Republicans And Young Voters
Turning young voters into Young Republicans isn't going to be an easy thing for the GOP to pull off.
The fact that the 2012 Election was in many ways a demographic disaster for the Republican Party became quite clear as soon as the outcome of the race became clear late Tuesday night. The President captured overwhelming majorities of the African-American vote, the Latino vote, and the Asian-American vote. He beat Mitt Romney among women, who comprised 53% of the electorate according to the exit polls, by ten percentage points. Romney, meanwhile, captured 59% of the white vote, and while this was a larger percentage than the 55% John McCain captured in 2008, it represented a smaller share of the total electorate because the white votes share of the total electorate shrunk from 74% to 72% in just four years. As if that weren’t bad enough, the President also outperformed Romney among younger voters, capturing 60% of voters aged 18-29 and 52% of voters aged 30-44. Romney, on the other hand, captured just 51% of voters aged 45-64 and 56% of voters aged 65 and older.
As much as the minority ethnic group cohorts, the age cohort poses particular problems for the Republican Party. For one thing, studies have found that once someone has voted for the same political party after two or three election cycles, their political loyalties end up getting set well into adulthood. Meaning that a younger voter who has now voted for Barack Obama and the Democratic ticket twice in four years is well on the way toward developing a political identity as a Democrat that will be hard to change once that voters enters their 30s and 40s barring some massive change in American voting habits such as what we see in a so-called “wave election.”
If there was any year in which one might have expected younger voters to be disillusioned with the Democratic Party in general and Barack Obama in particular, it would have been this year. The economy of the past four years has been particularly hard on people under 30. Those without a college education have been particularly hard hit by the economy downturn and the decline in low and moderately skilled labor, of course, but even college graduates over the past four years have found that the degree that was handed to them at Commencement isn’t necessarily a ticket to a good paying job, or even a job at all. News reports have been filled over the past four years with reports of recent college graduates moving back in with their parents because they cannot afford to live on their own. If any age group deserves to be upset with the state of the country and mad at the President, it’s this group. Ordinarily, one would expect to see voters like this stay home on election day but instead we found that .the past two Presidential cycles seem to have gone a long way toward breaking the general apathy toward voting that we’ve seen from younger voters ever since the 26th Amendment was ratified in 1971:
An exit-poll data point that will surely haunt Mitt Romney and his party in weeks to come: If he had been able to draw half of voters under 30 in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, he would have won those states and the presidency.
The millennial generation — voters ages 18 to 29 — was widely expected to stay home on Election Day, deflated by partisan politics and disappointed by the president they overwhelmingly endorsed four years ago.
Instead, young voters matched their participation rate from 2008, with about 50 percent of eligible voters under 30 casting ballots. More importantly, they actually increased their share of the electorate, from 18 percent in 2008 to 19 percent this year, surpassing the proportion of voters over the age of 65 (17 percent, according to CNN exit polls).
And while President Obama’s support with this subset dropped from 66 percent to 60 percent, youth voters were a key part of the coalition that lifted him to a second term.
“We’re treating this as a beginning, a new normal of what our country looks like, what our electorate looks like, and a new expectation for participation for young people,” said Heather Smith, president of the nonpartisan youth-advocacy group Rock the Vote in the aftermath. “This voting bloc can no longer be an afterthought for any party or campaign.”
For months, the conventional wisdom was that young voters were turning away from the president, no longer inspired by the historic nature of his candidacy or his promises to remake Washington. They also seemed to be turned off by the nasty tenor of both presidential campaigns.
Moreover, young voters have been slow to feel the effects of the recovery. Unemployment for the under 30s is mired at 12 percent — a fact that the Romney campaign attempted to capitalize on.
Yet Obama racked up huge margins in this age group in key battlegrounds, including leads of 25 points to 34 points in the states cited above.
Additionally, the President gets some of his highest job approval ratings from this group:
Unlike other groups, young voters gave Obama an edge on handling the economy. Beyond that, their attitudes on social issues align much more closely with those of Obama and Democrats. For instance, a poll commissioned by the Harvard Institute of Politics showed that young voters preferred Obama over Romney on immigration reform (50 percent to 30 percent), health care policy (54 percent to 35 percent), and issues important to women (58 percent to 27 percent).
The interesting thing, of course, is that many of these “younger voters” were not even eligible to vote four years ago, and that the ones who were 18-29 four years ago are 22-33 now. The fact that the President was about rack up huge margins among the group both years says something about the true nature of the problem that the GOP faces among these voters. For a wide variety of reasons, Democrats are able to do a much better job not only attracting younger voters but getting them to turn out to vote than Republicans have been able to and, if they’re able to keep that up and hold on to those voters as they age, then Republicans are likely to find themselves faced with some huge problems in the future.
So, what can the Republican Party do to fix it’s problems with young voters? During the campaign, it seemed as though some in the GOP thought that the way to deal with that was for Mitt Romney to pick a relatively young running mate. Paul Ryan is 42 years old, which made him among the youngest people ever to be nominate to the Vice-Presidency. Had the Romney/Ryan ticket won, only six other Vice-Presidents would have been younger than he at the time they took office. Picking a young nominee, though, didn’t really seem to do much of anything to attract younger voters any more than merely putting a Latino on the ticket would attract Latino voters. The root of the GOP’s problem with younger voters is the same as it’s problems with other demographic groups. As James Carville might put it, it’s the policies, stupid.
The principal area where Republicans are out of step with younger voters is 0n social issues, principally same-sex marriage. Every recent poll of national attitudes on this issues show that younger voters, principally those 35 are under, overwhelmingly support the idea of allowing gays and lesbians to get legally married. Indeed, the only age group left where a majority of voters oppose same sex-marriage are people 65 and over and, not to be too blunt about it, that particular age cohort isn’t going to be around forever to say the least. As long as it’s identified as the political party resisting marriage equality then it’s hard to see how the GOP makes any inroads at all among younger voters, and their demographic problems will only increase as those younger voters become 30-something and 40-something voters while the elderly voters that they’ve been relying upon the last several election cycles continue to, well, die.
Same-sex marriage isn’t the only issue that turns younger voters off to the GOP, of course, but it represents the beginning of what seems to be a clear cultural difference between the rising generation and a Republican Party that doesn’t realize that the world is changing and that it needs to change as well.
You are exactly right here Doug. Compounding the problem for the Republicans is what appears to be the fact, based on my anecdotal evidence, that for these younger voters, the social issues are the most important deciding factors. They are less willing to subjugate their beliefs on these issues in favor of a candidate who they believe is better on other grounds. Thus the GOP has the absolute wrong policies on the issues which tend to matter most to this demographic.
It probably didn’t help Mr. Romney that he seems like the grown up version of every rich privileged high school bully ever portrayed in the kinds of movies that this demographic watched heavily in the years before they started voting.
My sons couldn’t agree more, Doug.
Yet another well-reasoned and well-reported piece.
A crucial thing here is empathy. It’s one thing to believe that gays are human beings entitled to the full rights of American citizenship. It’s another thing to vote that way, to make that a priority. This is the Facebook/Twitter generation. Everyone under the age of Republican knows a gay person now, and they cannot, I believe, face their gay friends knowing they’ve stabbed them in the back.
If they don’t know many gay people, they know gay characters. They won’t vote to treat Kurt from GLEE like a second-class citizen.
That is a generational difference. James is pro-rights and still voted for Romney, perhaps not indifferent to them, but willing to set them aside as secondary. Young people won’t do that. That’s why they will not somehow devolve into Republicans as they age. They are fundamentally better people, more concerned for others.
We have raised a generation of very cool people, and they will never, ever, be Republicans.
The GOP’s solution for their diversity problem is always tokenism. I never fail to find that to be bizarre.
Doug wrote: “The principal area where Republicans are out of step with younger voters is 0n social issues, principally same-sex marriage. . . Indeed, the only age group left where a majority of voters oppose same sex-marriage are people 65 and over . . . ”
The GOP is squandering its election losses. Barring a really big mistake or a really bad nominee by the Democrats, there’s no way the GOP can win either current or future national elections with its existing policies. Therefore, it does itself no favors by trying to keep its current makeup with the hope that it can incrementally add enough of some other group to give it a majority.
It must do what the Democratic party did in the ’60s with civil rights and become willing to let go of that portion of its makeup that is standing in the way of good policy. By doing this, it will certainly lose elections in the short and maybe even near-term future (which is going to happen anyway), but at least it would position itself well for the long term.
I think people underestimate the foreign policy angle of things. As much as everyone likes to pretend that young people are entitled selfish takers… it ain’t a bunch of 40 and 50 year olds running around in Iraq and Afghanistan. By spurning the Ron Paul republicans, the GOP leaves a hole for the dems to fill. And they don’t even have to be anti-war to fill it, just not sound as stupid as the GOP.
Also, there are some concrete policies by the Obama admin that have direct impact on young people such as the government taking back over student loans and kids being able to stay on their parent’s insurance longer.
I know 80 year-olds who are far more in tune with younger people than him. If his nomination was intended to appeal to younger voters, that was on a par with believing that Sarah Palin’s nomination would appeal to disaffected Hillary fans.
You have to seperate the 20 something vote from the minority vote. Romney received 51% of the 18-29 white vote cite if I am reading the chart correctly. The issue with the 18-29 y/o voters are the least white demographic group that can vote.
I guess the idea of adding millions more 18-29 Hispanics that vote for Democrats at the 75-25 split will solve the problem for Republicans
Young people spend much less of their time glued to a single tv channel or radio station — in fact, the media communications gap between the Republican strongholds Fox/GOP/Rushbots and the social media/Stewart redoubts of the wired left is profoundly large.
Superdestroyer wrote: “You have to seperate the 20 something vote from the minority vote. Romney received 51% of the 18-29 white vote . . . ”
Why do you have to separate the youth vote by race? The point of Doug’s piece is to show that the GOP is doomed over the long term because party ID usually becomes fixed after the first 2 or 3 times of voting for the same party. Irrespective of the racial composition of the youth vote, Romney got killed in that demographic and Doug’s point is incontestable.
Am I missing something here or are you simply under the belief that a white vote counts more than a minority vote?
If is the second order comparisons. Yes, the 18-29 voters supported Obama but that was because the 18-29 black, Hispanic, and Asian voters voted overwhelmingly for Obama and the Democrats. However, whites split evenly.
A Republican is then faced with the problem of not appealing generically to 18-29 but to appealling to non-white 20-somethings. And given the failure of any conservative to appeal to non-whites of any age, I doubt that there is some strategy that will allow Republicans to appeal to non-white 20-somethings. Of course, no one seems to want to think about what politics will be like when more than 50% of the voters are automatic Democratic Party voters.
“A Republican is then faced with the problem of not appealing generically to 18-29 but to appealling to non-white 20-somethings.”
Ok, I now understand what you’re saying, but that doesn’t undermine Doug’s point, which I thought your post was attempting to do.
However, it now seems like your only point is that the GOP can only appeal to poor, uneducated white people and, therefore, it will never be a majority party again so why even have a conversation about these kinds of things.
Contrary to the conventional wisdom, people do not grow more conservative as they get older. Rather, some generations are more conservative and other generations more liberal. In 1984, Reagan won 59% of voters ages 18-29. In 2008, that bloc supported Obama by an even greater margin. I’m sure it will change again at some point in the future; these things are cyclical. But for now, Democrats have the edge among young voters, and this poses a serious problem for the GOP in the near future.
I agree with everyone who thinks the gay-rights issue is a biggie. Speaking as someone who is fairly young (35), this issue was probably the first to seem crystal-clear to me when I came of political age in the 1990s. I could confidently say that those who opposed gay rights had no ground to stand on, long before I formed strong opinions on other issues such as health care or taxes.
@Alex Knapp: “The GOP’s solution for their diversity problem is always tokenism. I never fail to find that to be bizarre. ”
It’s the lack of empathy, combined with a deep feeling that the group in question is not legitimate (e.g., ‘Real Americans’).
And in this particular case, the base on the right will not even tolerate tokenism; an openly gay GOP official is a target.
I think SD may be our official representative from V-Dare. Used to be Tango Man who was a slightly up-market version of SD. The so-called “scientific racists” like to troll conservative sites looking for recruits and spreading their gospel of: “Grrr, brown people! I hate them!”
I assume we’re all meant to decide we should join with SD and his white supremacist buddies in a race war. The effort is somewhat undercut by the fact that 99% of us would rather hang ourselves than be stuck sitting next to SD on a flight, let alone join him in anything. Perhaps it’s an attempt to bore us all into submission.
@michael reynolds: Michael, some years ago my sons were discussing something concerning my lesbian room mate with my sister and my mother. My oldest son said, “Well, Melissa is gay….” and my little sis, (my very republican mother was smarter than this), said…. “Bob, that’s not nice!!!” and both my sons looked at her and said, “But she is!!!”
My mother was smarter because her favorite cousin…. the one who was her Maid of Honor…. was a lesbian… in Dallas f’n Texas. I still remember those trips to Bobby June’s and Maxine’s… it was the high light of every trip below the Mason Dixon line.
@michael reynolds: Tango Man was pretty loathesome, but at least he didn’t sound like his mother dropped him on his head repeatedly when he was little…
I think it’s foreign policy and social issues. I’m now in my late 30’s and making good money, but in my 20’s when I wasn’t making much, marginal tax rates for high earners were not on my radar. I didn;t want to get drafted into a war, see my friends die or watch my gal and lesbian friends suffer discrimination.
I think the GOP alos underestimates how their Medicare/SS/Medicaid reforms play to the young. Even if you are skeptical about how much of a saftey net will be availabel for you when you retire, you don’t want to hear that you’re going to be paying for your parents and grandparents to continue to receive their safety net, while you get nothing because the country is broke.
Why him? Anyone who pays attention to current events thru any medium other than right-wing propaganda outlets knows A.) He didn’t make the mess and B.) He can’t clean it up all on his own
Have you seen the opposition? I came from it, even voted for Bush in 2000, by 2002 the scales had fallen from my eyes and all I’ve seen since from the right turns my stomach, doubly so having been a card-carrying idealogue.
Inspired, no. As I learned with Bush, these are seriously flawed human beings, treating them as pseudo-heroes is pretty sick in my book.
Bingo. It actually hurts to know of center-right Republicans and conservatives that don’t drink the kool-aid (looking at you Tsar) but can’t sufficiently deal with the crazies to have a decent conversation on policy.
Poor Paul Ryan…I guess all those college graduates living out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms stared up at fading posters and then decided to go out to vote against Ryan’s duplicitous ticket…he’ll have to peddle his privatization and voucher schemes elsewhere…
I believe it’s the culture war issues – gay marriage and reproductive rights in particular – that really turn young people away from the Republican Party. I know young people (nieces and nephews) who are Republicans and they care more about the economy than they do about restricting reproductive rights and gay marriage.
The GOP lost at least 3 senate seats because of culture warriors like Todd Akin, Murdock, Santorum, Bachmann and Limbaugh. The hostile rhetoric was hard to ignore.
For all the alleged power of the Teabaggers, they have helped the GOP to lose the possibility of controlling the Senate for two election cycles in a row…here’s hoping they go three for three in 2014…
C´mon: listen to Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio talking about Medicare. They NEVER ask if young people have access to Healthcare, while they say that young people must get a crappy voucher when they reach 65 and that Medicare must be preserved for their Moms(I´m serious, listen to any Sunday Morning Interview with these guys), and that not a single dime must be cut from it(But only for people that already have Medicare. Younger people must get the crappy voucher).
Frankly, I don´t know how any young voter would vote for the GOP.
“The effort is somewhat undercut by the fact that 99% of us would rather hang ourselves than be stuck sitting next to SD on a flight, let alone join him in anything.”
But it would be briefly entertaining.
Its easy- next time the GOP just need to pick a young, female, gay, hispanic, black, jewish VP candidate and they will totally win. Military service and strong evangelical ties a bonus.
For a party that whines about tokenism and the like, the “Rubio as candidate would have won us the hispanic vote” stuff is pretty funny.
I must be “looking at” a different Tsar, because I don’t recall ever seeing a post of his that didn’t contain at least one wingnut flavor of the month.
Is there any group that the GOP hasn’t alienated with the exception of wealthy white men…
Young men and women today see through the bullshit to base motives better than when I was young, that’s for sure. I think the skill is in part a result of society acting more harshly towards youth today and second chances more difficult to come by than they were say 40 years ago.
As a 26 year old voter, the social issues are huge. However, the GOP’s economic policy doesn’t make any sense. This year, two studies have shown top tier tax breaks don’t spur growth. We have grown up watching the middle class disappear under these policies and in all good conscience I cannot vote for them. A middle class tax break is possible without affording the same luxury to the people that need it least. I graduated with over 30k of debt in May ’09. But months after (in the midst of the freefalling economy) I was able to find a job making twice that a year. The disconnect with our generation and the boomers is the simple fact that more people in my generation would rather be happy than make more money than our parents. Thus we are willing to agree healthcare reform is crucial, that progressive taxes are a must and social issues are important. We aren’t all takers and until the GOP can realize they didn’t lose the election because everyone wants a handout I don’t see them taking a majority of my age group.
One thing I forgot to mention is that I am an atheist and very few of the people I know in my age group has religion. The ones that do are more likely to be Jewish than Christians. This is another area where crazy religious people will continue to scare away the young.
It’s tough for the GOP to appeal to young voters when liberals control K-12 public education and the colleges and universities. Even still Obama only received 44% of the white 18-29 demographic. Which really isn’t all that surprising. The past four years have been such an unmitigated disaster a significant majority of the largest segment of what’s a very immature and spoiled generation was able to figure things out and voted not to reelect the man.
Also keep in mind that if the same number of Republicans who voted for W. Bush in ’04 managed to put aside their principles and their litmus tests and showed up this year we’d be discussing whom president-elect Romney should pick for CIA director, Chris Matthews would be on suicide watch, and most of the chattering classes would be in therapy. So everything’s relative.
Not that the GOP doesn’t have a demographics problem. It does. No question. So too do the Democrats. What happens if in some upcoming national election cycle blacks “only” vote 85-15 for the Democrat candidate?
The Victimhood Tour continues…
Oh please, this continual trashing of young people is really so pathetic…as if scores of people in other age groups aren’t immature and spoiled…
So relative indeed…the way that Karl Rove and Bill O’Reilly, among other conservative blowhards, acted on election night, they are prime candidates for some form of antipsychotic medication…
You needn’t worry about that, as the GOP is poison to the overwhelming majority of blacks (not to mention a large majority of Hispanics) and will remain so for some time…
As I said about an hour ago…
Tsar, since liberals control the media as well, how does the GOP appeal to ANYONE?
I’m not young. (See photo.) But my business keeps me very much in touch with younger folk. I’ve tried making that argument to older folks and been laughed off. I’ve said kids are less materialistic, that they value things – like Twitter followers – that have zero cash value but are about community. And again: laughed off. I’ve suggested that they will be far less likely to buy McMansions and expensive cars – “stuff” generally – and that this will have repercussions in the economy. And again, no one was buying because apparently the future will be exactly like the past and upcoming generations will have exactly the same motivations as we did.
Liberal media, liberal polls, liberal kindergartens… Weren’t social conservatives supposed to be all about personal responsibility?
Yes, science and knowledge are liberal mainstays.
@michael reynolds: the incentive to buy a house is greatly reduced. Between starting off our post college lives very in debt (for the most part) and having seen the market collapse, it seems less important. I am happy to rent and pay off my student loans. Taking on even more debt this young seems like a gamble especially after watching my parents house lose a third of its value in a few years. This could easily happen again.
This is, of course, nonsense.
I think that you will find that if there are any political manifestations in K-12 in a given classroom, it will be far more influenced by geography than by anything else. I guarantee you that, for example, rural Alabama classrooms in K-12 are not dominated by liberals.
But beyond that, the notion that teachers are just running around indoctrinating students has no basis in reality. Can you find specific cases? Of course. But on balance teachers are a wee bit too busy trying to get through the day and teach math, english, etc. to have time to engage in liberal brainwashing.
I love the fact that the GOP is at least asking questions as to how it can appeal to all the different demographics it lost, particularly latinos and young people. But it’s just amazing how little self-aware they are, because on the same breath they say, we should rethink our approach, they follow it with so we can appeal to those moochers, freeloaders, brainwashed zombies.
(See Tsar’s argument)
perhaps they should stop insulting those they want to vote for them.
The funniest ting@Steven L. Taylor:
It’s just as ridiculous to say that about college professors. It’s like he’s never been to a university. Professors can’t even “brainwash” their students enough to stop them from texting in class, or convince them to read everything they’re supposed to; imagining they can get their students to blindly vote for their preferred candidate is insanity.
Indeed (and I can personally attest to the truth of your claim).
Further, while there are profs who engage in over politicking, most don’t. And even when they do (and I can think of an actual example, it hardly causes the students to changer their minds–often the opposite, actually).
I’ll agree that there are teachers who teach counter-factual material, why you yourself were just complaining about the product of one such education on another thread.
But of course, it’s the conservatives, teaching that the Big Bang and evolution are satanic.
@An Interested Party:
Married whites with children vote overwhelmingly for Republicans even if they are middle class. I doubt that middle class whites are very interested in open borders, unlimited immigraiton, higher taxes, more social engineering,and having their children move to NYC, DC, or SF to get a job.
What the middle class whites seem to realize is that the Democrats are asking them to give up grandchildren in return for a bigger safety net.
SD misses the point that Michael Reynolds made above. My husband I are lower-middle class white people in our late 30’s-early 40’s with 3 kids. Tax rates will never convince us to vote for Republican’s b/c of their history on the social issues. I’m not willing to set aside my daughter’s right to control her own body or my gay friends and family member’s rights to full equality for what amounts to a piddly amount of money per year. My parents and grandparents on the other hand? They are perfectly willing to vote for people who ensure that their children and grandchildren don’t have the same access to Medicare and Social Security when they hit retirement age, after they’ve sucked the system dry of course. Which generation is the selfish one?
Taxes is another isssue that Republicans have a problem connecting with younger voters primarily because most just don’t make enough money to be even affected by either party’s policies. Also because the young make less money than older wealthier voters, they tend to think that the latter should pay more taxes, even though the former personally would like to be rich by that age as well.
There is nothing that the elderly can do now to ensure that social security or medicare exist in 30-plus years. The only thing that will ensure that social security and medicare exist in future decades is higher taxes and lower benefits. The question for the future is what are people willing to give up if they want social security and medicare benefits in the future at the same level as today.
Given the demographic changes of the U.S., social security and medicare benefits will be reduced in the future or taxes will go up.
Just a heads up, that won’t be true when the votes are finally all counted. What’s left in WA alone will cover the difference.
That’s a bunch of bunk on the policy front as jukebox points almost daily. On the politics side, they can do something extremely simple, get the hell out of the way. They made the mess, over and over again inf fact. Their judgement on ways to clean it up are worse than meaningless, they are actually harmful.
So even within the most Republican friendly youth demographic (whites), the GOP is losing between 12 and 15 points to the Democrats compared to the rest of the that demographic.
Speaking as a white 32 year old voter, it is not surprising, as the GOP has gone batshit insane over my entire voting career.
2000 — not too insane, not too much involvement in youth directed areas — I voted Gore as a combination of being raised in a union household and taking the Krugman critique of the Bush looting/tax plan seriously. But there is nothing directly at stake as a 20 year old.
2004 — WTF on both gay marriage and Iraq. Why is the GOP invading countries and getting my cohort killed for no good reason, and the one’s that are not at risk they are demonizing some of my good friends who lived down the hall from me my freshman and sophomore years. Kerry did really well with my cohort (edge of X/beginning of Y)
2008 — say no more
2012 — The GOP went even more batshit insane on gay rights and female autonomy, and yes, the economy sucks for my younger brother’s cohort, but one party is trying to do something and they other party is convinced that my brother’s friends’ lives would be positively impacted by a capital gains tax cut.
How does amensty and comprehensive immigration reform help the 20 something get better paying jobs? How does tighter environmental regulations help 20 something get better paying jobs.
The Republicans have given up discussing better paying jobs because the cheap labor Reublicans like Jeb Bush want open borders and unlimited immigraiton. What is amazing is how short sighted the Republicans have been.
However, what the Democrats are asking 20 somethings to give up is ownng a home, having children, or even getting married. When you look at the Manhattan/SF/Boston review of the Democratic party there are the Ivy League graduate winners and then there is everyone else.
It really doesn’t help that the GOP plan to reform entitlements involved no changes for those already 55+, with all the cuts hitting folks who are younger. I suspect that’s minor in comparison to the other issues already discussed, but surely *some* of the younger folks picked up on that.