CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement)
conducts research on the civic and political engagement of young Americans.
The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement

Republican and Conservative Youth Also Unsure of State Voting Laws; Policy Views Not Fully in Alignment with Republican Platform

August 13th, 2012
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Poll Findings Related to Republican and Conservative Youth, 18-29

A common stereotype about young Americans is that they are predominantly liberal in their political identification. A national survey of 18 to 29-year-olds commissioned by the Youth Engagement Fund and analyzed by CIRCLE shows that of 1,695 respondents 25% identified as Republican. When asked about ideological orientation, 27% they were along the conservative spectrum choosing either slightly conservative, conservative, or extremely conservative as an answer.

Given Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as a running mate, we thought it would be interesting to look at Republican and conservative youth from the recent national poll analyzed by CIRCLE. While this poll was fielded prior to the Ryan pick, there may be some interesting insights to be gained about how these 18-29 year olds might lean moving forward.

Racial Composition

Compared to young people as a whole, Republican youth are more likely to be White, non-Hispanic (87%). Hispanic youth made up 7% of youth who identify as Republican. However, youth of color are more likely to identify as conservative (25%) than as Republican (12%). This difference between party and ideology can be seen clearly in support for the two presidential candidates – Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Candidate Support

When asked if the election were held today who would you vote for, 85% of Republican youth indicated that they “would definitely vote for” (44%) or “might vote for” (42%) Mitt Romney. However, Mitt Romney performs somewhat less well among conservatives, with 71.5% of conservative-leaning young Americans saying they will support him. See the graph below for the differences between these groups’ support for Romney. The difference is likely the result of higher numbers of youth of color who identify as conservative.

When asked about a range of candidate characteristics, such as “will get things done,” or “has the right experience to be president” or “shares your values,” Republican and conservative leaning youth overwhelmingly indicated that they thought Mitt Romney had more of these qualities than Barack Obama. Again, conservative youth were about 10 percentage points lower in these assessments.

When asked about why they would vote, almost three quarters of the respondents indicated that the “felt the election was really important” or they “want change.”

Voter ID Laws

The poll asked respondents a series of questions related to voter ID laws and voter registration rules in their state. Over half, and in some cases two thirds to three fourths of young Republicans and conservatives either were unsure about the laws in their state or were incorrect in their understanding of voting laws and requirements. This is consistent with other demographic groups, indicating an information gap amongst young voters and potential voters.

Issue and Policy Orientation

In terms of issues, Republican and conservative youth are pretty much in alignment in seeing jobs and the economy as their number one issue. Republican-identifying youth are slightly more likely to think this is a concern (33%) compared to conservative identifying youth (25%). The federal budget deficit and cost of college and student loans are also strong concerns for these sub groups. To the youth who identify as Republicans, terrorism and homeland security is of much higher concern, whereas conservative-identified respondents were more likely to be concerned with immigration.

Which one of these would you most like politicians to do something about? Youth who identify as Republican Youth who identify as Conservative All Youth in Poll
Jobs and economy
33% 24.9% 33%
Federal budget deficit
17.9% 20.9% 10.5%
The cost of college and student loans 11.2% 12% 11.4%
Taxes 6% 6.5% 3.8%
Terrorism and homeland security 5.5% 3.8% 2%
Social security and retirement
5.2% 5.6% 2.9%
Health care 5.2% 5.6% 9.2%
Gas prices
4.2% 5.1% 4.8%
3.7% 6.9% 4.1%
Violence and drugs 3% 2.2% 2.8%
Quality of education 1.7% 2% 5.3%
Gay rights 1.5% 2.4% 3.6%
Environment and climate change 1.2% 0.7% 2.5%
0.7% 1.3% 1.1%

Republican and conservative youth are not necessarily predictable in their responses to all the leading policy issues.

For instance, over half of respondents opposed laws geared towards legalizing same-sex marriage and health care reform. And, of those who opposed health care reform, over 90% indicated it was because it would give the government too much power. Twice as many of these youth saw spending cuts as the best way to grow business rather than investments in infrastructure. Depending on party affiliation or ideological leaning, this group was 5 to 7 times more likely than not to support laws that allowed police to verify the legal status of someone they have already stopped or arrested if they suspect that person is in the country illegally.

However, this group of respondents was much more split on immigration laws that would allow immigrants brought to the US as children to gain legal resident status if they joined the military or went to college. Here Republican and conservative youth were about a third in support, a third opposed and a third unsure.  This same pattern was also replicated in their responses to whether or not they supported establishing a minimum tax rate of 30 percent on Americans making 1 million dollars a year or more (the Buffet Rule).

More data and analysis from this poll:


These are some of the results of a CIRCLE poll commissioned by the Youth Engagement Fund and conducted by Knowledge Networks. Knowledge Networks administers nationally representative surveys built on a random sample of households. Recruited households are given Internet access if needed. Between June 22 and July 2, 2012, Knowledge Networks surveyed 1,695 US citizens between the ages of 18 and 29. African Americans, Latinos, and individuals who have never attended college were oversampled, but unless otherwise noted, this press release reports nationally representative statistics. The survey was conducted in English and Spanish.

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