Youth vote slipping away from GOP?

posted at 2:40 pm on November 17, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

We heard over and over again during the election that the youth movement propelled Barack Obama to victory.  That turns out to be somewhat overblown, Pew Research concludes, but Republicans shouldn’t take much comfort in the exaggeration.  Over the last two presidential elections, the GOP has lost the youth vote by sharply increasing margins — and may have lost an entire generation of voters (via Brian Faughnan):

In the last three general elections – 2004, 2006, and 2008 — young voters have given the Democratic Party a majority of their votes, and for all three cycles they have been the party’s most supportive age group. This year, 66% of those under age 30 voted for Barack Obama making the disparity between young voters and other age groups larger than in any presidential election since exit polling began in 1972.

This pattern of votes, along with other evidence about the political leanings of young voters, suggests that a significant generational shift in political allegiance is occurring. This pattern has been building for several years, and is underscored among voters this year. Among voters ages 18-29, a 19-point gap now separates Democratic party affiliation (45%) and Republican affiliation (26%). In 2000, party affiliation was split nearly evenly among the young.

Young voters are more diverse racially and ethnically than older voters and more secular in their religious orientation. These characteristics, as well as the climate in which they have come of age politically, incline them not only toward Democratic Party affiliation but also toward greater support of activist government, greater opposition to the war in Iraq, less social conservatism, and a greater willingness to describe themselves as liberal politically.

Obama would have won the election without the wide split in the youth vote, Pew concludes, although the scope of the victory would have been narrower.  John McCain could have won Indiana and North Carolina but still would have lost Ohio and Florida.  The youth vote comprised 18% of the electorate, according to CNN’s exit polling, and were 17% in 2004, almost no change at all.  Obama didn’t inspire a spike in participation, but he did manage to significantly change the voting pattern in this bloc.

That could spell trouble for Republicans in the future.  People tend to remain in their political paradigm, and the GOP has not spent enough time making conservatism relevant to the younger voter.  This is a remarkably poor performance, especially on the fiscal impact of expanded government, by which younger voters will be most affected as Medicare and Social Security reach their crisis points.  Obama’s success in wooing younger voters to the Democratic Party may result in a gap which could take Republicans decades to resolve.

Or perhaps not.  If Obama decides to pursue mandatory national service on the basis of Rahm Emanuel’s proposal, those same young voters may suddenly discover their inner libertarians and become more open to reconsidering the Republican message.  If they watch the Obama administration shovel money in corporate bailouts for the next couple of years, fiscal conservatism may regain its luster.  The Republicans, though, have to have a positive agenda for rational government, rebuild its credibility, and most of all start paying attention to younger voters when addressing issues on the stump.  Barack Obama didn’t win their votes by accident two weeks ago.

Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air



Trackback URL


What would be more interesting to me is how some of those 2004 and 2006 voters in their 20s voted in 2008 once they entered their 30s. If they voted the same in all 3, the GOP is fooked. If the trend is 20s = Dem, 30s = GOP, then this is nothing to get panties in a bunch over.

angryed on November 17, 2008 at 6:20 PM

Is the sparsity of comments an indication that this subject lacks interest? Hmmm…

The difference has a lot to do with age, and pop culture. Practically every celebutard and rock star on the planet were shilling for Obama and spouted about it at every opportunity. I think had McCain had his daughters stump for him a bit more, and had some younger, fresher celeb faces supporting him, there would have been more of an even spread.

Then again, angryed has a good point. As you start to earn and learn, your political leanings sometimes become more conservative. So these same “youth votes” that went to Obama could easily change in another five to 10 years.

joliveroconnell on November 17, 2008 at 6:45 PM

“…incline them not only toward Democratic Party affiliation but also toward greater support of activist government, greater opposition to the war in Iraq, less social conservatism, and a greater willingness to describe themselves as liberal politically….”

And also less likely to have read a single book of any substance at any time in their lives.

quikstrike98 on November 17, 2008 at 6:50 PM

One thing I noticed in this thread is how quickly people were to dismiss the younger generation.
Guys if you are trying to gain friends and influence enemies you don’t start by calling them names and dismissing them out.
Think before you write off young voters. We know they have a problem with showing up at the polls and this year was no different. What we need to work on is convincing that when they finally do get around to voting that it is the Republican party that they should look to.
We can’t wait on them to evolve into Republicans and let’s try to give them some credit. The Democrats attract the youth vote because they do a very good act of pretending to listen, the same as they do with other groups. They are all about making you feel warm and fuzzy, but their actions always betray their rhetoric.
So until they are ready to vote can we at least make it clear to them that we are listening and they don’t have to declare their Republicanism public to have a voice in our community?

Just A Grunt on November 17, 2008 at 6:52 PM

This group of youth voters was lost long ago when we let our schools in this country go so far left.We have to start there or there will be no hope for the future of this nation. When these little minds are filled each day with man made gobal warming,the Military bad ,consev. hate rights,guns are bad,and all things left are wonderful what to we expect?

thmcbb on November 17, 2008 at 6:58 PM

A bit off topic, but not too much: have a question for some of our lawyer friends here, even the young ones.
Doesn’t my memory serve me correctly about the first Tuesday of Nov. being mentioned as election day in the constitution, or am I wrong?
I also seem to remember someone challenging that, and that’s why we have early voting…but no constitutional amendment regarding “open voting.” I’m kinda guessing the SCOTUS maybe lobbed this back to the states(????) and that’s why we have e/v in some but not all states, why and the rules are different all over the board??? Any Ideas what can be done to challenge the whole early voting/open primary thing? I truly want to become educated on this.

Chewy the Lab on November 17, 2008 at 6:58 PM

It has more to do with the parties

like I said … I emailed the young GOP club the day after the election and have not yet received a reply

My college has a democrat club … they always have speakers ranging from State legislators to members of the House etc. etc.

they are supported by the state dem party

the GOP shows no interest in young voters … and young voters show no interest in them for the most part

joey24007 on November 17, 2008 at 7:01 PM

The Left gets them, uncontested, for the 25+ most formative years of their life. We get them after they start paying taxes.

Not surprising.

spmat on November 17, 2008 at 7:03 PM

Sorry to repeat a bit from an earlier post, but y’all who are poo-poohing the “Yut” vote are just plain wrong.

Our children’s generation will be up to the task of rebuilding the Republic from it’s ashes if it comes to that.

When their cell phones, expensive cars, designer clothes, ipods, etc. etc. begin to disappear because Mom and Dad no longer have the ’scratch to subsidize them, that will be a start. When they can no longer get a part time job to pay for their drugs and booze (the only reason most of them want to work), not to mention when they DO get that job flipping burgers they see how much of it goes to taxes, it could be vvveeerrry interesting. Add to all that the compulsary service proposal (Ya’ know, the one that is supposedly no longer compulsary??)and their eyes will be open. In fact, we may see them become even more conservative than their parents, because unlike OUR Depression Baby parents (God Bless them), these kids know what it was like to be prosperous and they will work like dogs to get that prosperity back for themselves and their kids.

Chewy the Lab on November 17, 2008 at 3:37 PM

Chewy the Lab on November 17, 2008 at 7:10 PM

Seems a bit trite, but might be effective, at least that is what friend of mine back in my D.C. days demonstrated to me.

He had a few kids and was trying to instruct them on the basics. Was at first trying to show them the importance of earning income. He took a look at their allowance. At one point, to show the difference between conservative philosophy and liberal philosophy, he attached the allowance given to his oldest kid. Said since she earned more, and the younger kids earned less, he’d take a large percentage of her allowance to make sure the younger kids got the same allowance…and her’s would be then equal as well….thus, all would be equal, regardless of how much they worked, did chores, or otherwise fulfilled the requirements for their allowance. The younger kids were thrilled. The oldest was a bit p.o.’d.

After a month or so, he asked all the kids how they viewed the new arrangement. The oldest child was still angry. Said she worked harder and had to perform more difficult chores than her younger siblings. The younger ones liked the new arrangement. They also seemed to do less and less for their share of their allowance. The oldest one started to do a bit less as time wore on.

He then changed course…said he’d pay the kids incrementally larger allowances based on performance, and performance alone. The younger kids hated this. The older one was skeptical. After several months I asked him how his experiment was going. He said it surpassed his expectations. All the kids were earning more, and all the kids no longer had to be reminded to do their chores and other tasks around the house.

They earned to their own level of contentment. His problem was trying to scrimp and save in other areas to make sure the kids were paid their allowance on time and in full. In the long run, as the kids grew up, they had a fine appreciation for earned income. They also learned about savings and basic banking.

Never too early to teach kids earning and keeping what you earn. And also never too early to give them a lesson in what happens when parents (or government) take away from them in order to put forth a false reality of equality.

The other surprising aspect of this, as he told me, was that the kids, once they got underway in their new performance based economy, were happy to put a few of their own dollars in the church collection basket or donate to school fund raisers and other charitable causes…with their own money, by their own choice.

A bit trite….but at least these three kids learned early what millions of Americans cannot seem to understand.

coldwarrior on November 17, 2008 at 7:12 PM

It would be masochistic for republicans to assume that this is something young people will “grow out of” without any effort on our part. Through online media, my generation is being brainwashed to hate everything about republicans. They are bombarded with messages about republicans being the scum of the earth. With this as their foundational view of our party, it’s unlikely that they’ll suddenly become republicans when they reach their 30s unless we start to court them now.

Smoothies on November 17, 2008 at 7:20 PM

second digit

Oh, I am, believe me.

Saltyron on November 17, 2008 at 9:57 PM

Apparently the subversives’ plan of taking control of the education system has paid off.

DaveF on November 17, 2008 at 10:44 PM

As I sat in the successful doctor’s house in Mission Hills, Kansas at the fund raiser for Nick Jordan for Congress I looked around and wondered how much time we had left. Not much I figured. At 41 I was the youngest person in the room and definitely not the whitest.

We are a dying breed.

Congressman Tom Price was the guest speaker that night. Nice man but a perfect compliment to the profile. Older male, white, rich.

Where were the kids of these people? Hell, where were the gardeners and nannys of these people?

Why is selling bureaucracy and lobotomization so much easier than selling freedom and independent thought these days?

I’m convinced of it. Republicans couldn’t sell gauze to a hemophiliac. I brought this up to Dr. Price. His answer, though true, was an excuse. He contended that a Conservative’s message isn’t well received by the media and therefore doesn’t make it to the people.

Being in sales for 20 years now I can tell you that there are two types of sales. The first type is where you have a great product and you have to convince a skeptical customer that it will help make their life better and is worth the price they will pay. The second is the same as the first but you also have 30 other people telling this same customer that you are a no good, yellow bellied liar that wants to see the customer burn in eternal damnation.

No doubt the second sale is a harder one to make. But it just means that you have to double your efforts and be very creative when crafting the pitch.

We need to show up on college campuses in jeans and t-shirts that say “Billabong” on them. College Republicans: Drop the suit and tie costume. If you’re unlucky you’ll have a job that requires that you wear one everyday after you graduate.

We can do this but not with GM like management of our marketing message. Old, rich white guys. Step aside please. You’re killing the movement.

watson007 on November 17, 2008 at 11:56 PM

We need to show up on college campuses in jeans and t-shirts that say “Billabong” on them. College Republicans: Drop the suit and tie costume. If you’re unlucky you’ll have a job that requires that you wear one everyday after you graduate.

Don’t blame me, I didn’t start wearing suits till this year. I had long hippy hair and all the communists on campus always ended up talking to me. When talking with them I would just make stupid comments like those that the dude would make on the funny DNC/election videos.. but, I don’t think they understood my sarcasm.

El_Terrible on November 18, 2008 at 12:08 AM

I think this is an oversimplification. The media ALWAYS declares the youth vote for the Democratic candidate. These same alarm bells were sounded when I was in college and Clinton was running for the first time. Although it’s purely anecdotal, based on my own experience, I wouldn’t label Gen X more liberal than conservative (quite the opposite, actually) but if you go back and read the editorializing from 1992, I think you’ll find that’s exactly what was predicted. There are many reasons youth voters went for Obama this time, and some of them are to be feared and some of them are really meaningless.

For starters, young people as a whole are typically liberal — at least the college-educated ones are. This is due in part to 1) Left-wing indoctrination in the classrooms of most college campuses, and 2) the mere fact that these kids have not actually LIVED life and have no idea what the practical ramifications of Obamanomics will have on their everyday existence. Give them a few months of watching their already meager paychecks from their first Real Job shrink to the point that weekly pub crawls are no longer feasible and they may develop a different opinion.

In a similar vein is the fact that young people are easily persuaded, and those upthread who cited all the media and Hollywood fawning over Obama (and let us not forget the Oprah factor — her show is incredibly popular on college campuses) are certainly correct. Not coincidentally both youth culture AND Hollywood culture are highly susceptible to group think. So when some tool who isn’t even a freaking citizen of this country gets up on stage at the MTV Awards and makes all kinds of cracks about Bush and begs for people to vote for Obama, the audience — both in the theater and at home — respond because the guy is considered “cool.” Obama is also seen as “cool,” because he’s something shiny and new and different, like a new iPod, so he has the same sort of novelty that all celebrities have and it appeals. People are drawn to the style without ever questioning the substance. It’s unfortunate that not more “big name” celebrities are Republican or are willing to out themselves as Republicans such that our party could capitalize on all the glitz and glamour that is afforded the Democrats, but that’s just our cross to bear. We will have to find other ways to make our candidates appear attractive to younger voters.

Which brings up a third point: The Democrats have been, for at least the last five election cycles, FAR more tuned in to the latest trends among younger people. The Democrats are far and away ahead of the Republicans in their use of technology to reach voters. I know we all scoffed when the Obama campaign made the announcement that they would announce the name of the VP candidate via text message, but it generated buzz and it made them seem more, well, modern than we do. And this is always the case. The Republicans always come across as old and stodgy and so five minutes ago, and meanwhile the Democrats are always on the cutting edge. I personally hate stuff like MySpace and Facebook, but younger people are addicted to these things and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Obama campaign made liberal use of social networking apps AND that they did so well among younger voters. This is by far the easiest thing for us to change and I think the RNC needs to put together a new media team NOW in anticipation of 2010 and 2012 so they can advise and assist candidates in better reaching voters in this electronic age.

Finally, I think the reason Obama appeals to younger voters is that these kids between 18 and 30 are, for the most part, the spoiled, pampered Gen Y children of the Boomers and hippies (apologies to all conservative Boomers and Yers on the forum!) They, like their parents, had the benefit of coming of age during one of the most peaceful and prosperous times in our country’s history (thank you, Ronald Reagan). They have not known hardship. They have never wanted for anything. They have their parents’ entitlist value system, so it shouldn’t surprise us that they would vote for a man who is promising entitlements hand over fist.

NoLeftTurn on November 18, 2008 at 6:06 AM

NoLeftTurn on November 18, 2008 at 6:06 AM —

Oversimplification? Not at all. Very much on target. +1

Add to it, the urban centers by sheer size draw more liberal votes and thus cancel out the rural votes. In rural Ohio, for example, a good number of new GOP voters, youth vote, in rural areas, believing in basic conservatism, were canceled out by votes from Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Toledo and several campus communities…inhabited by the same spoiled, elitist or Left-wing activists younger voters.

Hopefully, the incoming RNC Chair can understand this and push the established GOP organizations across flyover America to get off our duffs and push with determination (and infusion of GOP cash) into those urban and campus communities today and not just in the last weeks of the next campaign season…2010 and 2012.

One of the previous posters mentioned that Young Republicans and campus Republicans need to shed the coat and ties uniform of their current organizations and start dressing like “normal” kids. That “uniform” tends to scare off too many younger voters, in the same manner as LDS missionaries in neighborhoods tend to forewarn the neighborhood when they show up in dark suits, white shirts and black ties.

In any case, NoLeftTurn, has clearly identified some salient points that need to be addressed over the coming months. We have a marketable message…if we make the necessary corrections in form, content, and style…and we need to close the sale with our youth. Not all of our younger voters are totally sold on self-indulgence. Can we make it “hip to be square?” Can we make being common-sense conservative “cool?” Based on Obama’s first days as President-Elect, not even sworn in yet, I believe it is possible if not probable to garner a large segment of these young voters in reaction to failed promises and failed policies of an Obama Administration. But, back to basics…we need to show all voters, not just the youth voters, that Conservative principles are a positive, not just try to show how bad the other guy is.

coldwarrior on November 18, 2008 at 6:39 AM

NoLeftTurn on November 18, 2008 at 6:06 AM

Very well put. The attention span of America’s youth is at an all time low and the Democrats know how to package quick, effective messages in the mediums that young people use. I think this has to be priority #1 for the new RNC Chair so if anyone can recommend any of the current candidates on the tech communication front, please advise.

Check out this site, everyone. It will give you a good idea of how well their “drive-by” strategy worked this time around and perhaps serve as food for thought about how we can duplicate it. Not that we want the idiots on our side, but that we want them not to be idiots.

gippergal1984 on November 18, 2008 at 9:41 AM

whoops! here’s the site:

gippergal1984 on November 18, 2008 at 9:41 AM

I’m going to pessimistically lean towards “we’ve lost this entire generation of voters.”

I don’t know how many of you deal with “the youth”, but I deal with them fairly regularly, and you have no idea how rabidly pro-Democrat / liberal some of them are. And I just don’t mean they vote Democrat, I mean, full-on Kos-Kid like derangement syndrome against all things Republican / conservative. I just don’t see it changing. The liberals got to our kids early, in the schools, and at this point, for a great many of them, the brainwashing is nearly complete and unlikely to be broken, unless Obama really does do something as colossally stupid as bring back some form of the draft (civilian or otherwise). But even then, you’ll see plenty of the youth vote proclaiming that’s a good thing.

A great many of them are just too far gone at this point to be brought back.

Vyce on November 18, 2008 at 9:51 AM

There are a lot of good ideas on this post about securing the youth vote. We have to procreate to survive as a species.

This process of getting the youth vote can be effective at reaching younger voters in this next Congressional election. However, the reality of this situation is that securing a significant vote from the youth (under 29 years old) in this country is a journey and not a destination. It is a continual sales process that must constantly change to accomodate a changing youth audience. It is a moving target and we have to have our best marksman on the job in order to continually hit our target.

Furthermore, it is a process of gradual inertia. The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is RIGHT NOW.

Communicating the conservative message using mediums that the young people use to seek, absorb, collaborate with and redistribute information is not just critical – it is the key to success. Our message is a good one and to Congressman Price’s point, the mainstream media doesn’t carry this message to it’s viewers. Which, in the case of the youth vote, doesn’t mater much since very few of them pay attention to newspaper or television news.

Young conservatives need to create new channels of communication that people their age are likely to see and hear because it is being broadcast in a medium that they frequent and can relate to.

The message being transmitted needs to be one that young people can identify with. To give you some idea of how fresh the message needs to be I’ll tell you a story of a recent interaction I had with an 18 year old college student. We were talking about the last Presidential election and she told me that she had voted for “The O” and then asked me who I voted for. When I told her she asked why to which I replied, “I am more of a rugged individualist. The Democratic party is too much like the Borg and I have no time or desire to be assimilated by them.” She looked at me with a deer in the headlight stare and I then realized that The Borg (circa 2000) was an anachronism to her.

My wife had what I thought was a great idea. Create a first person video for youtube, and other Internet based video blog spots, showing a person telling the camera why they are a Conservative. For example, a young, pregnant, Hispanic woman saying, “I am a Conservative because I want my children to have the freedom to prosper in America.”, or a young white college student saying, “I am a Conservative because I believe in the truth. Even if it is painful.”, etc., etc. “If you want to know more about Conservatism and how you can make America a better place visit …”

Whatever the case, we need to do something now. That tree we haven’t planted yet still isn’t giving us any shelter out here.

watson007 on November 18, 2008 at 10:07 AM