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Why Young People Matter

by Lisa Stickan, Chairman Young Republican National Federation

The term “youth vote” is a popular political buzzword  that peppers our airwaves during major election years. As Chairman of the Young Republican National Federation, I am often asked these critical questions: “Will Republicans make gains with younger voters?” “Will younger voters always vote Democrat?” And, my personal favorite: “Will the young people even vote?”

It is no secret, given these last two major election cycles, that the answer to that last question is a resounding yes. The “youth vote” does, in fact, matter. It’s high time the GOP take notice and compete for these voters.

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In particular, in the past few election cycles, so-called “Millennial” voters (those under 30) have broken the mold and stumped the pundits. Millennial voters turned out in unprecedented numbers in 2008, voting predominantly for President Obama. The cable news pundits predicted that the Millennial voters would surely stay home in 2012. Not so. Our youngest voters were determined to make their mark: it is reported that the under-30 vote in 2012 surpassed the 2008 numbers, with around 49% of these young Americans casting their ballots. Overall, this block comprised around 19% of the total votes cast, up a percent from 2008. Collectively, President Obama captured 60% of the youth vote, compared with Mitt Romney’s 36%, an improvement over John McCain’s numbers.

I remain optimistic that the GOP can make inroads with these voters for elections to come. Many young people still struggle to find work in this Obama economy and look to government to adopt policies to grow jobs. While organizations like Young Republicans and College Republicans aggressively message to these prospective voters, we cannot do it alone. The GOP as a whole needs to be more proactive and engage these voters. The two important strides for the GOP to make in this demographic include better candidate messaging and recognition that our younger generations involve a changing demographic.

Messaging is #1. Younger voters are more apt to vote for a person, not necessarily a party—so a candidate must connect! I firmly believe that candidates (and in the bigger picture, the political party) need to ask for someone’s vote to actually earn it. To do so, we must first own our message and not let Democrats and the media define us to large and unfamiliar segments of voters. I cannot tell you how many young women I had to reassure that Mitt Romney would not make birth control pills illegal.

Candidates must also do a better job of conveying that message to these voters. Young voters are vibrant, active, online, and “plugged in.” They live in the new media and communicate differently than their parents’ generation. The GOP’s message of economic independence and fiscal responsibility will relate to voters who are struggling to launch their post-college careers. But that message does us no good if those voters never hear it. I encountered many voters who were convinced Obama deserved a second term because “four years just isn’t enough time to make any improvements.” While we shake our head at the absurdity of these sentiments, one thing is clear—Obama was messaging to these young voters, with not only the mainstream media, but also social media and well-organized Democrat operatives, and persuaded them to stay the course.

Second to messaging, the GOP needs to recognize new diverse groups of voters, including Hispanics and Asian-Americans, now approaching voting age in great number. Romney made strides with some young voters; he captured 51% of young white voters. Despite his connection with that group, it was clearly not enough. The GOP must as a whole connect with these emerging groups of diverse voters,  especially the youngest voters of these groups. This not only brings new faces into the party, but also bridges the gap in the generational divide. Many in these groups share our conservative values and even our views on social issues. This should be explored by party leaders.

Finally, as YRNF Chairman, it is obvious I would think the “youth vote” matters. But as outlined above, any group that comprises 1/5 of the vote has to matter.

The safe campaign strategy of focusing on only “older voters” is not going to bring the win home. In my own experience visiting with Young Republicans (YRs) around the country, I see a growing number of our party’s youngest members heading up campaigns within their communities, and a striking number running for local, state and national offices. I see Young Republicans doing a lot of the “political heavy lifting,” making calls at the phone banks and knocking on doors for candidates. These young activists are some of the strongest members of our party. And these YR leaders, through peer-to-peer messaging, are able to reach a larger audience to express the benefits of voting Republican. Grassroots organizations, like Young Republicans, can lead the way to open new avenues and reinvent the election playbook. Owning, bringing and delivering our message to these voters is our first step… let’s get started.

Stickan has been Chairman of the Young Republican National Federation since 2010

The Young Republicans (YRs) are the oldest political youth organization in the United States. Important to the growth of the Republican Party, the YRs reach out to registered Republicans, 18 to 40 years of age, and provide them with better political knowledge and understanding of the issues of the day.  For more information, go to www.yrnf.com

5 comments

  1. Problem is too many young voters like women voters fail to see past performance and past records as an indicator of ability to perform the job. No mater how you look at his record, Barack Obama has NEVER accomplished anything except master the ability to LIE with a straight face. He, like Jimmy Carter before him, has absolutely NOTHING to draw upon in order to LEAD the country. His performance since the election should be proof positive, yet too many fail to open their eyes, ears and noses to the irrefutable truth.

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  2. The Republican candidates MUST cease and desist spewing their abusive anti-choice rhetoric. Half of the youth vote are WOMEN who pick up on this language and quickly decide that a party which would deny any Constitutionally enshrined freedom to them is not a party they would support. Even the slightest parenthetical mention of the anti-choice message is enough to turn women, more especially young women, in the other direction. It’s got to stop. It may make candidates feel good but it gains for them no votes they wouldn’t have got anyway, while turning away those who might otherwise have considered them.

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    • First of all the Republicans are not the ones “spewing their abusive anti-choice rhetoric”. It the Democrats who are saying that is what the Republicans are saying in hopes of spreading a fear factor to voters whom are easily swayed because they don’t research anything for fact. The Republicans are not totally against abortion, just against abortion that is used as birth control which is what the greatest percentage of abortions are. There are far better methods for birth control and I won’t go into them. Investigate for yourselves. While your investigating just take a look at history and you’ll find the picture the Democrats have painted was actually the result of their own brush strokes. You, like so many others, are easily influenced by the snake oil the Democrats are selling. They never say what their ideas are for fixing anything, just how the Republican’s ideas will cause old people to lose their health care or medicare, people will be losing their jobs, programs will be shut down,etc., etc. Keep the easily influenced distracted with mis-information, lies and distractions from the important concerns by getting them to focus on the trivial.

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  3. the fact that so many young voters went obama shows the indoctination – i mean education system – is doing a fine job

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