staunch conservative bloc will wither away or splinter; it will remain a dominant force in the GOP and on the national stage.
But, he said, "at the same time, however, I see no indication that its ideas about policy, governance and social issues will gain new adherents. They are far beyond the mainstream."
As a result, the party faces a dilemma: "While staunch conservatives help keep GOP lawmakers in office, they also help keep the party out of the White House. Quite simply, the Republican Party has to appeal to a broader cross section of the electorate to succeed in presidential elections," Kohut said.
His research has found that "a bloc of doctrinaire, across-the-board conservatives has become a dominant force on the right. Indeed, it is their resolve and ultra-conservatism that have protected Republican lawmakers from the broader voter backlash that is so apparent in opinion polls."
The percentage of people self-identifying as Republicans has hit historic lows, Kohut said, "but that within that smaller base, the traditional divides between pro-business economic conservatives and social conservatives had narrowed. There was less diversity of values within the GOP than at any time in the past quarter-century."
And, he added, "According to our polling, three factors stand out in the emergence of the GOP’s staunch conservative bloc: ideological resistance to President Obama’s policies, discomfort with the changing face of America and the influence of conservative media."
While polarized news consumption is hardly new, Kohut found, "it’s been apparent in more than 20 years of data collected by the Pew Research Center. What is new is a bloc of voters who rely more on conservative media than on the general news media to comprehend."