Ron Paul might have a reputation for appealing to youth voters, but, in Florida, Mitt Romney dominated among millennials no less than among the general electorate. According to preliminary analysis by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, Romney captured 41 percent of voters under the age of 30 to finish in first by 16 points. At 25 percent of the vote, Paul was second with young voters. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich earned 21 percent of the youth vote, while Rick Santorum won 13 percent.
Overall, though, the GOP candidates didn’t attract many millennials to the polls in the first place. About 100,000 young Floridians participated in the primary — for a youth turnout rate of just 4 percent. Surprisingly, though, that’s actually slightly higher than in 2004, the last time just one party held a contested primary in Florida. In 2000 and 2008, when both parties held contested primaries, youth turnout was 4 percent and 13 percent, respectively.
From the Florida numbers, Romney doesn’t seem to turn off youth voters, but, again, none of the GOPers seem to attract young people in large numbers. The eventual GOP nominee needs to know millennials are ripe for the taking. I’ve reached out to the Romney campaign on several occasions to ask how Romney would reach out to millennials should he become the GOP nominee, but, so far, have received no response. Meanwhile, Barack Obama continues to roll out programs that are expressly aimed at retaining the Obamamaniacs that helped to elect him in 2008. Most recently, for example, he introduced a summer jobs program and announced a fresh injection of federal funds into the student loan program.
Yet, Obama’s policies have disproportionately hurt young people. The Youth Misery Index — a measure of youth unemployment, the average graduating student loan debt and the national debt per capita — has never been higher. With a concentrated economic message, the Republican nominee ought to be able to appeal to disaffected young former Obama supporters.