Winning Obama’s Youth Vote

April 29th, 2010 at 1:25 pm | 27 Comments |

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President Obama’s recent message directed toward young and independent voters represents a great opportunity for Republicans.  The question is whether they will seize it or confine themselves to rallying the once strong but now diminishing “base” of the party.

According to a new Gallup poll, for sale 23% of young voters (18-29) are “very” enthusiastic about voting in the upcoming congressional elections compared with 28% who are “somewhat” enthusiastic and 47% who are not.  Young people represented a core constituency for Barack Obama during the presidential election and these new numbers present the Republican Party with an opportunity to modernize their message and embrace these new voters.

Although 51% of this group says they would vote for the Democratic Party in the congressional elections, search their lack of enthusiasm demonstrates a diminishing faith in the Obama effect.  Many young voters have no doubt come to the realization that Hope and Change does not translate effectively into practical politics.  Obama’s first year in office has revealed the futility of hopeful changes in “the way Washington does business.”

Instead of playing to the vanity of the wealthy and the fear of the middle class as some at the RNC have suggested, the Republican Party should move to rally this rising yet disaffected generation by appealing to what is important to them.  They should push for market-based approaches to climate change (alternative energy tax credits and carbon taxes as advocated by some at AEI) and pursue a more inclusive approach on social issues (as reflected here).

Most importantly, in the past year as engagement with Iran (as well as past sanctions) has proved to be ineffective in halting its nuclear ambitions, Republicans should reassert their credentials in matters of national security and foreign policy.  Young people (as well as most Americans) will be more receptive to aggressive internationalism now that Obama has extended his hand with little success.

Such an approach does not constitute a violation of principle but rather seeks to reconcile principle with modernity.  The Republican Party will still be the party of free markets and strong national defense but they will also be a modern party that demonstrates a serious intent to govern.  With the fall in Obama’s approval rating and these sour numbers from young voters Republicans have the opportunity to capture these votes in November and set the stage for a conservative revival in 2012.

Recent Posts by Oliver R. Garland

27 Comments so far ↓

  • TerryF98

    If the GOP actually had any real policies and solutions for anyone especially the young than I agree go for it.

    However young people are not like old white people, rigid in their views and set in their ways. What has the GOP to offer the young. I don’t see many if any young people at the teabaggers rallies.

  • DFL

    The kiddies are too busy tweeting each other, sending text messages, yammering with friends with their blue tooths, getting themselves tatooed like Queeg-Queeg, jabbing various parts of their heads with earrings and spikes, listening to their I-Pods blasting away their eardrums with lousy rap and techno music, and having escapades with their ****buddies to spend any time thinking about politics.

  • Rabiner

    Isn’t the fact that 50% of youth voters are somewhat or very enthusiastic higher than historical figures? And wouldn’t that fly in the face of your hypothesis that ‘heir lack of enthusiasm demonstrates a diminishing faith in the Obama effect’?

  • sinz54

    The Hartford Courant had an interesting Op-Ed written by a recent college graduate. I think it’s worth listening to this young person:
    ….how much the Republican platform clashes with the sentiments of younger generations.

    Consider the issue of science, for instance. Many young people view the Republicans as the anti-science party. This impression is created after prominent party leaders denounce stem cell research, shun Darwinism and scoff at global warming. Younger voters may disagree on some of these issues, but Republicans take a decidedly negative stance on them all. Since these are the scientific issues the media talk about most, Republicans exude an anti-science attitude that young people find unappealing.

    The conflicts don’t end with science. For most of my generation, abstinence is not a realistic option. However, many Republicans rally against providing teens with safe sex education or condom distribution.

    When it comes to religion, Republicans have staked a claim to the moral high ground. Family values form the bedrock of the Republican program, but the likes of Newt Gingrich, Mark Sanford, Larry Craig and a host of others have exposed inherent weaknesses in this foundation. After listening to a cheating Republican husband quote from the Bible or a seemingly gay Republican senator condemn gay marriage, the party’s ties to religion look hypocritical.

    My generation read “The Catcher in the Rye” in high school and, like Holden Caulfield, we can spot a phony. But just in case we miss the hypocrite du jour, Jon Stewart will be sure to point him or her out for us on “The Daily Show.”

    Still, there is a way for Republicans to attract younger voters. The first step in the Republican rebranding process should be to recognize global warming and place a renewed emphasis on the environment and green technology. The Republican vilification of Al Gore and the campaign mantra “drill, baby, drill” conjures up an image of some Republican Leviathan lurking behind the scenes like Mr. Burns from the Simpsons, plotting against Mother Nature behind his massive oak desk. This image needs to be changed. Focusing on the environment will modernize the Republican Party in the eyes of young voters without angering the Republican base.

    The next step is to follow the lead of President Barack Obama and leave contentious issues, like abortion, alone. Instead, the party should bring the issue of international human rights to the fore, and advocate for effecting change in Darfur, increasing women’s rights in the Middle East, and supplementing George W. Bush’s AIDS relief programs in Africa.

    Finally, Republicans must seize an issue that Democrats have yet to lay claim to: energy independence. Republican leaders in Congress or the Senate need to sponsor a colossal bill that commits unprecedented resources to researching and developing alternative fuels. This goal should be more than just a talking point. It should be a core Republican belief. It should be realistic. And it should be marketed as a way to improve the economy, increase jobs, end dependence on foreign oil, renew America’s status as the worldwide technological leader and improve domestic security.

    I have said repeatedly that the GOP needs to shed its image as the anti-science party. This is evidently not an issue that David Frum cares about, though.

    It’s unrealistic to expect the GOP to just “leave abortion alone.” However, the GOP used to be able to recognize, and respect, differing points of view. Compare and contrast the GOP platform of, say, 1972 to the GOP platform of 2008. The GOP can at least show that it welcomes those of other points of view, as long as they subscribe to most of the rest of the GOP principles of free markets and a strong America.

  • ottovbvs

    ……..yep the Republicans are going to recapture the youth vote……no question about it…….I don’t know why one bothers commenting on tripe like this

  • CAPryde

    Seriously, Garland, this post is pure fantasy.

  • Carney

    sinz54, the youth, left, and Dems are pro-science? Is a typical under-30 type, or a typical college campus, inclined to calmly accept and debate human group differences as a result of genetics and evolution like any other topic? No – instead you get a hysterical and career ending anathematization from any questioning of dogmatic egalitarianism. Even Larry Summers at Harvard was fired over the most hesitant suggestions violating PC dogma, and various members of his audience literally swooned in shock, and were unselfconsciously unashamed in saying so later. AT A CONFERENCE THAT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE ABOUT THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX.

    Pro science, ha. The youth and left in no way deserve such a label, and their smugness in appropriating it is obnoxious.

  • msmilack

    While the youth vote has been less excited since the presidential election, I think you are misreading that data if you assume it means they are disenchanted with Obama. It means unless Obama is on the ticket, they are less excited about voting. In the meantime, they read the papers, they can see that the GOP is minute by minute excluding more minorities; minute by minute, aligning itself more closely with Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin; with tea partiers, and gun-toting anti-abortionists; essentially with anyone they think might vote Republican. Why on earth would they lean toward the GOP? The young people in the GOP are James O’Keefe and the people who read Breibart: that is a small number of old people in young people’s bodies.

    The GOP currently stands for the opposite of what most youth want: hope and dreams. The GOP has become the Party of No, the party that destroys hope, the obstructionists of dreams. You are right, it is a good resource for votes but without new ideas and a positive platform, they will not attract new voters of any age. When was the last time you heard a GOP candidate from any race say something positive about a subject? Their idea of a campaign is to criticize Democrats and offer nothing new.

  • Carney

    msmilack, what inspires hopes and dreams in the young and very young more than space travel and human exploration and settlement of other worlds? The Obama Administration has deliberately ended human spaceflight, especially flight beyond Low Earth Orbit, and replaced it with nothing.

  • Stewardship

    sinz: Thank you for posting that letter. In the past two years, I’ve spoken to eight college Republican chapters. Seven of those chapters were strong supporters of climate protection action and looking for the GOP to reclaim its historic “TR” image on conservation. The lone exception was a chapter with leaders who passed out talking points taken directly from John Boehner’s day planner.

    The letter could have been written by a Macomb County Republican, a northshore Chicago Republican, or anyone not affiliated with the Democratic Party in New England. In others, the Republican Party seems to have long ago given up on attracting educated voters. If we aren’t attracting educated voters, then it seems to me that we aren’t offering solutions and policies that pass muster with people who think. Well, I guess we have to actually offer some solutions or policies before they can judge us!

  • sinz54

    Stewardship: In others, the Republican Party seems to have long ago given up on attracting educated voters.
    On the science blogs I participate in, the GOP is a laughingstock.

  • Carney

    Also, constantly repeating that Republicans (meaning pro-life social conservatives) oppose stem cell research is wrong.

    Pro lifers oppose destructive human embryonic stem cell research, but have no problem with stem cell research that does not involve destroying human embryos, such as adult stem cell research (which has actually cured people).

    And Bush didn’t even ban destructive human embryonic, he banned FEDERAL FUNDING of it, and not even all of that, just federal funding of research on stem cell lines from destroyed human embryos from after the date of his announcement. But already existing stem cell lines were OK to get federal funds. Private entities, state governments had a free for all.

    The smallest, most reasonable most hesitiant and cautious limits on an extremely sensitive and controversial matter in bio-ethics gets turned into a club to beat the GOP with as “anti-science”?

    Would all these yahoos accusing the GOP of being anti-science favor the elimination of all bio-ethics, all ethical standards from all scientific research? We could probably learn a lot more a lot faster if we cavalierly ditched pesky barriers like preventing unnecessary pain and death, having a worthwhile benefit for the cost involved, showing respect for life, paying close attention when human beings at all stages of their lifespan are involved, getting the fully informed consent of human parties and so on. Oh wait, you want to keep ethical standards? What are you, anti-science?

  • CAPryde

    The problem, Carney, is not that the GOP is or isn’t “anti-science.” It’s that the party’s position on climate change, stem-cell research, and the like has caused a majority (at least of the people my age–30, tomorrow–that I know) to see them as anti-science.

    For what it’s worth, Carney, I follow science issues pretty closely as a result of my job, and I agree with most of your characterizations of the nuances in the GOP positions.

    And because of those positions, with all their nuance, I think of the GOP as “anti-science.” My 2 cents.

  • Rabiner

    The problem with the Republican Party to youth from my perspective is most Youth are Social Libertarians. This flies in the face of the Republican stances on abortion, gay marriage, gays in the military, right-to-death, legalization of drugs. Being perceived as anti-science is another one but i think social issues turn off youth from voting for Republicans.

  • DFL

    I think the kiddies’ views will change when they grow up, get a job, get married, have children, make a mortgage payment and work your ass off so that you can feed your kids, keep them insured and send them to college. If I can paraphrase Bigg Daddy in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”, life is a 24 hour a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year job and you only get your name in the paper on the day you die.

  • Rabiner


    I think that their views on fiscal matters will change over time, but I doubt their social libertarian views will.

  • Butiupandtwist

    seriously CAPryde, you are a miserable twit, this article is brilliant and reflects the positive outlook all republicans should share.

  • Rabiner


    This article is pretty lame actually. The best thing to come from this article was Sinz54 posting that letter one of the real reasons Republicans have no chance of getting the youth vote without changing their perceptions and policy positions.

  • ktward

    their lack of enthusiasm demonstrates a diminishing faith in the Obama effect.

    “The fact that voters under age 50 — and particularly those under 30 — are less enthusiastic about voting this year is not a new phenomenon,” wrote Gallup’s Frank Newport. “Voter turnout typically skews older.”

    It’s just midterms. I genuinely appreciate Oliver’s attempt to revive an ailing GOP, godspeed. But frankly, until the GOP breaks the stranglehold the Religious Right has upon it, Oliver’s hopes will remain in his dreams.

    As well, there exists another phenomenon particular to this group, and it quietly plays against any GOP efforts to dazzle: associative learning. This young group is conditioned away from the GOP: their formative years during GWB–via direct experience and/or via their parents–has left quite the negative imprint.

    Pols often foolishly count on the short memories of voters. In the case of 18-29ers, disastrous GOP governing is their only memory. Until the GOP has competently demonstrated otherwise (beyond any ‘seductive’ rhetoric), the very best they can hope for–from this group–is indifference.

  • CAPryde

    Speaking exclusively for myself–married 30-year-old with a job and a mortgage, but no kids yet (and possibly a twit?) who voted for Bush the first time, but not the second, and who votes a fairly evenly split ticket most of the time–Rabiner’s analysis is very accurate. Background: I’m college-educated. My dad is a preacher in a successful, mainstream evangelical church, and I am a practicing Christian who attends church every week and leads a Bible study. I think of myself as a “conservative.”

    Nevertheless, I have little or no respect for the GOP. I am turned off by what I perceive as its disdain for science and education. I’m tired of being told that I was brainwashed in college by a bunch of liberal professors, as if I am too stupid to think for myself. I am a social libertarian. I have strong moral values, but I have zero interest in Big Brother telling me who I can marry, what I can smoke, and whether or not my wife has the right to get an abortion–and this in spite of the fact that I consider myself pro-life and have counseled friends against abortion. To me, these are personal moral decisions, and the state should butt out.

    KT’s point is also pretty reasonable. My experience of the GOP is tainted by my perception of it as hypocritical and mean-spirited. I liked my tax cut, but I despised the practice of hiding the cost of the war off-budget, with special appropriations (did they think we were too stupid to notice?), and I rolled my eyes over the new prescription drug program, which looked to me like a shill to old people that didn’t actually solve the medical insurance problem, which I was living, as my rising premium costs ate up all of my raises from my first two years at the payroll company where I started after I got out of school.

    I voted for Obama. Insofar as I am dissatisfied with the results, I tend to blame it on the Party of No. I am INCREDIBLY skeptical of “aggressive internationalism,” having lived through eight years of that under the Bush administration. The “Axis of Evil” rhetoric doesn’t seem to have fazed either Iran or North Korea. My brother is in the army and was deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. I’d just as soon he not go to Iran.

    For me, the GOP right now is the party of Rush, the party of Beck, the party of Fox, the party of No. It is the party of fiscal irresponsibility–”let’s cut taxes and increase spending!” It’s the party of legal torture, extraordinary rendition, and justifying everything by saying scary things about terrorists. It’s the party of questioning people’s patriotism and telling them what to do and imprisoning them and generally small-minded meanness.

    Here’s the kicker: I still like Bush. I would gladly have a beer with the guy (although he doesn’t drink). But I think that the GOP is a party of jerks right now, and that turns me off in every possible way. It’s why I call myself a “libertarian” or an “independent” when it comes up. Given what I see in the news these days and hear from GOPers, I don’t see that changing any time soon. That’s why I said that this article was a pure fantasy. I stand by that assessment. The current GOP establishment doesn’t have it in them to change.

  • Dukakis in a Tank

    It’s not just that the GOP seems anti-science; the GOP has also become fiercely anti-intellectual. With more and more young people going college, the youth vote is comprised of people who spent four or more years in an institution where intellectualism is revered. I am a 26 year old college graduate and soon-to-be law school graduate. I consider myself a moderate, DLC-type Democrat. I have supported moderate Republicans before. But when conservative leader after conservative leader berate the President for being a pointy-headed intellectual, when they mention his success at Harvard Law School in a derisive tone, I just tune out. The whole Joe the Plumber fiasco was the worst of it. What would Joe Six Pack do as president? I don’t give a flying f&%k! Just like I don’t care how Joe the Plumber would do my taxes, or how he would fix my car, I don’t care about his ideas on foreign policy or how to manage a crippling recession. That’s why we have a republican form of government–so that we can elect the best of us to lead our country.


    Great post CAPryde

  • sinz54

    Carney: Would all these yahoos accusing the GOP of being anti-science favor the elimination of all bio-ethics, all ethical standards from all scientific research?

    But too many in the GOP have done the reverse: Attacking the science of the hole in the ozone layer so that companies could go on producing chlorofluorocarbons, long after scientists had warned about the problem. Fortunately, after hesitating for a while, President Reagan decided to go with the science. And we phased out those chemicals, and now the hole in the ozone layer is repairing itself.

    Part of scientific ethics is accepting that we can’t produce everything we want and we can’t pollute everywhere we want without consequences that scientists will point out.

    If the only problem were embryonic stem-cell research, the GOP wouldn’t have a problem in the eyes of the scientific community. But the most egregious anti-science position by far is how many conservatives in the GOP have sided with creationists against Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Ann Coulter spent most of an entire book (“Godless”) attacking “Darwinism.”

    For scientists, that’s a litmus test (no pun intended). If you reject evolution in favor of creationism, you’re a scientific illiterate.

    Fortunately, there are a number of conservatives who accept evolution: Jim Manzi, George Will, Charles Krauthammer–and yours truly. We need to publicize their view more.

  • Rabiner


    But that is exactly the problem. Republicans who are actually elected to office say and do the stupidest things (you named columnists). Far too many of them are Creationists or at least believe Creationism has as much scientific validity as Evolution. Far too many keep talking about the ‘intellectual elite’ as if being smart is a bad thing and studying and researching is a bad thing. Ignorance is applauded while nuanced positions is derided.

    As a person with a Master’s degree who do you think people in my position would vote for? Republicans have continuously simplified complex issues which may be good for the people who are 50 years old and only had a high school diploma like my father. But for me, I can see easily how simple slogans such as ‘drill, baby, drill’ won’t get us any closer to energy independence and on the face of it is just illogical.

    Republicans also say ‘secularism’ is a bad thing. What’s wrong with making policy choices based on facts and research (secularism) versus gut feelings and faith? Especially when not everyone even follows the same faith. At least with secularism when something is shown to work through research you can’t just say ‘but i believe this instead’ and be taken seriously. It gives people a basis of facts that everyone should be able to come together and agree on.

  • ktward

    Rabiner: Republicans also say ’secularism’ is a bad thing. What’s wrong with making policy choices based on facts and research (secularism) versus gut feelings and faith?

    It’s the Religious Right that asserts secularism in gov’t is a bad thing. I’ve no doubt said it too many times already, but so long as the RR maintains its iron grip on the GOP, the GOP will continue to blather on with ‘intelligent design/dinos existed alongside man’ nonsense.

    Frum and his fellow conservative elites are finally feeling the pain of that alliance. I don’t have any sympathy for the uncomfortable bed they made, but I do genuinely wish them the best of luck trying to get out of it.

    Here’s a tidbit from Falwell’s Liberty University’s recent ‘diversity summit’:

    Yet while Falwell’s protégés shamelessly invoked the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., in the Federation’s parlance the words “freedom” and “justice” take on a very different meaning than they had for King and his followers. (In the 1960s, Falwell distributed anti-King literature provided to him by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and denounced King for his “left-wing associations.”) For followers of the right, freedom means deliverance from an assortment of evils, including government regulation and socialism, while justice is demanded for Christians supposedly kept down by the secular culture — and, of course, for fetuses.

    For balanced perspective, here’s LU’s take on their shindig:

    Mathew Staver, dean of Liberty University School of Law and founder of Liberty Counsel, said the event is part of a new movement in America.

    “A spirit of revolution and renewal is awakening people and uniting communities across racial, ethnic and generational lines,” Staver said.

    Staver told WorldNetDaily that unless those who care about the traditional God-fearing United States start working now, it will go away.

    “If we don’t stand for our core values, we’re going to lose them,” he said. “We’ll have an America we don’t recognize.”

  • anniemargret

    Capryde: Your post blew me away. The best analysis of the present day Republican party yet. Good show.

    I think the young people of this country, by far, (and because I have three of my own) are amazing. They are saavy, smart, well-educated, well-read, hard-working, technologically intelligent, care deeply for this county and this planet and are a joy to be around…and to work with (and I consider myself fortunate to be able to say that). They are ‘spiritual’ without being overtly and pompously religious, nor do they tend to have deeply ingrained prejudices based on color of skin, ethnicity or religious views.

    They are our future, and I say more power to them. I don’t see them flocking to the Republican party for the myriad reasons others on this blog expressed so well. I also share a lack of respect for this party in its present state.

    btw….does anyone truly think Ann Coulter believes in creationism? She, along with Rush and Glenn are preening poseurs seeking to keep their coffers filled even if they have to lie to do it.

  • sinz54

    Carney: what inspires hopes and dreams in the young and very young more than space travel and human exploration and settlement of other worlds?

    But what is the GOP space policy???

    Can the GOP overcome its natural antipathy to Federal spending, to advocate financing a very expensive lunar base and an even more expensive journey to the planet Mars?

    How do you expect to pay for these missions, except by Federal taxes? Hold a telethon?

    I would like to suggest a mission that would both inspire the young and attack the global warming problem:

    America should be the first nation to orbit a solar power station in geosynchronous orbit. That station will beam solar power back to Earth, 24 hours a day, more power than even the largest nuclear plant has yet produced.

    It would be a massive project (the orbiting solar power station would be a kilometer in diameter), and it would presage the advent of safe, reliable space-based solar power. The power it generates would pay for itself.