Hey Republicans, why not go after young voters?

6 Mar

Amid all the strategizing surrounding a party in peril (I’m among the most pessimistic, mind you), a few solutions have been proffered.  It seems the consensus is to reach out to Latinos (compromise on amnesty).  Some want to reach out to moderates and independents (move left).   though some want to double-down solidify the conservative base (stay or move right).  I wonder, however, why very little is made of young-voters.

Perhaps the reason is that young-voters historically do very little with the right to vote.  Typically, in presidential races, their turnout doesn’t exceed 30%.  But, the last two presidential races showed that young-voters can be mobilized.  In each race (2008 and 2012), their turnout shot up to over 45%.  Moreover, they made up 19% of the voter pool (11% ages 18-24 and 8% 25-29).  Consider as well that in 2012 Latinos were 10% of the voter pool.

Perhaps the reason is that young-voters have made up their mind; that they are just uninterested in the GOP.  But maybe 2008 and 2012 were exceptional elections with a “rock-star” candidate.  And maybe the GOP can field it’s own rock-star.  Survey evidence suggests that compared to others young voters are more persuaded by personality than issues or political party or political ideology.  That’s an opportunity for the GOP, if you ask me.  In other words, though traditionalist conservatives lament the demise of careful serious political thought in society and especially among the young, parties can use superficiality and reality-tv politics to their advantage.  And as far as personalities go, it would seem that 2016 may favor the Republicans over the Democrats (Hillary vs Rubio?).  Besides, it wasn’t too long ago that young-voters were pretty split along partisan lines (next graph).  And although they are the most likely to identify as liberal compared to other age groups, still a large majority are not (next next graph) and young-voters are less beholden to that label; they’re also less likely to understand fully what that label means (least ideologically consistent).

Also, it should be noted that young voters are not very ideological, and so their loyalty is philosophically and politically up for grabs.  Even in 2008 and 2012, they preference for Obama was less than that of Latinos, Blacks or even Asian-Americans.  (See chart below):

And though they are notoriously inconsistent, young-voters do often hold positions that the GOP could sell better to them.  Social Security reform and the debt crisis, for instance.  Furthermore, though they are adrift on same-sex marriage, young-voters’ attitudes on abortion have pretty much remained unchanged and basically split. (see graphs below).  And as far as religion goes, younger voters who remain in church are usually theologically quite conservative, which tends to translate into GOP support later on.

Another reason why the GOP might go after young-voters is the fact that I don’t see the GOP winning many votes from other groups (Latinos).  I’ve explained my reasoning for this elsewhere.  If the GOP decides to put their eggs in another basket, I think they will find that basket with a big hole in the bottom.  Young-voters may be wishy-washy, unmotivated in most election years, uninformed, late-deciding and disloyal as partisans or partisan-leaners, but Obama pulled it off.  Besides,where else can the GOP go?

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