Mar 11, 2014 4:01 PM GMT
While much attention has been devoted to the split between the establishment and the Tea Party, the growing divide along generational lines among Republicans could cause a significant a rift. Younger conservatives are more firmly staking out a libertarian orientation on social issues in a way that will shape the 2016 presidential primary as candidates seek to appeal to activists who are in the party because of social issues and to younger voters who see some aspects of cultural conservatism as intolerant.
That young people, regardless of party, prefer a live-and-let-live approach on social issues is nothing new. In 2012, President Obama defeated Mitt Romney by 23 points among 18- to 29-year-olds in part because of the president’s more liberal cultural views. But what is increasingly alarming to some cultural conservatives is that it is not just young Democrats who share those views — and that this youthful libertarianism is not fading when the Republicans of tomorrow graduate from college.
In a recent New York Times/CBS News poll, 56 percent of Republicans under age 45 indicated support for same-sex marriage rights, compared with just 29 percent among older Republicans. That split was on display at CPAC, an annual conclave of some of the party’s most conservative activists. The split did not take place among the high-profile presidential candidates, who largely avoided divisive social issues or mentioned them only to praise their party’s big-tent tolerance, but the conversation was easy to find elsewhere.