Steve Friess has an interesting piece over at New York Mag, which is an interested (although not precisely “good”) counterpoint to the omnipresent talk about the US Republican Party as hopelessly out of touch with comparatively younger voters. He explains that Republican leadership are taking to heart the advice of Sasha Issenberg – a journalist with a new edition of their political tell-all coming out in paperback – who called them out for failing to engage younger voters in their digital media domains. In short, they’re hoping to imitated Obama’s reelection marketing strategies as described by Issenberg, which Friess believes mainly consisted of “the ways it tested the efficacy of various forms of communication” – specifically “the use of Facebook to create social pressure to register”.
(Issenberg’s new book, The Victory Lab, on the new computer modeling and online marketing involved in US political campaigns, came out in paperback with a new epilogue this month – but can the GOP glean the right message from it?)
But the issue that the Republican Party is facing isn’t really considered as a whole in the piece, and for good reason. The age-related gap in means of news media consumption isn’t merely an oddity that the 2008 and 2012 Obama election campaigns exploited, they’re the result of deliberate choices on the part of younger people, which aren’t entirely separable from the current lack of GOP talking points in most corners of the internet. From the Ron Paul follower goldbug libertarians to the corporate and posh Huffington Post, the online media landscape is admittedly not always overtly opposed to the Republican Party, but those “friendlier” sections of the internet are in many ways predicated on their opposition and competition with the official Republican brand. And that’s without considering the progressive, anarchist, and even socialist portions of internet media.
People who get their news online aren’t just missing the Republican message, they’re probably looking for news online because they want an alternative. While many of the youngest voters are seemingly aging into that system of finding out important news information, younger middle age voters are also actively moving from Fox News to either other networks, or other means of consuming news, or out of the loop entirely. The internet isn’t the passive recipient of new voters – it’s also a space they’re drawn to because of the relative lack of GOP messaging. Introducing those same political opinions into that environment isn’t going to resolve that aversion.
In short, the party that purports to be the only true advocate for the free market is failing to notice the crowds choice in what messages they want to consume.