- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A study suggests the Republican Party must do a better job of showing compassion and empathy if it wants to bring younger voters into the fold.

“Growing up GOP,” a survey released by the Republican State Leadership Committee on Wednesday, indicates that young voters think the Democratic Party is far more concerned than the Republican Party about the plight of the average American.

Alexandra Smith, who is the chairwoman of the College Republican National Committee and helped conduct the research, said the GOP’s loss in the 2012 presidential election can largely be attributed to its paltry numbers among young voters.

“Young voters decided the presidential election in 2012, and we can only anticipate they will do so again in 2016,” Ms. Smith said. “If voting had started at age 30, Mitt Romney would be our president today. Mitt Romney’s losses of 18-to 29-year-olds in key battleground states, as well as the national popular vote, exceeded his total losses in those places.”

She said youth turnout is increasingly by roughly 1 percent per presidential election cycle since 2000, making it a constituency that Republicans cannot afford to ignore.

The study reveals there is a perceived “care gap” among young people in their views of the Republican and Democratic Parties. The phenomenon holds on a wide range of policy prescriptions, ranging from education and health care to perceived fairness in economic outcomes and the criminal justice system.

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Respondents, for instance, said Democrats care more than Republicans about creating access to quality public education by a margin of 71 percent to 22 percent. When it comes to making sure the economy grows and benefits everyone, Democrats are given the edge by a 61-30 margin.

With regard to making health care affordable, Democrats are seen as the more concerned party by 77 percent to 18 percent. And young voters see Democrats as the party more concerned with women’s rights, by a 78-16 margin, and making sure the criminal justice system treats everyone fairly, by a 62-18 margin.

The survey attributed these disparities to a divide between the Republican Party and young people on the importance of hard work.

While conservatives tend to promote the idea that one can improve his social condition if he works hard enough, 50 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds said luck and connections play a larger role in determining success.

Ms. Smith said Republicans don’t have to compromise on their values in order to appeal to young voters, but must emphasize pillars of their platform aimed at increasing opportunity for disadvantaged groups and tearing down barriers that inhibit social mobility.

The report was not all doom and gloom, though. Ms. Smith said the young generation and the GOP are natural allies in their adamant love of freedom — something she said the party should do a better job of promoting.

“This is the most freedom-loving generation out there,” Ms. Smith said. “Millennials often get a bad rap, but when you really think about what empowers millennials, in terms of the open technology that allows us to make our own decisions and the open systems that allow us to communicate and learn and do things that we’ve never done in society before, that’s really all fueled by bottom-up, free-market values.”

“Everything that a millennial does involves freedom,” she said.

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