As we head into the mid-term election, Republicans are still trying to figure out how to bring them back into the fold. During a recent tele-townhall, Sen Mike Lee (R-UT) was asked how he plans to reach out to young voters and others who don’t typically vote for Republican candidates.
There was once a time when Republicans did well with young voters. Just after the 2012 presidential election, in which President Barack Obama won 60% of voters under the age of 29, Jason Riley noted at the Wall Street Journal that both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush actually won the youth vote. Riley also pointed out that “George W. Bush lost young voters to John Kerry by only 9 points and lost them to Al Gore in 2000 by less than that.”
“It’s important to remember that young voters will bear a disproportionate share, a disproportionate part of the burden associated with our $17 trillion debt,” Lee replied. “It’s a tragic thing…that these days most of the debt that we have in our federal government has been accumulated before a lot of today’s young voters were old enough to vote and, to a significant degree, a lot of that debt was acquired before they were even born.”
“That isn’t fair. It ends up creating a really pernicious form of taxation without representation,” he continued. “You’re gonna have to pay something to the government that you didn’t ever vote for, and that’s a big problem.”
Lee contends that the mounting national debt and the inevitable economic problems that it’ll bring down the road will cause young voters to see the need for limited government. He also explained that the issue isn’t about ideology or parties, noting that it is “simply American.”
While some may dismiss Lee’s strategy, the focus on fiscal issues is paying dividends for Tories in the United Kingdom. The Guardian recently noted that young voters are increasingly backing Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party government specifically because of their concern over the country’s fiscal health, including heavy taxation and the cost of its very generous welfare state.
Republicans could also make in-roads with young voters by coming around on privacy issues. Just last month, a CNN poll showed that President Obama’s approval rating dropped by 15 points with voters under the age of 34. In May, President Obama held a 63/34 approval rating among this age group. But in June, that his approval rating with young voters was underwater, at 48/50.
While Lee has been among strongest defenders of civil liberties in Congress, he is still a vocal minority as many Republicans are still far too willing to cast aside the Bill of Rights.
That’s not the only reason why Republicans could make gains with younger voters. ObamaCare is causing insurance premiums to rise, but young people are disproportionately affected by it. A study released in December should that they could see a 42% premium hike due to the age-rating restrictions which were approved by the law.
To be sure, the GOP still has a long way to go in their outreach efforts with young voters. There are still other areas where they take issue with Republicans. But getting this breaking this message down for young voters, particularly in the next election cycle and into 2016 is important if they truly want to win.