“There has been no shortage of Republican post-mortems on the 2012 presidential election — and no shortage of apologists who claimed the party need only change its rhetoric (and stop nominating members of the legitimate-rape caucus) to attract women, minorities and young people.
The latest of these analyses, focused on voters aged 18-29, sometimes falls into the apologist/rebranding trap. It suggests, for example, that abortion is a problematic topic for the G.O.P. because young people “conflate” abortion with Planned Parenthood, contraception and women’s health care in general — as though Republican officeholders and candidates across the country hadn’t done their best to draw that connection.
But the report is far more candid than other post-mortems. It could also be far more helpful if it pushes the G.O.P. to examine the actual policies, rather than the slogans, that turn off young voters.
The report points out that a better Facebook page is not going to help much if voters don’t like your ideas. It says younger voters aren’t particularly wary of “big government,” for example, which has been a central Republican bogeyman for decades.
Younger voters don’t buy Republican dogma that lowering taxes on rich people will generate jobs and help everyone. In a survey conducted for the group in March, 54 percent of young voters said that “taxes should go up on the wealthy,” while only 31 percent said “taxes should be cut for everyone.”
Noting that many young Americans reported putting off marrying or having children because of the state of the economy, the report said: “It is extraordinarily important for Republicans to have a plan that can grow the economy and that ultimately allows young people to make these choices about family and home on their own terms.”
The most damning conclusions lay in the survey’s examination of how people view the two major parties in terms of broad attributes. For Democrats, young voters chose “tolerant,” “diverse” and “open-minded,” while for Republicans they often chose “rich” and “religious.”
In focus groups in January, the report said, young voters were asked to list leaders of the Democratic Party. “They named prominent former or currently elected officials: Pelosi, the Clintons, Obama, Kennedy, Gore. When those same respondents were asked to name Republican leaders, they focused heavily on media personalities and commentators: Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck.”
So it’s not terribly surprising that when they were asked what words came to mind when they heard “Republican Party,” the results “were brutal — closed-minded, racist, rigid, old-fashioned.””