UPDATE: Tony Fabrizio Checks In

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The Republican pollster responds to some of the questions and observations our commenters had regarding yesterday’s post, which dealt with his survey of the GOP electorate. His most striking finding was that the party has made a dramatic shift to the right over the past decade, and taken a far stronger interest in social issues over economic ones.

Some of our regulars, including commenters Jim and Arch Stanton, wondered about Fabrizio’s designation of one group as “Heartland Republicans,” and specifically his description of this segment as being less likely to attend church. Fabrizio told me this group is “less about ideology and more about pragmatism,” the kind of Republican voters whose patron saints would be people like Senators Charles Grassley of Iowa and George Voinovich of Ohio. The reason for the label, he says, is that over a third of these voters were found in places like Iowa, Minnesota, the Dakotas and Ohio. As for their church-going habits, he says that in a party where 51% describe themselves as attending church once a week or more, only 39% of this group does. By comparison, about 80% of Fabrizio’s “Moralists” do. But Republicans overall are more churchgoing than average, he says, adding that in another survey he did, he found that 36% of American adults he polled said they attend once a week or more.

He also addressed the concerns of commenter James, Los Angeles, who wonders whether a poll where half the responses were gathered over the internet can really compare to the one he did a decade earlier, where none of the responses were. Fabrizio’s answer: He’s trying to keep up with the times, and specifically, to adjust to the much-documented difficulties that pollsters are having getting representative answers in surveys that are conducted over the phone these days. The pollster says he checked his results, and discovered there were “very, very, very few differences” in the responses of people who responded by phone vs. the internet, except on questions where you would expect the answers to vary by the age of the respondent (e.g., internet answers reported more contact with gays). But given that the internet’s reach is not as wide as the phone’s, Fabrizio said, he did weight the answers, giving those from the internet 80% of the weight he gave those gathered by phone. The bottom line, he says, is that he feels comfortable that the 2007 survey is comparable to the one he conducted a decade ago.

Fabrizio says he has been surprised at the stir–and criticism–his survey has gotten from both the left and the right, largely generated by the blogosphere on both ideological ends of the spectrum. He also says it has received a lot of interest within the party and conservative establishment. Recently, he was asked to brief the House Republican chiefs of staff on his results, and he gave a similar presentation to the American Conservative Union board. That could reflect the state of Republican fortunes these days. “There’s a lot of interest in seeing where the party is,” he told me. “You don’t usually see this introspection.”