A new report from College Republican National Committee finds the Republican Party in deep trouble with young people, who view the GOP as “closed-minded, racist, rigid, and old-fashioned.”
The 95-page report, “Grand Old Party for a Brand New Generation,” painted a “dismal” picture for the party in the wake of last year’s general election, which saw 60 percent of voters age 18-29 vote for President Barack Obama over Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who won 37 percent of the vote, according to CNN.
The study cited the results of a series of surveys and focus groups that found young voters, even those typically considered Republican-leaning, identifying much more with the Democratic Party’s platform than the GOP’s on a range of issues, both economic and social.
Central Michigan University political science professors said the survey’s findings indicate a sizable disconnect between young voters and the party.
“Their issue concerns and priorities are fundamentally different from younger citizens in many ways,” political science professor and director of Women and Gender Studies J. Cherie Strachan said. ”So, it may be hard for them to understand and reach out to younger voters.”
While the results of its study might be ugly for the GOP, the CRNC points to former presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, who both found themselves competitive among young voters, as a sign Republicans can make themselves appealing to new voters again.
“The GOP absolutely can win over young people again,” the study says. “But this will not occur without significant work to repair the damage done to the Republican brand among this age group over the last decade.”
The party finds itself falling behind young voters on a wide range of issues.
According to the report, 54 percent of those polled said taxes should be raised on the wealthy, long a non-starter for the GOP, compared to 31-percent who said taxes should be cut for everyone and only 3-percent who said taxes should be cut for only the wealthy.
A plurality of young voters, 41 percent, said the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s signature 2010 health care reform law, would make the American health care system better, as opposed to 32-percent who said it will do more harm than good.
On gay marriage, 44-percent of young voters said gay marriage should be legal nationwide, and 26 percent said it should be left to the states to decide. Just 30-percent took the Republican platform’s stance of defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
Likewise, 51 percent of young people blame “Republican economic policies” for the recession, and 55 percent and 72 percent of young people placed some or most of the blame on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and deregulation in the financial sector, respectively.
The report also warned that the GOP faces a branding problem, as well. Young Latino voters, in particular, “tend to think the GOP couldn’t care less about them,” the report said.
Good signs for the GOP
It’s not all doom and gloom in the report for the Republican Party, however.
Seventy-two percent of those polled said the size of government should be reduced, long a Republican stance, and 82 percent said government spending needs to be cut because the national debt is “out of control.” Another 86-percent said regulations should be reduced.
Additionally, the report found Republican up-and-comers such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., much easier to identify than Democratic rising stars.
CMU profs: GOP must change to be successful
As the report’s authors note, however, the GOP faces a long road back toward winning back younger voters.
While the CRNC is short on specifics on how to make that happen, Strachan said changes in rhetoric won’t be enough for the GOP to make gains.
“It will be difficult to attract young people without substantive policy change,” she said. “The Millennial Generation is media savvy, and young citizens have been exposed to commercial marketing and appeals since childhood. And, they are cynical and suspicious of politicians and politics in general.”
Political science professor James Hill said the GOP must move toward the middle on social policy if it hopes to see better results in 2016.
“The good news for the GOP is the young still do not vote with strong numbers and regularity like the older Republicans, so the GOP can still win midterm elections even if a majority of young voters do not identify with the party,” he said.