Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich trade… (Michael Reynolds / EPA )
Reporting from Washington — The Republican presidential primary campaign so far hasn’t produced a nominee, but it has had one clear outcome -- worsening the GOP’s image among the young, the better-educated and the non-white.
That finding, from the Pew Research Center survey released Wednesday, could be a serious handicap for the party in elections this fall and in years to come, said Pew’s director, Andrew Kohut.
"The Republicans really are the party of white people, and especially older white people," Kohut told reporters as the poll was released. "They’ve done nothing in this campaign to make themselves be more favorably viewed" among other parts of the electorate.
That verdict won’t come as a surprise to many Republican strategists. Some, including Karl Rove, the architect of George W. Bush’s electoral victories, have been arguing for years that the party needs to find ways to reach out to demographic groups, particularly Latinos, who are increasing as a percentage of the population.
The example of what could happen if the party does not do so is California, where the GOP became alienated from Latinos just as their voting percentage began to rise rapidly. Over the last five election cycles, California has moved from being a swing state to being one of the most solidly Democratic states in the country.
Republicans don't face that sort of dire situation nationwide, in part because the nation's demographics differ from California's. Whites without a college degree form a much larger percentage of the voting population nationwide, and that group has become a bastion for the Republicans. But as the country becomes less white and more college-educated, the picture is changing. And the numbers in the Pew survey provide some bad omens for the GOP.
Latinos, for example, view the Republican Party unfavorably by a 2-1 margin (30% favorable, 60% unfavorable). By contrast, Latinos view the Democrats favorably, 56%-31%.
The picture among Americans under 30 is almost as negative, with 34% viewing the GOP favorably, while 53% have an unfavorable view. Their view of Democrats is almost the exact opposite, 54% have a positive view, and 35% negative. Among those with a college degree or more, only 31% said they had a favorable view of the Republicans, while 66% were unfavorable. That group, which was a key to Barack Obama’s victory in 2008, views Democrats favorably by 55%-42%.
GOP: Old, white and in trouble, poll says