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GOP Problems With Young Voters: A Messaging Problem, And A Policy Problem

Elephant and Baby Elephant

A report to be released later today by the national College Republicans organization offers a rather scathing critique of the Republican Party, its reputation among younger voters, and its efforts to repair that reputation:

A new postmortem on the November elections from the nation’s leading voice for college Republicans offers a searing indictment of the GOP “brand” and the major challenges the party faces in wooing young voters, according to a copy given exclusively to POLITICO.

The College Republican National Committee on Monday will make public a detailed report — the result of extensive polling and focus groups — dissecting what went wrong for Republicans with young voters in the 2012 elections and how the party can improve its showing with that key demographic in the future.

It’s not a pretty picture. In fact, it’s a “dismal present situation,” the report says.

The 95-page study, which looked at the party’s views on social and economic issues, as well as its messaging and outreach, echoes a March report on the election debacle issued by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, which presented a devastating assessment of the party’s current state of affairs.

But in some ways the new report from inside the GOP tent is even more scathing and ominous — since it comes from the party’s next generation.

Titled the “Grand Old Party for a Brand New Generation,” the report is sharply critical of the GOP on several fronts. The study slams some Republicans’ almost singular focus on downsizing Big Government and cutting taxes; candidates’ use of offensive, polarizing rhetoric; and the party’s belly-flop efforts at messaging and outreach, even as the report presents a way forward and, at times, strikes an optimistic tone.

There have been plenty of postmortem critiques of the current state of the Republican Party, the reasons that the 2012 campaign was far less successful than hoped for, and what needs to be done going forward. They’ve focused on everything from the party’s failure to compete adequately with the Obama campaign when it comes to a ground campaign in battleground states in both 2008 and 2012, to a haphazard used of technology, to the whole candidate selection process. Underlying it all, though, has been the entire issue of the GOP’s long-term demographic problems. Most prominently, of course, has been the fact that Republicans have lost considerable ground over the past eight years among Latino voters, which happens to be the fastest growing ethnic group in the country. Another prominent demographic group that has been causing the GOP problems, though, are younger voters (typically defined as 18-29 or in some cases 18-35), which went heavily in favor for President Obama 2008 and 2012.

Quite often, you’ll hear partisan spokespeople dismissing the GOP’s problems among young voters. First, they’ll argue that young voters, especially those in the 18-29 year old cohort, tend to vote in much smaller proportions than other segments of the electorate. This  is absolutely true, and its’ something that we’ve been able to document ever since the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age for Federal Elections to 18 nationwide, was ratified. As soon as the 18-21 year old cohort was included in voter participation measures, the percentage of eligible/registered voters actually voting in Presidential elections fell precipitously, and the numbers were even more start for off-year and mid-term elections. What this analysis misses, I think, is the fact that there’s a lot of social science research that shows that voting preferences established in young adulthood  tend to continue into later adulthood. Yes, there are examples of large numbers of people who have voted in the past for one party end up switching there point to another, the most famous recent example being the “Reagan Democrats,”  but that is a phenomenon that seems to becoming less and less apparent in our increasingly hyperpartisan world. So, in our current climates, if younger voters start voting Democratic in their early years, it’s arguably going to be difficult for the GOP to change their mind as they get older.

The College Republican’s reports notes that there are several policy positions that are causing the party problems with younger voters:

In the report, the young Republican activists acknowledge their party has suffered significant damage in recent years. A sampling of the critique on:

Gay marriage: ”On the ‘open-minded’ issue … [w]e will face serious difficulty so long as the issue of gay marriage remains on the table.”

Hispanics: ”Latino voters … tend to think the GOP couldn’t care less about them.”

Perception of the party’s economic stance: “We’ve become the party that will pat you on your back when you make it, but won’t offer you a hand to help you get there.”

Big reason for the image problem: The “outrageous statements made by errant Republican voices.”

Words that up-for-grabs voters associate with the GOP: ”The responses were brutal: closed-minded, racist, rigid, old-fashioned.”

“[The] Republican Party has won the youth vote before and can absolutely win it again,” the report says, pointing to presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush who were competitive with that demographic. “But this will not occur without significant work to repair the damage done to the Republican brand among this age group over the last decade.”

Quite obviously, even this brief summary indicates that the report is really saying that the GOP’s problems are far deeper than not having the right “messaging” or not using social media enough. There are serious policy issues here that are turning younger voters away from the GOP. Same-sex marriage is certainly a huge part of it, and indeed the polls have indicated for several years now that the strongest support for same-sex marriage comes from the youngest demographic cohorts. However, it would seem apparent that the GOP’s disconnect with younger voters goes far beyond the idea of whether same-sex couples should be able to marry. These same younger voters have also grown up in a world where race and ethnicity has become an ever increasing blur, which seems to mean that the idea of opposing policies that grant equality to people of other races seem like self-evident reality to them, just as the idea of equality for gays and lesbians seems self-evident to them. Both of these are areas where the GOP is far behind the curve, and that’s a huge reason why they aren’t being taken seriously by younger voters.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the report is the critique it offers toward the GOP’s economic message:

Turning to a key talking point during the election, the report found that while Republicans during the 2012 cycle invoked jobs and the economy at every turn, the younger age group was put off by the way the GOP presented those issues.

“Policies that lower taxes and regulations on small businesses are quite popular. Yet our focus on taxation and business issues has left many young voters thinking they will only reap the benefits of Republican policies if they become wealthy or rise to the top of a big business,” the report says. “We’ve become the party that will pat you on your back when you make it but won’t offer you a hand to help you get there.”

Younger voters — especially those in the Hispanic focus groups the CRNC conducted — are deeply familiar with the challenges posed by a less-than-robust economy, the report said, citing struggles with student loans and people who are delaying marriage because of financial issues. But the study said the party must explain how its policies translate into chances for economic advancement and should seek to do so in a more “caring” tone.

“If we don’t believe that Republicans are the ‘fend for yourself’ party, then it’s time for us to explain why — and to show our work,” the report said. “This will go a long way overall, but particularly with Latino voters, who tend to think the GOP couldn’t care less about them.”

The college Republicans warned that the party’s primary message of cutting taxes and reducing the size of government failed to resonate. In fact, one of the CRNC’s polls found that 54 percent of young voters said “taxes should go up on the wealthy” while only 3 percent said “taxes should be cut for the wealthy.” Bashing Big Government also didn’t play well and was even damaging, according to some of the focus groups, the study found.

“We found that there were misconceptions and common ways of thinking among people who didn’t view the Republican Party favorably that were simply not in accord with where the party actually stands,” Smith told POLITICO.

That was especially the case with certain economic issues. The report said that on many questions tied to that subject, young people and the GOP are, in fact, on the same page: support for entrepreneurship and small businesses and slashing spending in many instances, for example. But that common ground often got lost for young voters.

And there we  have the messaging side of the GOP’s issues/messaging problem.  Republican economic arguments aren’t failing so much because they’re wrong but because they aren’t speaking to the voters that they need to attract if they’re going to win elections. Those of you reading this who oppose those ideas are likely to conclude that there’s no argument that the right can make that will convince voters, but Id submit that’s just another example of partisan blindness. As the quoted portions of the report indicate, there’s a not insignificant amount of support for the general principles of the GOP’s economic message, the problem seems to be in the way that it’s delivered. It’s not hard to understand, really. Leaving aside the specifics of President Obama’s economic ideas, which haven’t exactly done a great job of creating a booming economy over the past four years, one cannot deny that he delivers it in a manner that makes it very appealing, especially to younger voters who are just starting out in their careers and finding roadblocks in front of them unlike any faced by previous generations of college graduates since World War II ended.  Republicans, on the other hand, have directed their economic message toward people who are already in the business world. Perhaps that makes sense on some political level in the short term, but in the long term it sends the message to a generation facing perhaps the most difficult start to their futures since the one that came of age at the dawn of the Great Depression that the Republican Party doesn’t really care about them.

The report also indicates that the GOP’s strong emphasis on defense may well be a turn-off for younger voters:

The generation that grew up with a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan appears less interested in defense spending and less concerned about terrorism than older leaders of the GOP, with only 17 percent of respondents from one survey calling keeping citizens safe from terrorism one of their top priorities for elected officials, and many opposing an expanded military.

“Focus group participants consistently characterized Republicans as the party that was strong on defense, but did not always mean that as a positive; the key for the party is to merge that attribute with fiscal responsibility, rather than allowing the two to stand in conflict,” the report said.

So there you have another issue on which the GOP is out of step with the rising young generation. Admittedly, one can find much in this particular part of the poll results that would be as much an indictment of the policies of the Obama Administration over the past four years as it is an indictment of the GOP.  However, for better or for worse, President Obama sealed the deal with younger voters for two elections in a row now, so the real question is if, and how, Republicans can find away to win the hearts and minds of younger voters, both those who are aging into their 20s and those who will be voting for the first time in 2016 (which means people who were born no later that 1998.)

Clearly, messaging is part of the problem. If the GOP doesn’t find a way to make itself relevant  to younger voters on economic and other related issues, then it’s going to have a huge problem. But, messaging is only part of the problem. As long as the Republican Party is associated with the positions of Social Conservatives and remains steadfastly out of step with the general public on issues like immigration, it is going to find itself increasingly alienated from a voting cohort that is only going to become more important.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Phillip says:

    find away to win dupe the hearts and minds of younger voters

    FTFY

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  2. Sam Malone says:

    Hey you kids….get off my yard…dammit!!!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  3. Sam Malone says:

    Seriously, though…
    Dana Rohrbacher, Steve King, and Michelle Bachmann have enlisted Steven Segal to investigate the Bostom Marathon bomber in Russia…and you’re wasting time writing aboutthe youth vote?
    C’mon…how do you expect to ever generate page-views?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 27 Thumb down 1

  4. legion says:

    Well, the very concept of political conservatism, at its most basic, dictionary definition, is biased towards maintaining the status quo. Considering the way the economy has been moving – not just since 2007, but for the 20 years leading up to that – this is the only natural end result. Unless they’re born independently wealthy, the Republican party has not one single thing they can offer young voters with any honesty at all. They’re against more & better-paying jobs, because that would cut into corporate profits. They’re against any sort of social equality that isn’t _literally_ taken from them by force, because that increases the number of disparate voices they have to placate.

    They’re against any sort of economic policies that would improve the lives of anyone not already rich because, as Trent Reznor says, “The more we let you have the less that I’ll be keeping for me.” The _only_ thing the GOP can do for younger voters is slash education and deride the value of critical thinking so that the next generation of children will be too gullible to see through the lies and contradictions.

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  5. Ben says:

    As someone who has been politically active since the day I turned 18 and who is just now aging out of the “young voter” demo, I really think it’s hilarious that anyone still thinks that “messaging” is the problem. No amount of messaging is going to convince me that Republican policies will help me at ALL> The problem is the policy. Every single part of their economic policy is specifically geared to primarily help the wealthy, and each rung down the ladder gets helped less and less. The Republicans have literally NOTHING to offer economically to anyone who is middle class or below. All they can offer those people is populism, religion and xenophobia. When it comes to their economic policy, all “messaging” is going to accomplish is to obfuscate what that policy is, to fool people into voting against their interests. Which I guess is what they’re probably talking about, without coming right out and saying it.

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  6. EddieInCA says:

    As the quoted portions of the report indicate, there’s a not insignificant amount of support for the general principles of the GOP’s economic message, the problem seems to be in the way that it’s delivered.

    With all due respect, Mr. Mataconis, here’s lies the dilemma. It’s very easy to support principles “in general”. It’s when one gets to the details and specifics that the reality of the “general principles” become problematic.

    Everyone wants to cut “wasteful spending” and no one likes “big government”, and everyone supports “freedom” and “entrepreneurship” and “a strong defense”.

    But what does the mean in a specific economic and social policy? Do you think it’s a coincidence that the GOP rarely discusses, or lays out, the specifics of what, EXACTLY, they will cut.

    Currently the deficit is shrinking. We are paying HISTORICAL low rates on taxes, and meanwhile our infrastructure is falling apart – bridges, roads, railways. Yet the GOP still parrots “lower taxes”, “cut spending”. At some point, the GOP has to show they’re insterested in, you know…, actually governing.

    And until people like you and Dr. Joyner admit that the Party if broken beyond repair, and continue to think that it’s a messaging problems, the problems will persist.

    The GOP has become the party of old angry white guys, and it’s not changing any time soon. Because the moment anyone moderates any position, there’s a Tea Party candidate – even more crazy then the current crop of GOP crazies – ready to primary him/her.

    It’s not that long before Texas turns Purple, and Florida might already be Blue for a generation thanks to the GOP Hispanic outreach. As the Cuban influence in Florida wanes, look for it to vote solidly Dem for the foreseeable future.

    Bottom line, the GOP is in for some rough times nationally.

    But ever fear, they’ll have Alabama, Lousiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, and West Virginia for a long time.

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  7. john personna says:

    There is always a danger of self-indulgence when we suggest that “the youth agree with us,” but with that acknowledgement up front …

    Each generation comes to political awareness in a short window of experience. They quickly form the “priors” that will be with them for the rest of their political lives (as ours were for us). Their look will inherently be a fresh look.

    In a background to that, and over much longer time frames, the balance of political views swing like a pendulum. We go from Great Society, to Reaganomics, and back again.

    Perhaps because I think it the Alex P. Keaton vibe (what’s mine is mine) was a spirit of those times, I am not surprised that something opposite forms now. Young Reagan Republicans were syncing to a wide social turning point. Young non-Republicans are syncing to something else now.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  8. john personna says:

    @EddieInCA:

    I think a new generation is going to less believe the GOP’s downsizing message. They will see them as spoilers, because that’s all they’ve been in these kids experience.

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  9. Matt Bernius says:

    Spoilers for this comment thread: Usual conservative and “tea party independent” subjects — all of whom are well out of the “young” phase of life — will turn up and offer one or more of the following responses:

    1. There isn’t a party because they know X “young members” of their family who are conservatives for life.
    2. These reports fail to address all of the Southern/South West young folks who are voting republican.
    3. That any “youths” who don’t get see how the Republican party is really about them are stupid taking dupes that they don’t want anyway.
    4. The entire problem is that the Republican party is pandering to these stupid taking dupes, but when a Real Conservative(TM) runs for higher office the real Americans always vote for them.
    5. Why are you even bothering to post this stuff Doug? We are a one party state run by an academic-gay-minority-muslim-hipster cabal that destroying all the real (white) Americans.

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  10. JohnMcC says:

    “Leaving aside the specifics of President Obama”s economic ideas, which haven’t exactly created a booming economy….”

    Well, why leave those ideas aside? Maybe rather than throw off a line like that, you could write a post here about those ideas, my friend Mr Mataconis. Like the stimulous — which was an idea of GWBush’s (and his cabinet). Or the proposal contained in the “JOBS” plan that would have spent federal money on infrastructure and education/apprenticeship programs, which you will recall never got enacted.

    It’s difficult to fault ideas that never became policy. But I bet you could do it. So c’mon! Write a good, thorough blog post about the President’s economic ideas and then refute them. If this were a schoolyard 50 years ago, I’d double dog dare you.

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  11. gVOR08 says:

    …the most famous recent example [of party switching] being the “Reagan Democrats,” but that is a phenomenon that seems to becoming less and less apparent in our increasingly hyperpartisan world.

    In print and in person I continue to run into a fair number of people who say they were life long Republicans, but after W they can’t do it anymore.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  12. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Admittedly, one can find much in this particular part of the poll results that would be as much an indictment of the policies of the Obama Administration over the past four years as it is an indictment of the GOP.

    BWAAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAAHAHAHAA…..

    Tell me you didn’t write that with a straight face Doug, please….

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHa…..

    Yeah I know you did. And I know you actually believe that claptrap. Because in your world Obama is an evil dictator in control of everything including the minds of every GOP member of the House and the Senate. That Obama is the responsible individual for all of the GOP obstructionism he has had to deal with since his very first days in office. That he is responsible for all of the economic sabotage the GOP engaged in as they tried to ensure that Obama would be a “one term President”.

    Sometimes Doug, it is hard to take you seriously at all. I suppose that just makes us even though.

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  13. Rafer Janders says:

    “Leaving aside the specifics of President Obama”s economic ideas, which haven’t exactly created a booming economy….”

    This is more than a little dishonest, since we all know that many if not most of President Obama’s economic ideas have not actually been put into practice, thanks to Republican obstructionism. We don’t have the booming economy that would actually result from Obamanomics; rather, we have a middling economic recovery that results from GOP efforts to strangle America’s economic growth at every turn.

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  14. Rafer Janders says:

    As the quoted portions of the report indicate, there’s a not insignificant amount of support for the general principles of the GOP’s economic message, the problem seems to be in the way that it’s delivered.

    Everybody supports “general principles” — but that means nothing. General principles have to be put into specific practice. And that’s where the GOP fails, because (a) they refuse to actually advocate any specific policies, preferring instead merely to obstruct Democratic policies, and (b) they refuse to do so largely in part because they know that any SPECIFIC rather than general principles they have are not actually supported by the American people.

    Mark Sanford, after all, supported the general principle of monogamy. In practice, however, not so much.

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  15. SoWhat says:

    This is as lame as the “Reagan couldn’t get nominated today” idiocy.

    Since when have “young voters” ever been anything but Dem voters? It takes ‘em a while to see the folly of Dem policies before they flip—and it takes ‘em a while to get a bigger stake in American society—oh yeah, and pay higher taxes for all those great Dem programs. lol

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 39

  16. john personna says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    I think it’s actually the general principles that have turned. Reagan’s Nine Most Terrifying Words do not have the currency they once did – not for youth raised in a stagnant economy, with some degree of #occupy framing.

    The oldsters definitely still groove on those Nine Words though and that creates this wedge. Any drive to get out the old vote will sound strange to the young.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  17. Moosebreath says:

    @john personna:

    “Perhaps because I think it the Alex P. Keaton vibe (what’s mine is mine) was a spirit of those times, I am not surprised that something opposite forms now. Young Reagan Republicans were syncing to a wide social turning point. Young non-Republicans are syncing to something else now.”

    There’s a lot to this. I was in college and law school in the early to mid 80’s, and the social vibe then was definitely that conservatism was “cooler” than liberalism. Not just on the policial front during those days of Reagan Triumphalism, but entertainers from Morton Downey Jr to Andrew Dice Clay were very popular and expressing conservative points of view. And so there are some who view people who came of age in that period (those born from 1958-1965) as a separate Generation than the Boomers or X’ers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  18. @Ben:

    Every single part of their economic policy is specifically geared to primarily help the wealthy, and each rung down the ladder gets helped less and less. The Republicans have literally NOTHING to offer economically to anyone who is middle class or below.

    Being as I went to college later in life–I obtained my bachelor’s degree in 2011–I have more in common with younger voters when it comes to economic issues. I obtained a so-called “good” degree in Math & Computer Science, yet I couldn’t even obtain minimum-wage work with this degree. I was better off before I got this degree; I wish I had never gotten it. I ended up literally putting the bloody thing through a paper shredder; it made me sick to look at it.

    I don’t even want “help.” I just want the government to stay out of my way and let me make a living. The GOP is unwilling to do that (the Dems won’t do it, either). I am not doing well under the current system, but I would not do well under the one the GOP wants, either. I want a free market system; that’s why I voted for Gary Johnson.

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  19. Andre Kenji says:

    Simple. If you consider the fact that federal programs aimed at the Seniors are the biggest expense of the Federal government and if you consider that many of these Seniors are against taxes increases, then it´s impossible to hold Seniors and young people on the same coalition.

    The GOP can´t be the party of “Don´t mess with Medicare for the current generations and don´t increase taxes on anyone” and the party of young people on the same time. By the way, that´s why many of the few young GOPers are gravitating towards Ron Paul, not mainstream Republicans.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  20. @SoWhat:

    Since when have “young voters” ever been anything but Dem voters?

    I was a libertarian by the time I was 18, a radical libertarian by the time I was 30, and a full-blown anarchist before I turned 40. The older I got, the more convinced I became that I would be better off without government.

    As an older student at university, I met many young people on what I call the “anarcho-libertarian spectrum.” It is simply not true that “all” young voters are liberals.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 11

  21. Bleev K says:

    Let’s add another problem: they needed a 95 pages study to realize what most americans knew already.

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  22. J-Dub says:

    The line that caught my attention was “…and show our work”. Republicans often speak of grandiose and generalized notions then do nothing to move our country forward.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

  23. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    But (n)ever fear, they’ll have Alabama, Lousiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, and West Virginia for a long time.

    HEAR THAT, DEMS? Those 42 electoral votes are NAILED DOWN.

    Now to find the 228 others needed to win the White House…

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  24. Just Me says:

    I have two children who are in this demographic.

    My oldest (almost 20) voted for Obama because she can’t really tell you other than she just thought he would be better. She is smart but doesn’t particularly care about politics. Just about everything she based her vote on in loved a meme found on tumblr.

    My 18 year old is essentially a conservative with some moderate or liberal leanings. She knows the issues and talks about them. She wasn’t a Romney fan but she definitely wasn’t an Obama fan. But she looked for the meat of the issues beyond social media and political ads.

    Now I know every young voter isn’t politically disinterested in the way my oldest is, but I am willing to get the vast majority of them are just like her-mostly disinterested and making their decision from tumblr and the occasional ad.

    I don’t think the GOP can write off the young voter but I am also not convinced they can do anything to appeal in great numbers. Young voters vote based on impressions and feelings without a huge in depth look at the issues.

    I also think it doesn’t help that the GOP is essentially defined by the democrats and media-the only way they successfully rebrand themselves or re message is with the help of the media and the media isn’t going to do that. Maybe they should get a tumblr account.

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  25. Just Me says:

    @Moosebreath:

    Maybe.

    I went to college in the late 80’s and the students were mostly liberal. I am hard pressed to think of any conservatives and I can’t remember any. I was active in the Baptist Student Union-and even the students in that organization were all liberals and mostly Reagan haters.

    Think we hit our high school years during the second half of Reagan’s presidency when the scandals hit so perhaps that influenced the thinking-Reagan looked corrupt as we started to pay attention. I think I knew 2 people who voted for Bush in 1988.

    I was liberal through college and around 25 began to grow more conservative. Not every young person holds to the voting patterns of their youth. Perhaps being married to a military man during the Clinton years influenced my progression to the conservative side.

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  26. So, essentially, the GOP is supposed to turn themselves into Democrats in order to compete? Great idea /sarc

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  27. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    I also think it doesn’t help that the GOP is essentially defined by the democrats and media-the only way they successfully rebrand themselves or re message is with the help of the media and the media isn’t going to do that.

    Whining about an allegedly unfair playing field won’t win the GOP votes, either.

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  28. Caj says:

    The GOP have a problem with everybody! Young, gays, Hispanics and women. Only group they may have in their corner are some bigots who are older, white and who profess to be Christians! That about sums up who are in their camp. That group are the only ones their kind of rhetoric appeals to. The rest of the country are living in the 21st century where times they are a changing. Republicans sadly don’t want to live in that world.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  29. Moosebreath says:

    @Just Me:

    Right — going to college in the late 80’s meant that you were likely born around 1968, and thus after the period I mentioned. The bulk of the Generation I am talking about would have left college by the time you entered.

    X’ers have historically been fairly liberal, as their political formative experiences would have included the tarnish on Reagan due to his later years, the disengaged Bush the Elder during a recession which hit them far harder than other Generations, and Clinton being attacked on grounds they felt inexplicable when he did so much for them. Contrary to popular belief, Boomers are far more mixed in their political leanings.

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  30. michael reynolds says:

    The problem isn’t messaging, nor is it merely policy. It’s population. It’s the people who make up the GOP. If your party is defined by adherence to the doctrines of Rush Limbaugh and Roger Ailes you’re not talking a few tweaks here and there. This is core character.

    What is the defining emotion of the Republican party? Easy: anger. Anger, resentment, disappointment, paranoia, a sense of loss.

    What are the core intellectual failings? Racism, religious fundamentalism, faux nostalgia, a confusion of wealth with virtue, hostility to reality itself.

    What’s needed isn’t better leadership or a slight course correction or better messaging. This isn’t a rash that just needs some soothing ointment, this is cancer. The membership of the party is sick. This is bottom up. This is the picture in the frame, not just the frame. The problem isn’t just some abstract, disembodied “party,” the problem with the Republican Party is Republicans.

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  31. legion says:

    @William Teach: No, but actively working to screw your target demographic makes for a hard sell… It’s possible to be the champion of one part of society without having to utterly destroy all other parts – this isn’t a zero-sum game. That’s something the GOP (and especially their non-critical-thinking base voters) simply isn’t grasping. Until they do, their constituency will continue to become smaller and, I fear, more violently opposed to changing course.

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  32. anjin-san says:

    Perhaps being married to a military man during the Clinton years influenced my progression to the conservative side.

    Not enough wars?

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  33. Snarky Bastard says:

    I’m in my early 30s and I’m supposed to be open to a party whose big ideas have been the following for the past decade:

    1) Let’s invade random foreign countries for the hell of it

    2) Let’s pretend math does not matter

    3) Loot

    4) Let’s distract the rubes by shitting on some of my very good friends who just want to live their lives in as much peace as their cats will let them.

    5) Fuck health insurance — the young and their kids can get sick, but don’t touch Medicare at all.

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  34. Scott says:

    @Just Me:

    Perhaps being married to a military man during the Clinton years influenced my progression to the conservative side.

    In my 20 year military career, I think I went just the opposite direction. Perhaps it was the socialist lifestyle of Government provided healthcare, housing, food and clothing subsidies, etc.

    I went from a conservative New Yorker to a liberal Texan. On the other hand, given the ideological distance between New York and Texas, maybe I hadn’t changed a bit!

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  35. michael reynolds says:

    @Snarky Bastard:

    If only that was a parody. Sadly, those are actual Republican positions.

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  36. EddieInCA says:

    @Just Me:

    Perhaps being married to a military man during the Clinton years influenced my progression to the conservative side.

    Yeah, I can see where a strong economy, no wars of choice, a robust stock market, a tech boom, and low unemployment would cause you to switch to the other team.

    How’s that working out for you?

    Reagan and Bush exploded the Deficit. Clinton Shrunk it.

    Bush II exploded the deficit. Obama is shrinking it.

    Other than the four G’s – God, Guns, Gays, and Gynecology – there is no reason to vote for Republicans in this current environment.

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  37. Gustopher says:

    Also, Young Republicans: Not Hot.

    I remember my college days well enough — the Young Republicans were just horrible, horrible people, lacking any concern for anyone other than themselves, except to kick them when they are down. They were the epitome of the worst aspects of the Republican Party.

    They were worse than the kids who found religion.

    Have things changed?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 2

  38. Sam Malone says:

    My youngest brother was a College Republican during Reagan’s second term.
    He…like most people capable of independent thought…is disgusted by what has become of the GOP.

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  39. Sam Malone says:

    @ William Teach…
    The GOP doesn’t need to become Democrats…they just need to go back to being Republicans…instead of being a far-right religious cult..Republicanists…interested only in protecting the income of the wealthy…preserving the right of drunken rednecks to shoot themselves in the face…limiting the rights of those who don’t look or speak like them…and controlling the reproductive organs of women.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  40. Snarky Bastard says:

    @michael reynolds: And that is the problem — those are the policy positions of a major political party in this country, and not just a parody or snark response.

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  41. Latino_in_Boston says:

    Again, as part of the demographic that the GOP is supposed to be courting.

    It’s definitely not messaging, it’s that I don’t see them care about governing at all. Not only are they anti-science (evolution, climate change), anti-data (rallying against census, prohibiting data collection on climate change and gun use), but they are not open at all to change in the face of contrary facts (which is one of the reasons why Iraq went so badly).

    If the GOP as a whole actually tried to get policy right, our country would be infinitely better. Instead, all they can offer as a policy: no matter the problem, let’s have less government involvement. That might work in some cases, but it’s the equivalent of putting your head in the sand, especially as our world becomes more complicated and interdependent.

    The only reason the GOP survives at all is because of our winner takes all system. If we had a proportional representation, of if we made it easier to vote (on a Sunday, automatic registration), the GOP would get half of what they get now, or even less.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  42. Latino_in_Boston says:

    And notice the responses from the right in this thread (Just me, Teresa). Instead of considering this tsunami and what it might mean for the party and how it could change, they just ignore it, or they justify it.

    Teresa’s premise (well, not everyone I know who is young is a liberal). Good lord, I’m sure the GOP must be thrilled with that.

    Just Me’s premise (well, sure they’re sort of liberal, but they’re just misguided). I often think that about Republican voters, of course (all partisans would think this, I would submit), but if that’s true, does it matter? No, not unless the GOP makes an effort to change their minds, so as for them not to be “misguided”, but instead of the GOP has done such a terrible job, that they are creating a brutal image associated with sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. And everyone should know that you are never going to win elections if you call voters misguided (this is precisely what Anne Romney did when she said that if only Latinos would ‘wake up”, they’d vote for Romney). If you don’t think so, Just Me, just imagine me trying to convince you to vote for Hillary. I could show you all kinds of data and evidence, but if I keep saying that the only reason you vote Republican is because you’re misguided, I will never get you to vote for her. Hell, I’d be lucky if you don’t throw me out of your house, or worse.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 2

  43. Tony W says:

    @Scott:

    the socialist lifestyle of Government provided healthcare, housing, food and clothing subsidies, etc.

    This is an often overlooked observation. The US military even pays more money and offers better housing if you are married and/or have children (I seem to recall reading some old book once about “each according to his need”).

    While the Republicans are screaming “socialism” over Obamacare, real Socialism is defending America from “socialism”. I think my head just exploded.

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  44. Barry says:

    @SoWhat: “Since when have “young voters” ever been anything but Dem voters? ”

    Do you actually not know that Reagan took the majority of the (much whiter) youth vote in 1984?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  45. M. Bouffant says:

    @Tony W:
    No kidding. Were the GOP sincere about rugged individualistic boot-strapping & freedom, yada yada, they’d stop coddling these lousy public employees w/ all these freebies & get going on some block grants to the bases & vouchers for service people & their families.

    And no damn gummint pensions for military retirees, either! You put in your 20 yrs., you’ve still got plenty of earning time left to build a nest egg, leeches!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  46. Barry says:

    @Moosebreath: “And so there are some who view people who came of age in that period (those born from 1958-1965) as a separate Generation than the Boomers or X’ers. ”

    It more shows the sheer bullsh*t of most of these generational categories (speaking as one born during those several years). For example, the Vietnam War for me was a childhood thing; for the first half of the ‘Boomer’ cohort, it was an adult thing (e.g., going there). I turned 20 in 1980; for the first half of that cohort, it’d have been more like 1970. Very different times.

    Similarly, an X-er turning 20 in 1985 might have very different life experiences than one turning 20 in 1995 or 2000, especially in terms of the entry-level job market and when they first got onto the Internet.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  47. Barry says:

    @john personna: “Perhaps because I think it the Alex P. Keaton vibe (what’s mine is mine) was a spirit of those times, I am not surprised that something opposite forms now. ”

    Yes, since the message is more ‘you’ve got sh*t, and we (the oldsters in the GOP) like it that way’.

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  48. [...] –Doug Mataconis: [...]

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  49. Barry says:

    @Just Me: “I was liberal through college and around 25 began to grow more conservative. Not every young person holds to the voting patterns of their youth. Perhaps being married to a military man during the Clinton years influenced my progression to the conservative side. ”

    I imagine that a lot of people got to believe something in the 1990’s, and no amount of counter-evidence will change their minds.

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  50. john personna says:

    Relatedly, #GoodbyeGOP is trending on Twitter right now.

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  51. Caj says:

    Don’t know how anyone could be associated with the Republican Party. They are disrespectful to anyone who is not of the same mind-set! Log cabin Republicans are the ones who really make me laugh. What part of you’re not wanted do these idiots not get? Women are another group that must have nothing between their ears. To hear how GOP downgrade them. Laws on the books to take away their rights. Those two groups just mentioned must be absolutely off their rockers to be in such an outdated and out of touch party!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  52. @Latino_in_Boston: I find it hilarious that you think I’m part of the “right.” I’m an individualist anarchist who voted for Gary Johnson. I am neither right nor left.

    Contrary to popular belief, Obama didn’t win the 2012 election. NOBODY did. The number of voters who abstained was greater than the number that voted for both major candidates combined.

    Apparently, most voters are neither right nor left.

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  53. Latino_in_Boston says:

    @Teresa Rothaar:

    Fair enough. You can call yourself whatever you want. Presumably, then, the (translated) point of your original post is: Not all young people I know are liberal, there’s a bunch who are neither right nor left.

    The GOP is in big trouble.

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  54. Sam Malone says:

    Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) says women don’t want equal pay laws because they are cendescending:

    “…and making certain that companies are going to move forward in that vein, that is what women want. They don’t want the decisions made in Washington. They want to be able to have the power and the control and the ability to make those decisions for themselves…”

    So I think Republicans electoral problems are not limited to Youth, or Blacks, or Hispanics, or Women.
    Republicans have a problem with reality.
    Period. End of story.

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  55. Nikki says:

    Until the GOP can admit that no one likes the message, it will never convince anyone not already so inclined to vote for the messenger.

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  56. Spartacus says:

    Doug wrote:

    Those of you reading this who oppose those ideas are likely to conclude that there’s no argument that the right can make that will convince voters, but Id submit that’s just another example of partisan blindness. As the quoted portions of the report indicate, there’s a not insignificant amount of support for the general principles of the GOP’s economic message, the problem seems to be in the way that it’s delivered.

    Someone may have already jumped all over this so forgive me if the point’s been made.

    Doug is conflating principles with policies. The GOP has lots of “principles” and absolutely no policies other than repealing the ACA and the Ryan Plan. Both of those policies have gotten a robust hearing and they’ve been flatly rejected. So yeah, everyone reading this will and should conclude that there’s no argument the Right, in its current state, can make to win voters. That’s not partisan blindness; it’s observable fact.

    If you think we’re wrong, then please identify a policy (vs. a principle) the GOP can make that will win voters because all the GOP politicians who have a vested interest in doing this have failed miserably.

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  57. Sam Malone says:

    @ Spartacus…
    I think a lot of that has to do with the Abstract versus Specific dicotomy.
    We saw that with Obamacare. Not big in polling when discussed in the abstract. But discuss the specific provisions…and they score very high in the polls.
    Yeah…people like the idea of small government…until you start talking about specific programs you would cut to make the government small. And it can’t be the military. Or Medicare. Or raising taxes (yes – tax cuts are spending).
    People always like the idea of cutting spending…until you start talking about the programs you are no longer going to fund.
    That is one of the reasons why the Ryan Budget is so vague. The most obvious reason is that his math just does not work. Never has. Never will. But also because no one wants to cut anything specific. So he just says he is going to cut discretionary spending by 20%…but never ever says how.
    Gay marriage is an abstract idea to people like Rob Portman…until his son comes out of the closet…then it gets real specific…and he is all for gay marriage.
    What’s the opposite of abstract? Actual. Real.
    Republicans have a problem with what is real. With actual stuff. They are good with made up stuff like Birtherism and Death Panels and WMD. It’s just that they have a problem with real things…like facts and science and war.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  58. john personna says:

    @Spartacus:

    It is really kind of funny for Doug to produce a passage like this:

    As the quoted portions of the report indicate, there’s a not insignificant amount of support for the general principles of the GOP’s economic message, the problem seems to be in the way that it’s delivered.

    Isn’t the reason that he can’t call himself a Republican because the Republicans can’t deliver on the general principles of “their economic message?”

    Heaven help us, right? Do as I say and not as I do.

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  59. LC says:

    Most prominently, of course, has been the fact that Republicans have lost considerable ground over the past eight years among Latino voters, which happens to be the fastest growing ethnic group in the country.

    Actually, the fastest growing ethnic group in the country is Asian Americans: http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/asianamericans-graphics/

    And Obama won Asian Americans with 73 percent of the vote — a higher share than his vote among Latinos.

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  60. Kari Q says:

    I know others have said this, but “support for entrepreneurship and small businesses and slashing spending in many instances” are not policies. They are vague statements of emotional stances. It’s almost as specific as saying you support motherhood, but not quite as warm and fuzzy.

    Everyone supports entrepreneurship; the question is how you support it. Do you make speeches extolling the virtues of entrepreneurs who have succeeded? Then you’re a Republican. Do you enact policies – like making health insurance available to those who want to start their own business, allowing them to become entrepreneurs? Then you’re a Democrat.

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  61. legion says:

    @Latino_in_Boston:

    Just Me’s premise (well, sure they’re sort of liberal, but they’re just misguided).

    Dingdingding!
    A lot of the Right’s biggest cheerleaders really do believe that everyone is, deep down, just as sociopathically greedy and narcissistic as they are, and that any disagreement at so basic a level simply _cannot_ be honestly felt – it _must_ be another con, because that’s exactly the kind of con _they’d_ run.
    (see: Limbaugh, Palin, Issa, Ryan, et al)

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  62. Dave D says:

    Being young and very liberal (voted for Jill Stein) I think the report left out one thing. The rampant voter suppression tactics the Right displayed in places like Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania to disenfranchise majority dem voters was absolutely disgusting. The GOP thinks it is patriotic to try and keep people from voting through whatever methods they can. In states like Wisconsin, Ohio and Iowa trying to pass strict residency laws to keep college students from voting or forcing them to drive back to their parent’s homes many miles away on a Tuesday while school is in session. This is a huge middle finger from the GOP that generally says if you aren’t likely to support us, especially young college kids, we will do our damndest to make sure you don’t vote. That is youth outreach to this party. It is absolutely sickening that a party would go so out of its way to keep people from the polls and for that reason it will be hard for me to ever support a party that acts this way.

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  63. superdestroyer says:

    There is probably no group in the U.S. more irrelevant than college Republicans. There is party is on a path to the trash heap of history. The U.S. is on a path to being a one party state. The future of politics in the U.S. is about entitlements, who receives them, and who pays for them.

    What can you say about a group of college kids who support a party where the leadership of that party views them as being too lazy for most work in the U.S. and too stupid to do high tech work and wants to replace them with third-world immigrants.

    Those college Republicans should realize is that there is no place for them in the future of the U.S. and there is really no place for their demographic group. I would suggest that instead of focusing on politics and focus groups, that they learn Spanish so that they at least can quality as a supervisor in the coming peon class.

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  64. [...] Outside the Beltway Doug Mataconis has a good roundup of the report’s findings and the issues the GOP clearly has [...]

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  65. [...] GOP Problems With Young Voters: A Messaging Problem, And A Policy Problem (outsidethebeltway.com) [...]

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  66. Sam Malone says:

    What KariQ typed…

    Do you make speeches extolling the virtues of entrepreneurs who have succeeded? Then you’re a Republican. Do you enact policies – like making health insurance available to those who want to start their own business, allowing them to become entrepreneurs? Then you’re a Democrat.

    …times 10

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  67. Rob in CT says:

    Policy matters.

    GOP rhetoric, though I often disagree with it, is still pretty effective. But it’s empty, and enough people know it that it’s hard to get elected nationally by spouting party boilerplate (I still find it scary how close it can be, given the policy gap I perceive).

    You’ve got to be able to back up the rhetoric with policies that make sense to people and, at some point, actually work in the real world. You’ve got to actually enact those policies when you’re in power and people have to see them working for the benefit of a majority (or at least a majority of voters). That can be really, really hard – after all, you could enact good policies and get hit with a business cycle recession that helps your opponents discredit said policy. Welcome to democratic governance! It is hard, and often unfair.

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  68. Rob in CT says:

    To illustrate the point, take it away, Charlie Pierce:

    …the president called a press event to announce his plan for handling the student loan issue, a plan that was practically identical to one passed by the Republican House, or at least close enough for an easy compromise, and the response from both Mitch McConnell and John Boehner was that they would have no part of it because…the president called a press event. And, because…Benghazi, BENGHAZI!, BENGHAZI!

    “Here’s one issue where the two parties can and should find quick agreement,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “Unfortunately, the president appears more interested in needlessly stoking partisan divisions in Washington.”

    Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called Obama’s student loan event “cynicism” designed to distract attention from issues like the IRS, Benghazi, and seizure of journalists’ records. “It’s obvious that the White House would love nothing more than to change the subject from its growing list of scandals, but scheduling this PR stunt reeks of desperation,” Buck wrote on the speaker’s blog.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  69. Scott F. says:

    @Teresa Rothaar:

    Contrary to popular belief, Obama didn’t win the 2012 election. NOBODY did. The number of voters who abstained was greater than the number that voted for both major candidates combined.

    Apparently, most voters are neither right nor left.

    Um, Teresa, it doesn’t work like that. People who abstain from voting aren’t voters, they’re spectators. And spectators don’t get to set policy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0