The College Republican National Committee recently released a report claiming that the GOP is losing young voters and must change its overall tone and better explain how its positions match theirs.
The report criticized the GOP’s focus on reducing the size of government and cutting taxes as stuffy relics that don’t address Millennials’ concerns (“We’ve become the party that will pat you on your back when you make it, but won’t offer you a hand to help you get there”), and claimed that young people are turned off by strong rhetoric against gay marriage, immigration, and abortion.
While I’m all for removing social issues from the table, CRNC’s suggestion to compromise on economic issues worries me. In addition, the impetus for their report may be based on a false premise.
CRNC claims, “The issue of the Republican Party’s challenges with the youth vote and the party’s challenges with non-white voters are inseparable.” Similarly, many analysts have been trying to make sense of the GOP’s recent Presidential electoral loss by claiming that Republicans face (1) an age problem, whereby they’re getting older people’s votes but losing young people’s; (2) a gender problem, whereby they’re getting men’s votes but losing women’s; and (3) a race problem, whereby they’re getting whites’ votes but losing other races’.
But an analysis of 2008 and 2012 exit polls reveals that only the last of these three claims has any truth to it.
First, contrary to popular opinion, the GOP does not have a gender deficit or a youth deficit. It has a race deficit. Mitt Romney won both the white female vote and the white under-30 vote in 2012. He lost the overall female vote and overall under-30 vote only because he lost to Obama with all other female and under-30 racial groups.
Second, from 2008 to 2012, the GOP did not lose young people, women, or even non-whites. For the most part, it gained all three.
In 2008, men voted for Obama over John McCain 49% to 48%, and women chose Obama 56% to 43%—a gender difference of 12%. In 2012, men voted for Romney over Obama 52%-45%, and women chose Obama 55%-44%—an 18% gender difference.
But this apparently growing gender gap is illusory: It is explained entirely by black males voting more Republican, and Latinas voting more Democratic, in 2012.
Consider: In 2008, white males chose McCain over Obama 57%-41% and white females chose him 53%-46%, a gender difference of 9%. In 2012, white males chose Romney over Obama 62%-35% and white females chose him 56%-42%, a gender difference of 4%.
So white women actually voted Republican in greater numbers relative to men in 2012 than in 2008.
But the gender story is completely different when we consider non-white voters. Black males chose Obama over McCain 95%-5% and black females chose him 96%-3. But in 2012, black males chose Obama over Romney only 87% to 11%, whereas black female party vote was identical to 2008. Thus, the black male vote swung 14% in Republicans’ direction from 2008 to 2012, while for black females it was unchanged.
The GOP didn’t lose white women in 2012, and it didn’t even lose black women. It gained black men.
Similarly, in 2008 Latinos chose Obama over McCain 64%-33%, and Latinas chose him 68% to 30%. But in 2012, Latinas swung 15% in Obama’s direction, whereas Latinos swung only 1%.
To sum up these race-gender differences: The GOP didn’t lose female voters from 2008 to 2012—it gained white male voters, white female voters, and black male voters; held its ground among black female voters and Latinos; and lost only Latinas.
The race-age intersection tells a similar story. Obama won whites under 30 by 10% in 2008 and lost all other white age groups by 14% to 18%. In contrast, he won all black age groups by 88% to 91% and all Hispanic age groups by 18% to 57%.
In 2012, however, Romney won whites under 30 by 7%—a 17% shift in under-30 white voters from 2008. He made much smaller gains among all other white age groups, from 4% to 9%. So Romney didn’t drive away young white voters—he attracted them in droves.
In contrast, the GOP’s gains among black voters were smaller and more homogenous across age groups—though, as with white voters, its largest gain (8%) was among blacks under 30. And although Hispanic voters aged 30-44 and 45-64 swung further in Obama’s direction in 2012, both Hispanics under 30 and those 65 and older voted for Romney in greater numbers than they did for McCain (8% and 6% shifts).
So the GOP didn’t lose young voters in any racial groups: It made huge gains among white voters under 30; it made modest gains among black voters under 30 (and other black age groups) and among young and elderly Hispanic voters; and it suffered losses only among Hispanics aged 30 to 64.
The GOP is simply, factually not the party of old white men. That claim is as ludicrous as stating that Democrats are the party of under-30 lesbian Jews, just because each of those demographic groups leans Democratic. The GOP is the party of both genders and all age groups of white voters, and is making inroads among young voters, including black and Hispanic voters. Of the three most populous racial groups, it has lost only Hispanics aged 30-64 since 2008.
Being the party that’s winning all white gender and age groups and is just beginning to recapture the non-white female and youth vote is not the ideal situation to be in. But understanding where we stand as a party, rather than castigating ourselves as the party of cranky white geezers, will help us clarify our message. Namely, our Mission #1 should be, not pandering to women or young people, but recapturing once and for all the non-white vote that Democrats stole from us half a century ago.
Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics
- Young voters call GOP ‘closed-minded,’ ‘racist,’ ‘old-fashioned’ and ‘for the rich’ (tv.msnbc.com)
- In 2012 election, black voter turnout was higher than any group (thegrio.com)
- Inside the 2012 Latino Electorate (drhiphop85.com)
- 5 reasons why Mitt Romney is not popular with women voters (financesonline.com)
- Yes, Barack Obama has made mistakes (jsonline.com)