The Republican National Committee admitted earlier this year that it’s in need of an extreme makeover, acknowledging in a so-called autopsy report that the party has become an entity at which “young voters are increasingly rolling their eyes.”
In order to combat that image, the RNC has hired a national youth director, 23-year-old Elliott Echols, to reach out to America’s under-30 community.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus called the hire of the recent Berry College grad “groundbreaking” in a statement last week. “Bringing Elliot on board in an off-year will help us build relationships with young voters and mobilize students and young professionals to take our message to their peers. This work isn’t just for 2014; it will outlast any one cycle or campaign,” he said.
Echols, however, has a tough road ahead of him. After all, in 2012, President Obama bagged 60% of voters between the ages of 18 and 29, compared to the 37% for Mitt Romney. And judging from the GOP’s actions since Obama’s victory, it doesn’t seem like obstacles on that road to win over young voters are disappearing anytime soon. Here’s why:
An unfavorable view of the GOP as a whole: According to a new Washington Post/ABC poll, a majority of voters between the ages of 18 and 39 – 58%– have an unfavorable view of the Republican Party. Meanwhile, just 35% said they view the party favorably.
Young voters blame Republicans more for the shutdown: The government shutdown, in which the GOP unsuccessfully tried to tie any spending deal to delaying or defunding Obamacare, did not win the party any points among young voters. According to the same poll, a majority of those between the ages of 18 and 39 – 59% – blame the GOP for the partial government shutdown. Twenty-four percent blame President Obama.
Poor record on gay rights: Polls have continually showed that the majority of young people support allowing gay couples to marry. The RNC’s autopsy called for letting gay voters know “we care about them too,” and a few GOP lawmakers have backed marriage equality. But in April, the RNC passed a resolution opposing gay marriage and urging the Supreme Court to uphold the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California’s anti-gay Prop. 8. So much for outreach.
Young adults like Obamacare: The Affordable Care Act is most popular with young adults. According to a new Gallup poll, 51% of voters between the ages of 18-29 approve of Obamacare, versus the 44% who disapprove. It’s actually the only age group more likely to approve than disapprove of the law. It makes sense, too. Up to age 26, young people can stay on their parents’ health plan. A new report by the Department of Health and Human Services found that nearly half of single, young adults could sign up for health insurance that costs $50 or less per month.
The GOP continues to curb abortion rights: In less than two years, state lawmakers have greenlit more than 200 bills that restrict abortions. According to Gallup, most young voters – 50% – identify themselves as “pro choice” versus 41% as “pro-life.”
Rubio’s flip on immigration reform: Polls have continually shown that young voters support immigration reform. There was some optimism around meaningful change when Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida helped draft a bipartisan plan. Now, however, Rubio is bailing on his own bill. This week he told House Republicans not to pass the Senate legislation, even going so far as to urge them not to negotiate with the upper chamber of Congress at all.
ENDA to come up again…by Dems: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he plans to bring the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to a vote as early as next week. It would prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity – issues important to young voters. While every single Democratic senator (except Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Bill Nelson of Florida) have signed on, there are only two GOP cosponsors.