Poll: GOP believes more conservative candidates key to retaking White House

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Members of the GOP are also widely open to changing their party's platform to attract more voters, with 59 percent of those surveyed saying the party needs to reconsider some positions. Two-thirds of those aged 18-39 and 56 percent of those over 40 agree with that sentiment, while just 36 percent of Republicans overall say the party just needs to do a better job of articulating its current platform.

But contrary to the conventional political wisdom, most Republicans believe that the party should move to the right. Of those surveyed, 54 percent, including half of those aged 18-39 and 55 percent of those over 40 years old, believe leaders should move in a more conservative direction. By contrast, 41 percent say the party should moderate its views, with younger Republicans more likely to feel that way.

That's true despite fewer young Republicans describing themselves as conservative and fewer saying they agree with the Tea Party. Younger Republicans are also more likely to express concern about the party being "tolerant and open to all groups of people.”

But despite those differences, Republicans are united in saying that nominating a woman or a minority candidate would help them win in the presidential election.

Of those surveyed, 55 percent say a nominee who is a racial or ethnic minority would improve the GOP's chances of retaking the White House, including 68 percent of those aged 18-39 and 49 percent of those over 40. 

Similarly, 52 percent say nominating a woman would improve their chances, including 64 percent of young Republicans and 46 percent, a narrow plurality, of those above 40 years old.

An autopsy report commissioned by Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus following the election suggested that Republicans needed to change tone to win back female and young voters. 

The report also suggested that the party needed to do more to elevate female and minority surrogates within the party and promote women to be included in messaging discussions at the RNC.