Want to kill the future of the Republican Party? Nominate Sarah Palin.
Q: Which demographic group (among others) is important for Republican electoral success in 2012?
A: The youth vote (18-29). In 2008, pilule young Americans favored Obama over McCain by a margin of 66 to 33 percent.
A: American college students and recent graduates.
Q: Which Republican leader do college students like least?
A: Sarah Palin
As the Conservative Political Action Conference readies its annual straw poll, I thought it appropriate to release some of the early returns on my survey – a survey of how college students feel about the Republican Party.
Part of this survey asked respondents (630 college students at different universities) to rate their opinion of different Republican leaders. The averages are listed below:
(0 – dislike strongly; 10 – like strongly)
Rudy Giuliani — 4.825447281
John McCain — 4.515748653
Arnold Schwarzenegger — 4.294494082
Bobby Jindal — 4.22872815
Mitt Romney — 4.204089937
Ron Paul — 4.152893552
Mike Huckabee — 3.980111954
Newt Gingrich — 3.74536941
Sarah Palin — 2.654478273
More important than the consistently low numbers is the ordering. Sarah Palin, and her brand of politics (love it or hate it), is distasteful to the average college student. To name Palin as the Party’s candidate would serve to confirm my students’ worst suspicions about the Party and make them default Democrat voters.
Palin’s low ratings are consistent across the collegiate political spectrum; she is not just unpopular among the opposition; she’s unpopular with the young vote in general – friend and foe alike. Palin ranks last with self-identified Democrats and independents, and she ranks second-to-last with self-identified Republicans.
When one considers the relatively low turnout of young American voters, a Palin nomination doesn’t seem too detrimental. But when one considers that many voters solidify their life-long partisanship while in college, coupled with the fact that college students are important campaign foot-soldiers, coupled with the fact that (as noted above) college students represent the country’s future leaders, the Palin choice seems devastating.
I’ll keep the surveys going (90 students at 50 different universities is the goal), but it’s something to keep in mind as we gear up for 2012 – assuming we don’t want to alienate the young generation.