To win over Millennials, GOP needs to dial back talk of conservative social issues

Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, January 31, 2014

Last week, Red Alert Politics ran an article about how the Republican National Committee has decided to embrace its stance as the pro-life party. But, as many reports – including one conducted by the committee last year – have demonstrated, this is not what young voters want in their politicians.

It’s understandable why the party would want to take this position. After all, social issues have always been the heart of the schism between the two major factions of the party, and in many cases led to brutal primary fights and/or lost seats in Congress.

Traditionally, younger voters tend to vote Democratic. There are a myriad of reasons for this, including the fact that younger generations are more likely to be accepting of homosexuality and women’s rights, and like the concept of big government to help them with things like healthcare and student loans.

Because many Millennials, however, have come of age during the most recent recession – thus struggling to find jobs and pay off their college loans – economic issues for the most part are paramount in their decision to vote for one candidate over another. It’s what worked for President Barack Obama back in 2008, and what kept him in office four years later.

Republicans have figured out that there is an opening for the party to make inroads with these voters. Last year, the RNC commissioned a 100-page report filled with suggestions on how to better communicate with younger voters. The national committee (as well as several state committees) have hired youth coordinators and press secretaries geared at turning out the vote in 2014 and beyond. Many candidates for office have even created robust digital and social media teams to better communicate with younger votes in the ways they prefer – Facebook, Twitter and other digital outlets.

“Public perception of the Party is at record lows,” the report says. “Young voters are increasingly rolling their eyes at what the Party represents, and many minorities wrongly think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country. When someone rolls their eyes at us, they are not likely to open their ears to us.”

The RNC’s report even recommended that “when it comes to social issues, the Party must in fact and deed be inclusive and welcoming. If we are not, we will limit our ability to attract young people and others, including many women, who agree with us on some but not all issues.”

It’s great to see the party making these efforts. But if the party continues to simultaneously focus on social issues that Millennials largely disagree with, all of these efforts will be for naught come November.

For example, Fox News poll released Tuesday found that voters under the age of 35 support the legalization of same-sex marriages nearly two-to-one, 64 percent to 33 percent. A Rasmussen Reports poll released earlier this month found that not only do 56 percent of likely voters aged 18-39 consider themselves to be pro-choice, but that two in three of them consider abortion rights at least somewhat important in their decision to vote for or against a particular candidate.

A more telling example comes from last week’s RNC Winter Meeting, where the party’s 2014 “Rising Stars” largely agreed that the party needs to “embrace” comprehensive immigration reform.

“We need to wrap our arms carefully around comprehensive immigration reform,” Arizona state Sen. Kimberly Yee, a member of the latest class of “Rising Stars” told the audience at the Meeting. “This is a conversation we’ve got to wrap our arms around. It’s not easy, it’s going to take some time, but as Republicans, I think the message we should have is that we are for every community and we stand for what they want. So we need to bring everyone to the table and do that successfully.”

If the polls hold true, Republicans are likely to be very happy on the morning of November 5, 2014. But if they continue to campaign solely on issues that will divide the party more than unify it – particularly among younger voters – the party will have issues winning nationally both this November and beyond.

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