Social issues cause Republicans to lose key youth vote

Kyla Brown, Staff Writer

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney thought that he could win over the youth vote by simply promising more jobs and a better economy.

This stance was not enough for voters under the age of 30. The youth of America made their opinion loud and clear, the Republican Party is simply out of touch with their social views.

Contrary to speculation that high youth unemployment would cause young people to stay at home on Election Day, young people came to the polls in 2012 in record numbers. People aged 18 to 29 made up 19 percent of the national electorate, up one percent from 2008, according to the National Exit Poll conducted by Edison Research.

To the detriment of the Republican Party, the large majority of enthusiasm was once again in favor of President Barack Obama.  60 percent of youth cast their ballot for Obama, while only 37 percent of the youth vote went to Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

Republicans bet high and lost on the strategy that high unemployment for young people would lead young people to abandon Obama at the polls. The unemployment rate for 20- to 24-year-olds was 13.2 percent in October according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, far above the overall rate of 7.9 percent.

As in 2008, in 2012 the youth gap was a major player in determining the outcome of the presidential election. Although the gap was six points less than in 2008 when Obama received 66 percent of the vote, it was more significant.  According to a study by CIRCLE, an independent research and information center that focuses on the political engagement of young Americans, if Romney would have received only half of the youth vote in four key swing states, Romney would have won the election.

The solo Republican message to the youth of “jobs, jobs, jobs” failed to resonate. While many young people might want to cheer for the fiscal policies of the Republican Party, such as paying down the deficit and lower taxes, the traditional hardline stance on social issues is enough of a turn off to cause them to vote democratic.

If Republicans want to take back the White House, they will need to do some soul searching.  In addition to the failure of reaching out to young people, Republicans also lost big with minorities and women.

An alarming trend for Republicans is the increasingly democratic views of the growing population of minorities. According to the national exit poll, 44 percent of Hispanics and 44 percent of Asians voted for Bush in 2004. In 2012, 27 percent of Hispanics and 26 percent of Asians voted for Romney.

Among women, Obama was 11 points higher than Romney according to the national exit poll. Women voted for Obama over Romney 55 to 44 percent.

Of all age blocks, 18 to 29 year olds are by far the most ethnically and racially diverse group and polls show a socially liberal base.  If Republicans want a larger percentage of the vote, they will have to move from traditionally far-right social values.

A generational split is occurring among conservatives. While young conservatives still support deficit reduction and reducing the size of government like their parents, they are much more liberal on social issues.  According to a poll from the Washington Post, 61 percent of Republicans are not in favor of gay marriage. However, the youth vote is decisively different. Republicans ages 18 to 44 are evenly divided on the issue.  Young republicans are also more likely to be pro-choice than their parents.

The Republican Party is simply not in touch with the evolving social view of the youth. If the Republican Party is to remain relevant with the millennial generation, they must erase the hard line on social issues and embrace views that are different from the traditional conservative ideology.

As long as republicans take an uncompromising stance on key social issues such as gay marriage and abortion, the youth vote will continue to go to the Democrats.  In order to secure the youth vote, Republicans will have to embrace an evolving socially moderate view.

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