June 3rd the College Republican National Committee (CRNC) released a report on how the Republican party can reclaim the youth vote. There is no denying that President Obama did extremely well in gaining support from this demographic in both the 2008 and 2012 elections. In 2012, Obama received 60% of the Millennial vote compared to Mitt Romney’s 30%. With only 60% of the Millennial generation eligible to vote, they are already making up 25% of the electorate– a rate which will simply continue to climb as more Millennials become registered voters.
Who are Millennials?
The Millennial generation includes anyone born between the years 1980 and 2000. They are the first generation to grow up in the age of technology and the internet. The majority of Millennials were between 2-18 year old when 9/11 occurred, therefore, unlike those born post-9/11, they know the threat of terrorism. Millennials have struggled through the “Great Recession.” According to a Pew Research Center poll, 53% of 18-24 year olds have moved back with their parents post-college graduation and are either underemployed or unemployed.
Why do Millennials support Obama?
After two wars and a recession, the 18-29 age bracket provided mass support for Barack Obama in 2008. Millennials want to elect candidates who are experienced, but also ones who understand what they are going through. Obama appealed to young voters as a young, hip guy who hangs out with cool celebrities and really wants to help everyone.
Unlike previous generations, Millennials are very open-minded when it comes to social issues. In a survey conducted by the Huffington Post, it was found that the most important issue in elections for the youth vote is same-sex marriage rights. Although President Obama didn’t come out in support for SSM until he was in the middle of his re-election campaign, he never came out against it.
Also, the 2008 election was extremely historic. Barack Obama was the first black man to be the nominee for either party. President Obama’s support from Millennials dropped around 6% in the 2012 election which can be attributed to a myriad of different reasons (i.e., change of beliefs, less voter turnout, etc).
Grand Old Party for a Brand New Generation
The CRNC conducted six focus groups throughout the United States earlier this year with people from many different backgrounds who had previously voted for President Obama. The report released Monday focused on three areas the GOP needs to improve to gain more support from Millennials: media, policy, and brand. A Pew Research Center poll released in 2010 found that Millennials are “Confident, connected, and open to change.” More Millennials than any other generation have social media profiles, check apps daily, and are constantly connected to some form of media.
The report found that Republicans need to be more open to the use of social media (specifically Facebook) in order to reach the Millennial generation. 84% of young voters have a Facebook account and 58% get news on Facebook at least once a week. “Many of our focus group participants drew a distinction between items in their Facebook ‘news feed’ and the advertisements displayed on the right-hand side of the window; they said they trusted items in the news feed while avoiding the obvious advertisements. By promoting content in the Facebook news feed, advertising can blend in with trusted content and commentary from friends.”
Also, the report mentioned the effectiveness of connecting with Millennials at the appropriate time of day.
“In the words of one of our respondents in Columbus, ‘Oh my gosh, I thought Michelle was my best friend… She e-mailed me every day at 12 a.m., ‘Dear friend, sorry it is so late…’ Other respondents recalled getting e-mail from Beyonce.”
The CRNC report found that the economy is the biggest concern for the Millennial generation. Who can blame them? The United States’ unemployment rate is still at 7.5% and over 50% of 18-24 year olds aren’t getting the jobs they need after college to survive on their own. However, one of the most interesting statistics from the report is that only 34% thought keeping the corporate tax rate low would increase jobs, while 67% thought that keeping small business tax rates low would create more jobs.
Another interesting point in the report is that 90% of those surveyed believe “We need to reform Social Security and Medicare now so that the next generation isn’t left cleaning up a huge mess down the road.” Yet, when asked what their top issues were, only 1% said Social Security and only 2% said Medicare and Medicaid.
Although the economy, job creation, and student loans are among the Millennial generation’s top concerns on GOP policy issues, the CRNC report found that those surveyed didn’t view anti-terrorism efforts as important. “National defense issues are not at the top of people’s mind; just 17% of respondents in the March 2013 CRNC survey named ‘Keeping America safe from terrorism’ as one of their top two or three priorities that political leaders ought to have.” This response was given just a month before the Boston Bombing occurred in which a pair of brothers from Russia who immigrated to the U.S. ten years ago set off two bombs at the Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring nearly 200.
One policy area in which Millennials are split is immigration. The majority of those surveyed believed that the process of immigration, which is long and expensive, needs to be reformed. However, disagreement arose when discussing what to do about the millions of illegal immigrants who are currently living in the United States. 35% agreed that “illegal immigrants should have a path to earn citizenship,” 30% agreed with “enforcement first” by strengthening borders and enforcing current immigration laws, 19% chose “illegal immigrants should be deported or put in jail for breaking the law,” and 17% said that “illegal immigrants should have a path to legal status but not citizenship.”
Not surprisingly, the majority of respondents believe that same-sex marriage is a “deal breaker” when it comes to selecting a candidate. 44% believe SSM should be legal throughout the country, 26% said it should be up to the states to decide, and 30% agreed that marriage should be legally defined as only between a man and a woman.
The image of the Republican party has suffered greatly over the past 10-20 years. Most recently, the mainstream media has been a great proponent in the campaign to make Republicans and anything that they stand for look idiotic, illogical, and simply not cool (Just ask Toure). It’s not surprising that a mere 28% of those surveyed had a positive view of the GOP.
When asked what words came to mind while thinking of the GOP, “The responses were brutal: close-minded, racist, rigid, old-fashioned.” Yet, when asked what they looked for most in a candidate, the most popular responses were intelligent (39%), hardworking (34%), and responsible (28%).
All in all, the report didn’t release too much information that we didn’t already know. Because President Obama has such strong support amongst young voters, he has people that work for his campaign who really know how to effectively connect with voters via social media. Republican policy on social issues and key topics such as healthcare and immigration isn’t 100% clear. There are a lot of people in the GOP who very strictly believe that marriage should be defined as only between a man and a women; however, there are a lot of Republicans both young and old who believe that it isn’t the place of the government to force Christian Biblical beliefs on all people in the United States.
One area which I highly agree with the CRNC report on is that Republicans need to go around spreading the message of what they stand for, not merely what they stand against. “The good news is that, on many of the issues that matter most to young people, there is a clear path forward for Republican candidates, and with messaging that explains what we are for and not just what we are against, we can begin to rebuild standing with young people on key policy issues.”