Saturday, March 8, 2014

Millennials and the Republican Party

I am going to have a much more in-depth research project that will be posted on the new Pew Research Center's study on millennials.  But this will be a fairly short post.I will ultimately have a much longer piece offering bigger conclusions.

After the 2012 presidential election, the Republican Party made all the right moves to convince people that they were going to re-evaluate how they reached out to voters.  They performed an electoral autopsy to find out why in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections the millennial generation had contributed to one of the largest age gaps in history.

About 50% of millennials identify themselves as independent but they tend to vote Democratic.  Nearly 50% of millennials state that they lean Democratic compared to 34% who state that they lean Republican.  This is going to be a problem for the Republican Party unless they can convince these voters on a number of issues.  The autopsy was supposed to reveal a way for them to reach out to this key constituency.

Unfortunately, their autopsy would have to ultimately conclude that younger voters are more liberal than the Republican Party believes.  It's really not surprising that millennial voters line up with the Democratic Party on a number of issues.  Most people already knew this.  The biggest supporters of same-sex marriage are younger (Pew Research found nearly 70% millennials support same-sex marriage).  Legalization of marijuana also skews to the younger generation (again, nearly 70% of millennials support same-sex marriage).  Even more news that wouldn't be shocking, the biggest supporters of the path to citizenship for immigrants are also the millennials.

These are all pretty quick fixes.  There are conservative arguments to be made in favor of same-sex marriage.  Including that marriage will help children grow up in more stable homes.  The path to citizenship was part of the Gang of Eight's immigration reform bill that helped push Marco Rubio into the national spotlight, before his support for the bill disappeared. The biggest voice for reforming drug laws and possibly legalizing marijuana laws has been CPAC straw poll winner Rand Paul.  There's a larger problem for the Republican Party for the millennial generation.

But what is troubling for the Republican Party, is that millennials do not agree with them on the proper role of government.  53% of millennials believe that the government should be larger offering more services compared to the majority of the population of the other generations that believe the government should be smaller and offer fewer services.  This trend is more seen in non-white millennials, 71% of non-white millennials believe that there should be a bigger government offering more services.  This is the growing population of the electorate.  Republicans are going to be on the wrong side of this.  A bigger problem in 2014 and 2016 is that the majority of millennials believe that it is the government's responsibility to provide health insurance for all.  A majority of Americans thought the same thing until about 2009, but that's another post, entirely.

So, what can the Republican Party do to win the millennials?  The first option is to simply ignore the millennials and focus instead on restricting voter access.  Based on the efforts of the GOP in various states, this way seems to be the most popular.  There are numerous legal ways of restricting voter access including populating the airwaves with non-stop attack or negative ads.  Negative ads depress voter turnout dramatically, especially among the young.  The second option is to maintain mid-term dominance.  Thanks to gerrymandering, decreased voter turnout, and massive campaign contributions the Republican Party will be able to win in mid-term elections and maintain the House of Representatives.  But without focusing on these issues, the presidential election will elude them.  Unless you believe rightly or wrongly that the era of sustained presidential success is over.  Since World War II, the party that had a two-term President has lost the ensuing election except in 1988 with George H.W. Bush.  The third option is to continue to address these issues with key legislators.  This strategy is being used currently with Rand Pal serving as the drug guy, Rubio was the immigration guy, Rob Portman will likely be the same-sex marriage guy, and so on.  But this doesn't address the fundamental issues that are hurting the Republican Party.

At some point, they have to challenge the Democratic Party on the issues.  A majority of millennials believe that there should be more programs that help the younger generation.  I do not know what services they may offer.  But something that would help is a stronger student loan bill that would rival Elizabeth Warren's bill.  Another thing that would help is to send federal grants to states for community colleges and state universities for job training programs and employment assistance.  These programs would not interfere with the belief of the Republican Party of government getting in the way for jobseekers.  This would actively help those seeking employment to find jobs after being educated and would ultimately cut federal spending on TANF, unemployment, Medicaid, etc.

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