Republicans should back off opposition to same-sex marriage, College Republicans argue in a new report on how to gain the support of young voters.
Using a March survey of young voters, those under 30, by the College Republicans National Committee, the report found that many young voters would not vote for a Republican candidate if they opposed same-sex marriage, even if they agreed with the candidate on a range of other issues.
About two out of five young voters, 39 percent, said that opposition to same-sex marriage would make them less likely to vote for a candidate, and one-third, 33 percent, said the issue would make no difference. Most young voters, the survey found, believe that jobs and the economy are the most important issues. Only 11 percent answered that making same-sex marriages legal was a high priority.
To better understand how a candidate's position on same-sex marriage is prioritized by young voters, the online survey used the respondent's previous answers to questions about taxes, defense, immigration and spending to find out if they would support a candidate who agreed with them on all those issues, but also opposed same-sex marriage. Of the 44 percent of respondents who said same-sex marriage should be legal, half of them said they would not support a candidate opposed to gay marriage even if they agreed with them on the other four issues. Of the 26 percent of respondents who said that states should decide the gay marriage issue, only 12 percent said they would not support a candidate who opposed gay marriage but agreed with them on the other four issues. That comes to about one in four, 26 percent, of young voters for whom opposition to gay marriage is a "deal breaker."
Based upon this data, the report advises Republican candidates to take a "middle ground" position of letting states decide the marriage issue. It also suggests that candidates avoid making marriage a big issue, arguing that "there is hardly an appetite from this [young] generation to see the GOP crusade against same-sex marriage." While waiting to see how the Supreme Court decides two gay marriage cases this Summer, the report suggests that "the best course of action for the party may be to promote diversity of opinion on the issue within its ranks ... and to focus on acceptance and support for gay people as separate from the definition of marriage."
The report also found that the Republican Party has an image problem with young voters. When asked in the survey what words come to mind when they hear "Republican Party," some of the most common responses were "closed-minded," "racist," "rigid," and "old-fashioned." Democrats, on the other hand, were thought of as "tolerant," "diverse," and "open-minded."
On the abortion issue, the report found that young voters are more pro-life than most believe. Only 16 percent said abortion should be legal in all cases, while 37 percent said it should be illegal with some exceptions and 14 percent said it should always be illegal.