In the immediate aftermath of the 2008 election, there were two numbers which should have concerned each of the two major political parties.
The one that should have most concerned Democrats was that their party’s nominee barely John McCain among voters over 30, winning them only by a margin of 50-49. Despite his significant cash advantage in the fall campaign, the media cheerleading for him (and downplaying stories damaging to him) while demonizing the GOP’s Vice Presidential nominee, the failure of the GOP presidential nominee to come up with a compelling message on the economy, the market meltdown in the middle of the campaign as well as Americans readiness to change political parties after one has been in power for eight years, Obama could barely muster a majority among voters less prone to the passions of youth.
The number that should most have concerned Republicans was that “Obama carried voters under 30 by 66%-32%“. It’s not a good sign for a political party which it can only capture the imagination of only one-third of younger voters. But, Mary Katharine Ham points to some (potentially) encouraging poll numbers for the GOP, showing that as young voters cool to Obama, they are warming to some particularly Republican issues:
For instance, a majority of voters ages 18-29 side with the majority of the American people against the president on the Arizona immigration law and the Ground Zero Mosque. According to the Rock the Vote poll, they support the Arizona immigration law, 53-44. . . .
In a broader shift from 2008, and a foreboding one for Democrats, the federal deficit has crept into the issues most important to young people. It places third in the Rock the Vote poll–close behind concern about jobs and the economy and the cost of college–with 66 percent “very concerned” about it. In 2008, the deficit was 12th of 15 issues for young voters.
If Republicans return to the fiscal conservative principles of Ronald Reagan and the 104th (and to some extent, 105th) Congress, while downplaying the social issues, they could make major inroads among younger voters. And create an enduring GOP majority when a Democratic one was only so recently forecast.