Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, October 16, 2013
Conventional wisdom would tell us that Millennials – at least for the foreseeable future – are a lost cause for Republican candidates. After all, President Barack Obama won the 18-29 year old vote by more than 20 points in 2012, and bested 2008 Republican nominee John McCain by a margin of nearly two-to-one. Even the College Republican National Committee – one of the foremost organizations when it comes to understanding and pursuing the wants and needs of young conservatives and Republicans nationwide – thinks the party isn’t doing enough to win over Millennials.
But has the GOP truly lost the fight for the youth vote in America today? The answer to that elusive question is a resounding no, and simply rethinking how the party woos the demographic group could help bring Millennials over to the right – or at least close the gap between the two parties – both in 2014 and beyond.
According to a new, bipartisan study conducted for Esquire magazine and NBC News, Millennials behave far differently politically than many strategists on both sides of the political aisle typically believe. Among the 434 Millennials that the bipartisan survey interviewed, nearly six in ten of them considered themselves to be moderates – not liberals. In fact, young Americans were more likely to call themselves moderates than their older counterparts. The rest was evenly divided between the two ends of the political spectrum.
“You assume that they’re liberal because they vote so democratic,” Republican pollster Robert Blizzard toldNBC News.
Republicans even have the edge over Democrats when it comes to several key issues. Just 42 percent of young adults believe that the government should allow illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship according to the study, while a whopping 71 percent of Millennials think that people should have to present their IDs at the poll. Blizzard attributes this to Millennials’ need for “equality and fairness.”
I wrote for Red Alert back in July about how moderate Republican candidates like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush are more likely to win the presidency in 2016 than more conservative candidates like Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas or Rand Paul of Kentucky. And the reason for that is simple – Christie and Bush are the types of candidates who will be able to win over the majority of Americans who consider themselves to be moderates. These are the candidates that have the most chance of competing with presumed Democratic nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton.
But, more importantly, candidates like Christie and Bush are the ones that young Republicans like best. A recent Quinnipiac University study found that Clinton leads both Cruz and Paul by two-to-one, however she only bests Christie by 16 points among young Americans (Similar findings were found in a previous Public Policy Polling study as well.)
The naysayers out there will say that the party already tried this in 2008 and 2012 and failed. As I previously wrote, however, it wasn’t the ideologies of Arizona Sen. John McCain or former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney that ultimately did them in – it was environmental issues like the economic collapse of 2008 or isolated issues like Romney’s “47 percent” gaffe.
The message is this: Republicans can – and will – succeed if they coalesce behind electable, moderate candidates who fight for the issues that younger Americans can support. And if they stick to the issues that have been proven to be winnable among both Millennials and the Republican base alike, there’s no stopping them.
Esquire magazine and NBC News commissioned a telephone survey of 2,410 registered voters nationwide taken from August 5-11, 2013. The survey was conducted through a joint effort by Democratic polling Benenson Strategy Group and Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies.