Exit polls from Tuesday’s election showed Republican nominee Mitt Romney made inroads with youth voters in the 2012 election — but the right-leaning youth voter outreach group Generation Opportunity thinks he could have done more.According to the exit polls, President Barack Obama won the 18-29 age group handily, with 60% of the vote to Romney’s 37%, the number was down 11 points from 2008, when Obama walloped John McCain with that demographic, 66-32.
It was the largest swing in any age-group, and, according to Generation Opportunity, the biggest drop in support among the 18-to-29 demographic for any incumbent in history who won re-election.
Paul Conway, president of Generation Opportunity, said the downward turn could have been even more drastic if the Romney campaign had an effective strategy for turning out the youth vote.
“The lessons here for conservatives and Republicans is that they need to put out full details of policies on mediums where young people engage — treat them intelligently,” Conway told Business Insider.
Conway hit Romney’s inability to communicate on two substantive issues with young people — finding jobs and the student-loan interest rate.
According to Conway, 50% of the 18-to-29 group is either under- or unemployed, but the Romney campaign never provided enough specifics on how he would fix that problem.
“As someone who was a successful businessman, he had a better chance to articulate and give people what they really wanted — which is a lot of detail,” Conway said. “This group likes detail. … A tactic is just a tactic in itself, unless you have a message.”
Conway compared it to Romney’s problem attracting Latino voters. Romney fell to Obama among that group by an astounding 44 points.
Conway said the Romney campaign didn’t engage with the youth demographic early and often enough on all forms of media — social and traditional media, and a ground game. Generation Opportunity’s Facebook page — which has garnered 4 million “likes” and 1.1 billion views — outpaced the Romney campaign’s Facebook presence through much of the campaign, he said.
Conway had an unusual historical comparison for Romney’s failure to engage youth voters more and what he called an ineffective use of social platforms like Facebook:
“I’ll tell you what it reminds me of — another page out of history. In the late 1930s, you had Navy admirals that very vigorously defended the use of battleships. They would argue to have all of the resources put to use on battle fleets and battleships. And then you had Naval aviators and pioneers who had traveled all over the world, and they saw how the use of aircraft and aircraft carriers as platforms were the coming tactic in application of technology for the projection of force.
“I think that all got sorted out after Pearl Harbor. The answer was not that you eliminate one and use the other. It’s that different types of battles required new technologies — not as a standalone, but fully incorporated into your strategy. My point is this: If the new battle is for young votes, you need to respect their intelligence. And two, you need to stop thinking like a battleship admiral and think like a strategist, in terms of having battleships, aircraft carriers, submarines and all the other elements that make a combined effort effective.”
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