Discuss as:

How conservative are GOPers really?

From NBC's Domenico Montanaro

Giuliani has a strong chance at the Republican nomination despite his social views, according to a new nationwide Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates poll, which challenges the conventional notions of conservatism.Giuliani not only leads the field among all Republicans, he also leads among what Tony Fabrizio calls "moralists," because they consider him a strong leader. And 60 percent of Republicans remarkably say they would vote for a candidate who is pro-choice if they agree with the candidate on other issues.

"Giuliani has an advantage in name ID," Fabrizio said as he delivered a Power Point presentation to unveil his group's findings among 2,000 Republicans in an effort to more clearly define the cross-section of Republican voters. "Twenty-nine percent of moralists say leadership qualities are more important than their issue positions. If he can hold 20 to 25 percent of the moralists, that will pose problems for someone who'll challenge him with that group."

Giuliani led the GOP field among all Republicans with 30 percent; McCain was next with 17 percent, then Thompson 15, Romney and Gingrich with 9.

"Moralists" were one of the seven segments Fabrizio separated out. The group constitutes about a quarter of all Republicans and focuses on issues like gay marriage, abortion, and prayer in schools. Giuliani is thought to have problems among this segment because he is pro-choice, has been married three times (once to his second cousin) and has dressed in drag.

But Giuliani led the field among moralists with 21 percent, McCain was next with 17, then Fred Thompson 13, Gingrich 11, and Romney 9. Eighteen percent though are still undecided.

"Many are still holding out their votes," Fabrizio said, "but I'm not sure the 21 percent know of his past or care. They see a guy who's a tough guy, who takes no crap. They say, 'That's my kind of guy,' and that's all they care about."

Fabrizio's poll challenges conventional wisdom on what "conservative" means by showing Republicans holding more liberal views than would be expected on everything from defense spending and social issues like abortion to gays in the military to whether or not Americans are entitled to universal health care. 

Even though 71 percent self-identified as "conservative" -- up from 51 percent when Fabrizio conducted a similar poll 10 years ago -- the majority of Republicans actually believe the party spends too much time on "moral issues" like abortion and gay marriage. In addition to the 60 percent who say they could look past the abortion issue, a third of moralists say they would as well.

On abortion
-Fifty-two percent believe abortions should be legal under certain circumstances.

On health care
-Fifty-one percent of Republicans agree that universal health care should be a right of all people. The moralists are also split on the issue.

On social welfare
-Half believe the government needs to provide a "helping hand" and safety net.

On gay rights
-Almost half of all Republicans favor gays serving openly in the military. Even four in 10 moralists think gays should be allowed to serve openly.

-Seventy-seven percent believe companies should not have the right to fire employees based on sexual orientation.

On global warming
-A third say the government isn't doing enough on global warming.

On defense spending
-Fifty-five percent say the government is spending enough or too much on defense.

On God and politics
-Fifty-two percent believe public policy should not contradict God's law, but moralists – who are overwhelmingly in favor of this -- drive this number.