In 1980, Jimmy Carter narrowly edged Ronald Reagan among voters under 30, with the Gipper scoring just 44% of the twentysomething vote. Four years later, the Gipper ]increased his share of the youth vote to nearly 60%.
And while Barack Obama did just as well among young voters last month as the Gipper did in 1984, his share of the young vote has declined since his initial election. Young voters grew to appreciate Reagan for his accomplishments; they seem more enchanted with Mr. Obama’s image.
Some seem to think that that the Republican’s current poor showing among young voters suggests the party could lose an “entire generation” to Democrats. But, this notion assumes that voters party identification remains fixed. And that is hardly the case. How will these young voters feel about Mr. Obama and his Democratic policies when the job market for their generation continues as it has these past for years? Come 2016 (even 2014), they could be quite open to a Republican message expressed in terms similar to those offered by Reagan in the 1980s.
That said, the GOP today doesn’t so much have a youth vote problem as it has an ethnic problem. Ben Domenech reminds us that
Mitt Romney won white voters under 30, even winning white women under 30. The youth voter barrier to the Republican Party is really the same barrier as it is for all age demographics: an ethnic barrier which concedes black, Hispanic, and Asian voters to Democrats.
(Read the whole thing even as the piece’s focus is on a different issue than this piece.) If Mitt Romney could have made, as Ronald Reagan did, a pitch to all Americans, he likely would have done much better among young voter of all backgrounds.
And that must be the task of future Republican contenders.