Social Issues Alienate Young Republican Voters
by Elizabeth DeBusk | William and Mary
Sitting in the coffee shop at the College of William and Mary, I am directly across from a girl with an Obama-Biden bumper sticker on her laptop. The sentiment seems largely echoed across campus. I’m not totally surprised to be greeted with these pro-Obama signs on campus. Obama carried the youth vote by 66 percent in the 2008 election, and in recent years, William and Mary has become somewhat of a liberal school. Still, I can’t help but wonder: Where is the excitement for the Romney campaign?
I recently discussed the upcoming election with one of my more conservative friends on campus and listened to her views on the Republican platform. She feels that the Romney campaign does not support funding for the arts and believes that social issues, like gay marriage and women’s reproductive rights, are the biggest turnoffs to the platform. A former supporter of Ron Paul, she said she believes that Romney’s approach to economic recovery is more sound than that of President Obama; however, she still cannot bring herself to vote for Mitt Romney. The result is that she most likely will not vote at all in the election.
I believe that social issues are keeping students from becoming excited about the Romney platform. From my experiences at William and Mary, it is a very gay-friendly campus. Most students on campus are proud of this fact, and many students have gay or lesbian friends. The result is that casting a vote for Romney seems very much like they are betraying their friends. If the GOP truly wants to engage young Republican voters on campuses like William and Mary, they would have to be willing to change their platform on these issues, a move that would alienate the party base.
The current focus and branding of the Romney-Ryan campaign attempts to do this to some degree, although clearly not strongly enough to convince some young voters, such as my friend. Economic issues are the issues that most clearly unite the older and younger demographics of the Republican party, so the selection of Paul Ryan as the vice-presidential nominee is not a bad one. However, so long as social issues remain a key part of the Republican platform, the party will continue to drive away some of its younger members.
In contrast, as I walked across campus on the first day of classes, I was stopped by a group of students who were encouraging students to become involved in the Obama campaign. My conservative friends seem apathetic to negative going in to the election, while the more liberal members of campus seem eager and encouraged to continue supporting the President’s re-election campaign. This motivation will make an enormous difference going into the election because at a school where most people cannot go home to vote, students must go out of their way to cast an absentee ballot. At the end of the day, motivation and energy are essential to winning the youth vote, and so far, only one candidate has been able to create that excitement at William and Mary.Elizabeth is a senior at the College of William and Mary. As an English and Linguistics double major, her interests include the effects of media on culture, as well as social perceptions based on speech and language usage. Elizabeth served as Opinions Editor at The Flat Hat, the student newspaper at the College, for two years. She is currently the writer for The Flat Hat's unsigned staff editorial.