The Corner

Politics & Policy

Conservatives and Kids These Days

Students talk at CPAC at National Harbor, Md., February 23, 2018. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Ben Shapiro and Kristen Soltis Anderson have written essays for the Weekly Standard about what conservatives should do to bring young people into the fold. Both are smart and stimulating, as you’d expect. I agree with some of what they have to say and disagree with some of it. But what strikes me as more important is a blind spot in their analyses.

When thinking about why young people are so much less likely to vote Republican than their elders are, we can dwell on differing views of marijuana, same-sex marriage, and President Trump, or question whether conservative attitudes toward Millennials have been self-defeating. Those are all things worth thinking about. But by far the biggest reason for the generation gap is that young people are a lot less likely to be white than their elders.

According to the States of Change project, today’s senior citizens are 22 percent nonwhite. Millennials are 44 percent nonwhite. Those facts alone would lead you to predict a sizable difference in voting behavior.

It has long seemed to me that the public discussion of voting and demographics has overemphasized categories of age and sex at the expense of variables that make a bigger difference in voting behavior, such as race, religion (both affiliation and frequency of attendance), and marital status. And we don’t pay enough attention to how these categories are related.

I’m more than open to changing the Republican position on marijuana, and I agree that there’s a these-lazy-kids strain to conservative rhetoric that’s predictably unhelpful in appealing to young voters. But they can change their approach on these subjects as much as they want — if Republicans don’t do better among nonwhites, they’re going to continue to wonder why they’re not doing better among young people.

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg View, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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