College Republicans assess youth support for gay marriage vs. GOP platform

“Legitimate rape.” “Binders of women.” “47 percent.”

A lot of quotes can highlight the Republican missteps in the 2012 presidential election, but perhaps Texas Gov. Rick Perry said it best.

“Oops.”

TX Governor Rick Perry

The College Republican National Committee released a report Monday on what went wrong for the GOP in 2012 – and what can be done to fix it. But despite national polling showing that Americans’ support of same-sex marriage continues to grow, it doesn’t appear that even the Republican Party’s youngest members are ready to go that far.

“On the ‘open-minded’ issue, yes, we will face serious difficulty so long as the issue of gay marriage remains on the table,” the report states. “In the short term, the party ought to promote the diversity of thought within its ranks and make clear that we welcome healthy debate on the policy topic at hand. We should also strongly oppose the use of anti-gay rhetoric.”

The report – which highlights a wide array of political issues – plays it safe on marriage equality, stating, “The best course of action for the party may be to promote the 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.”

Gregory Angelo, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, further explained the balance the party must play to recruit new voters while not alienating the party’s base.

“Young Republicans get it,” he wrote in a June 3 email to Metro Weekly. “The report released today specifically pointed out that opposition to same-sex marriage will make inroads with new voters seriously difficult, and that in the short-term respecting differing opinions on this issue within the party is important. Here’s something the College Republicans and Log Cabin Republicans all agree on: we want to win, and we know that lockstep opposition to equality is not part of a winning formula.”

Conversely, the platform of the Young Democrats of America already includes support for marriage equality. 

The CRNC report remains optimistic, heralding back to Ronald Reagan, who held the record for the highest support – 59 percent in 1984 – from young voters until Obama. According to CNN, Obama won 60 percent of the youth vote in 2012, compared to Mitt Romney’s 37 percent, and 66 percent to John McCain’s 32 percent in 2008.

“[T]he Republican Party has won the youth vote before and absolutely can win it again,” the report concludes. “But this will not occur without significant work to repair the damage done to the Republican brand among this age group over the last decade.”

More from the report:

  • Only 25 percent of young voters in the Spring 2012 Harvard Institute of Politics survey felt homosexual relationships were wrong.
  • In a March 2013 survey by the CRNC, 44 percent of young voters said that same-sex marriage should be legal across the country.
  • 26 percent said that it should be up to states to decide how to recognize or allow same-sex marriages.
  • 30 percent said marriage should be legally defined as only between a man and a woman.
  • Only 11 percent of respondents said that making same-sex marriage legal was a high priority.
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