What does all this mean? The Republican Party cannot continue to espouse an extreme social platform and expect to win national elections. Mr. Obama carried youth by a 23-point margin this election. The fact that the GOP could muster only 37 percent youth support at a time when youth unemployment remains more than twice the national average and student debt has exceeded $1 trillion shows Republican social stances are likely substantially undermining the party’s popularity in this cohort.
Young adults on the whole view the GOP’s attitude on gay rights as less an attempt to protect the institution of marriage than bigotry, and its stances on women’s health and immigration more civil rights assaults than sober conservatism. I do not know a single one of my peers – Republican or Democrat – who would be willing to defend the GOP’s full social plank.
Yet Republicans have a strong case to make among youth. In many ways, our generation, particularly the youngest part, could be convinced to distrust “big government.” My peers and I have come of age during two wars of foreign “nation-building,” unsustainable debt and spending, and a monumental economic crash. Harvard’s John Della Volpe finds evidence of that shift. In contrast to older Millennials (aged 25-29), today’s 18-24 year-olds are more likely to identify as “conservative” than “liberal,” a switch perhaps attributable to the Democratic stewardship of the recession.
Like many of my peers, I do not trust the Democrats to do much better than muddle through the handling of America’s economy, and I am alarmed by some liberals’ insistence that bloated postwar-era entitlement programs need no reforming.
The youth of today, not unlike like generations before, place a high value on autonomy and equity – in fiscal matters, but also on social issues. Voting for a party whose social policies appear to be more informed by prejudices than policies is anathema to the principles a critical mass of young voters hold dear.