The Texas Republican Party is missing the mark with young voters

Young woman at same-sex marriage protest. Photo by erin m via flickr

COLLEGE PARK, Md., June 26, 2014 — At its party convention in Fort Worth earlier this month, the Texas GOP released its 2014 party platform.

Section 2-7, under the label “Celebrating Traditional Marriages,” states the party’s position on one of the most referenced elements of the platform cited by the media: homosexuality.

In essence, the GOP’s position is:

  • “Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable alternative lifestyle, in public policy, nor should family be redefined to include homosexual couples.”
  • “We oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values.”
  • “We recognize the legitimacy and value of counseling which offers reparative therapy and treatment to patients who are seeking escape from the homosexual lifestyle. No laws or executive orders shall be imposed to limit or restrict access to this type of therapy.”

It appears that the old adage is true: Everything is bigger in Texas — including homophobia.

While its position on this topic may be an effort to align the new GOP with the party’s traditional outlook toward family values, such a harsh stance on homosexuality has the potential to prevent the party from making gains among younger voters.

A poll conducted by Pew Research Center in March, 2014 found that more than half the American population polled supports the legalization of same-sex marriage. Of those polled, the highest percentage of people who supported same-sex marriage — 69 percent — were young adults.

Pew’s research suggests that the Texas GOP ‘s platform is not simply missing the mark on youth voters, but may also be alienating young adults within the party; 61 percent of young Republicans say they support legalizing same-sex marriage.

A Washington Post-ABC News Poll of over 1000 adults earlier this month had similar results. Interviewing the respondents by telephone, pollsters asked whether participants support or oppose gay marriage.

In stark contrast to older generations, over 70 percent of people between 18 and 29 said that they support the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Young Texans have expressed feelings of alienation following the release of their state’s Republican Party platform.

Alexis Hitchcock, a 21-year-old graduate of Baylor University says that the GOP’s stance on homosexuality has caused her to see a sort of generation gap that separates her from the party.

“I think [the Texas Republican Party] is out of touch with young voters whose values are not necessarily shared with the older generations,” Hitchcock said.

Hitchcock also says that one reason that she does not support the party’s position is that she does not believe that “reparative therapy” is actually reparative. “Politically, this move was unwise as it’s causing a rift in the GOP, and also blatantly disregards studies that show that reparative therapy is generally ineffective.”

Kari Smith, 22, a graduate student studying museum sciences at Texas A&M, says that the GOP’s position on homosexuality raises concern over the party’s ethical views.

“The GOP is very out of touch with young voters as ethics have become a very important concept in today’s younger society and gay reparative therapy has been collectively deemed unethical in the current general medical world,” Smith said.

Like Hitchcock, Smith also sees a generation gap rising between old and young voters.

“Politically, the Republican Party has made a ‘smart’ move because the majority of their voters are older and less averse to this antiquated therapy,” Smith said. “But in the long run, the Republican Party will soon have to face some of these issues with more thought to what the younger generation deems ethical and may end up alienating their entire voting base.”

The youth vote was vital to both of President Obama’s victories.

In both 2008 and 2012, roughly half of all eligible young adults not only turned out to cast their votes, but were decisive to the outcome of the presidential election.

Differences between younger and older voters must be taken seriously by Texas Republican candidates as younger voters’ views begin to predominate, or Texas will shift quickly from red to purple.

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