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Can Republicans Win Young Voters? Maybe.

In the first contests of this election cycle, Ron Paul has been the only candidate with meaningful support from younger voters – and it hasn’t been nearly meaningful enough for him. Paul earned 50 percent from 18-24 year olds in the Iowa Caucus; unfortunately for him, 18-24 year olds made up just 10 percent of the electorate in that contest. Results were similar in New Hampshire and South Carolina. AEI Resident Fellow Michael Barone is urging Republican presidential candidates to work for the support of youth voters, despite the fact that they are a small part of general election voters and overwhelmingly favor Democrats. Why bother?
…voters [under 30] were 18 percent of the electorate in November 2008. And, in that election, they voted 66 to 32 percent for Barack Obama over John McCain. Voters above that age favored Obama by only 50 to 49 percent. McCain would have won if the voting age were 35. (Emphasis added)
Barone points to survey data suggesting that Obama’s favorability among young voters has soured since 2008 while they have been hit hard by the economy under his leadership:
A poll conducted for Generation Opportunity, a conservative group, reports that 77 percent of young people have delayed or expect to delay a major life change — like buying a home, paying off student loans, moving, getting married. It also found that majorities believe that the economy grows best when people can create jobs without government interference and that companies would hire more if business profits taxes were reduced. A Pew Research poll of this Millennial Generation conducted last fall found that Obama’s job approval was only 49 percent — 17 percent below his 2008 support. Only 39 percent of white Millennials approved his performance.
Dare Republicans believe they can take advantage of these factors? Barone says yes.
This is an iPod/Facebook 21st century generation. Young Americans want to customize their own world. They want to shape their own destinies, not be part of a herd that is shepherded from one pasture to another. They like the advice of Obama appointee Anne-Marie Slaughter: Design your own profession. The Obama policies are redolent of mid-20th century welfare state planning. From Obamacare’s unaccountable boards determining the care patients get to his affection for high-speed rail that will forever run on the same tracks, choice is limited or eliminated. Central planners determine your future. It’s as if every iPod had an identical play list and every Facebook page were the same.
Such practical, accessible arguments are a great place to start. As Values & Capitalism readers know, it’s our conviction that making the moral case for one’s ideas is a critical part of reaching young people today. I’ll be watching to see if any of the candidates heed Barone’s advice and whether any include justice and concern for the poor among their campaign themes.