The perception that the youth vote has always belongs to the Democrats is not accurate, says GOP pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson.
In 2000, she says, George W. Bush and Al Gore split the youth vote, as well as those voters older than 65. But that split certainly occurred in 2008 and even more so in 2012, when Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney by 23 percentage points among voters under 30.
However, Romney won the young white vote by 7 percentage points.
The obvious takeaway? The Latino vote is as crucial as the youth vote, and if the GOP wants to win young voters back, they need to go attract Hispanics as well.
That was one of just many insights offered by Anderson, author of recently published The Selfie Vote: Where Millennials Are Leading America (And How Republicans Can Keep Up). She spoke on Friday at the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel by Tampa International, at the Republican Party of Florida’s summer meeting that’s taking place the next two days.
Winning that youth vote is a priority with the GOP’s higher ranks, and something RPOF Chairman Blaise Ingoglia has listed as a priority as he works to get Florida into the GOP column in 2016.
For the uninitiated, the millennial generation consists of people born after 1980, and according to Anderson, there are 75 million eligible potential voters.
Anderson says the GOP does very well with voters who are white, married, and who live in rural areas. But young people? They’re less likely to be white, married, or go to church on Sunday. “All of these demographic factors that help Republicans, are lacking when you look at the millennial generation. So the idea that one day my generation is going to wake up and become Republican, I hope it happens, but it’s not a given. It’s going to take work from folks like you to make that happen.”
An Orlando native who attended the University of Florida, Anderson was hired by the College Republican National Committee after the 2012 election to learn what was going on with the youth vote. She said that through focus groups and surveys, she learned many millennials said they never heard from the Republican Party.
That’s truly unfortunate, she said, proclaiming that it’s the GOP that believes in what’s new, what’s different and how to improve the economy. She said the Democratic Party is defending a “broken status quo,” an argument that Marco Rubio has made in criticizing Hillary Clinton on the issue of Uber recently.
“Being on Facebook and Twitter is not enough anymore,” she told the audience after asking for a show of hands on how many in the crowd of several hundred was on those social media sites (the majority – many of them over the age of 50 – did raise their hands).
She mentioned Instagram and Snapchat as the social media sites that are growing in popularity with young people. She said it’s important for candidates to use social media, because it allows closer personal connections with people, something millennials value more than traditional campaign methods.
“We have to get really good at conveying who we are, not just in terms of charts and graphs, but as people, who we are. Peel back the veil a little bit,” she said, adding it’s important to tell stories visually with the new apps.
She also talked about being savvy in using digital information: “Understanding digital is so important for reaching this next generation” and it’s just as important as the message being conveyed.
Anderson pushes back on the idea that the GOP needs to change its positions on social issues to win more young voters. Gay rights, she admitted, is one issue where young people are more progressive But on issues like abortion rights, not so much. “”The gaps are not as big as the media and the Democrats would have you believe.”
She said the best way to grab young voters is on economic issues, but the GOP should not back away so quickly on the social issues.
She also said the financial crisis of 2007-2008 was crucial in the worldview of young people. It made them more focused on having control over their own lives financially.
“The world is changing very quickly. I do not think that Republicans need to fear this. I think we can embrace it. And I think that a smart adaptation of technology and new tools and new messaging, paired with the idea that we have the policies and the principles, that don’t need to necessarily change, just applied to modern problems. That we are uniquely suited to be the party that does that.
“I believe we can.”