When political observers talk about the Republican Party’s demographic challenges, we tend to focus on the GOP’s difficulties in earning support from Latino voters, women, African Americans, and other racial and ethnic minorities, each of which tends to prefer Democrats.
But let’s not overlook the Republican Party’s generational challenges, either – today’s GOP isn’t just overwhelmingly white in an increasingly diverse nation, it’s also dependent on older voters.
And according to College Republicans, it’s a problem that’s getting considerably worse. Sahil Kapur reports today:
The Republican Party’s troubles with young voters are well known. But a new internal report virtually elevates the threat level to apocalyptic, declaring that the GOP needs a “fundamental re-thinking” of its approach in order to remain viable with the younger generation.
The 95-page report by the College National Republican Committee, based on in-depth research by the Winston Group on voters aged 18-29 nationwide, illustrates the daunting challenges facing the party – including its policies – when it comes to Millennial voters.
This is the sort of document that’s likely to keep party leaders up at night. “In the focus group research conducted in January 2013,” the report said, “the young ‘winnable’ Obama voters were asked to say what words came to mind when they heard ‘Republican Party.’ The responses were brutal: closed-minded, racist, rigid, old-fashioned.”
Also note, it’s not just the party and its brand – younger voters are proving to be more progressive when it comes to public policy. This is a segment of the population with no use for anti-abortion extremism and anti-gay rhetoric, but the GOP remains dominated by fierce culture warriors.
It is, the report argues, a “dismal present situation.”
What’s more, people tend to forget this, but we’re also seeing a massive shift from a generation ago. It’s not as if young people are always going to be reflexively more liberal – Reagan and H.W. Bush easily won voters under 30 by wide margins. But what was a 20-point GOP advantage in 1984 is a 23-point GOP deficit in 2012.
So, what’s a party to do about this?
In 2012, the Republican Party thought it would be wise to run on a platform what would have scrapped college aid for millions of younger Americans, curtailed contraception access, ended the federal law that allows young people to gain health care access through their family plans until they turn 26, and eliminated Planned Parenthood, among other things.
In 2013, Republicans still support all of those same ideas, but are also arguing against reduced student-loan interest rates, saying things like, “I think, as Republicans, we’ve got to do a better job of explaining how our ideas apply to young people…. But I think personal responsibility is pretty cool.”
It sounds as if the RNC has quite a challenge on its hands. It’s going to take more than a BuzzFeed-esque website to turn this around.