The dueling opinions on social matters played out in the straw poll when attendees were asked about their personal core beliefs. Only 15 percent of CPAC voters said their most important goal was to promote traditional values by protecting traditional marriage and protecting the lives of the unborn, compared to 77 percent who voted as their most important goal the promotion of individual freedom by reducing the size and scope of government and its intrusion into the lives of citizens.
Not surprisingly, however, opinions among participants seemed to be split along different age groups.
The polling demographics included 44 percent “individual” registrants and 41 percent “student” registrants, with the majority (52 percent) composed of people between the ages of 18-25, closely followed by the participants between 26-40 years of age with 20 percent of the total respondents. The voters were also primarily male, comprising 66 percent of the vote compared to 34 percent female voters.
“I’m not as hardened about social conservatism,” said Ryan Corcoran, a freshman at William & Mary. “I think there’s a future for a GOP that accepts gays; I just don’t know how soon.”
Speaking about the ACU’s refusal to allow GOProud as an official sponsor for CPAC, he said, “I understand why [CPAC] would like to exclude [GOProud], but I don’t think it is the right move. All speakers here have talked about widening the conservative movement and [what] they did was to exclude people.”
Others, however, do not anticipate a Republican Party in the near future that can promote both traditional values and individual liberty.
“I don’t see a Republican Party in the future that supports gay marriage. It’s too much of a faith-based issue,” said Denise Yeagel of Richmond, Va. “I’m fine with a gay conservative group in the conference. The issue is marriage, but I think the issue of redefining marriage is untouchable.”
At a panel on Friday, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) defended his position on gay marriage when questioned about Portman’s decision, saying “just because someone changes their mind doesn’t mean anything is changed.”
“I don’t personally agree with gay marriage for religious reasons, but I also don’t agree with people imposing their beliefs on others,” said Paul Roberts, a real estate agent from Georgia. “There are many other issues that I oppose because of my religious background, and yet I don’t think the majority has the right to impose their views on the lives of others.”