Social issues becoming more important in politics

A recent study from the Pew Research Center found that a record 51 percent of Americans believe that religious conservatives have too much control over the GOP.

The economy was previously the key divider between Republicans and Democrats, but social issues are starting to gain a stronger hold, according to the poll.

Dr. Patrick Whelan, an assistant professor of pediatrics and National President of Catholic Democrats, said the shift toward social issues began in the 1980s.

“This shift has been going on for 30 years, starting when presidential candidate Ronald Reagan’s team engineered this strategy to corral religious conservatives,” Whelan said. “The 1980 abortion votes were indistinguishable between Democrats and Republicans.”

Kaya Masler, president of USC Students for Barack Obama and political director of USC College Democrats, said the problem facing the Republican Party is their fractured views on social issues.

“The Republicans are looking for a basis of unity; however, social issues do not unite the conservative party the way that they unite liberals,” Masler said. “Republicans are linked by fiscal policy more so than social issues.”

MacKenzie Gansert, a Republican freshman majoring in English, said politicians focus on social issues because there are normally only two sides to social issues.

“Staying away from education, economics and foreign policy is easier because social issues can be separated into black and white, and therefore a definite side can be chosen, making the candidate appear stronger,” Gansert said.

The Republican Party needs to shift its attention away from religious issues and focus more on the economy and fiscal policy, said Alex Kludjian, a Republican freshman majoring in political science.

“The Republican Party, through pandering to evangelicals, is not moving the party in the right direction,” Kludjian said. “The positions of social conservatives tend to be more restrictive. We are supposed to be a party of expanding freedoms.”