What issues matter to young Republicans?

Daily Circuit guests at RNC
During The Daily Circuit Aug. 28, 2012, Kerri Miller interviewed three guests about young Republicans during the Republican National Convention. From left to right: National committeewoman for the Young Republican Federation of Alabama Jackie Curtiss, Generation Opportunity President Paul Conway and Independent Women's Forum Senior Fellow Karin Agness.
MPR Photo/Sam Choo

In order to compete with President Obama's turnout in 2008, the Republicans need to woo younger voters — many of whom don't fit the traditional idea of the party's values. Many young Republicans are leaning more moderate on social issues while voicing conservative economic views.

In a recent Pew poll of young Republicans, more than a third said they support same-sex marriage. Young Republicans also cited interracial marriage and more women in the workforce as changes for the better in America.

During a discussion on The Daily Circuit Monday live from the Republican National Convention, young Republicans voiced concerns about the party's focus on social issues instead of the economic problems the country is facing.

Jackie Curtiss, national committeewoman for the Young Republican Federation of Alabama, joined The Daily Circuit discussion. She made news last week when she stood up again a platform amendment that bans medication "that terminates human life after conception." She expressed concern that the wording was too broad and could include the morning-after pill in the umbrella.

"I'm pro-life and I do think we need to have a pro-life platform, but we waded too much into the details," Curtiss said on The Daily Circuit. "The Republican Party is compassionate to women and we needed to show America we do have sensitivity towards rape victims and towards women because I think that's really important for the vitality of our party."

Karin Agness, a senior fellow at the Independent Women's Forum and the founder of the Network of enlightened Women, also joined the conversation. She cited a recent USA Today Gallop poll that showed the No. 1 issue for people ages 18 to 29 right now is creating good jobs.

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"I think in terms of messaging and in terms of trying to reach a lot of young people, there's now a focus on let's hone in on the issue they are already talking about all the time," she said. "Jobs matter, so let's focus there."

Tampa prepares for RNC
Kristina Sesek of Janesville, Wis. puts a label on seat of former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson ahead of the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 26, 2012 in Tampa, Florida.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Generation Opportunity President Paul Conway echoed the research showing young people want to talk about the economy. His group works on reaching out to young people to find out what they want to hear on the campaign trail.

"The No. 1 issue is the debt," he said. "If you ask folks what are the top national security issues, the number one issue is the debt, number three issue is indebtedness to foreign powers. So you have a generation that is very focused on that and the fact that they are paying for it at the same time that they have one of the highest unemployment levels since World War II."

For some young Republicans, the focus on social issues is turning them away from the Republican Party.

Kevin, a caller from Minneapolis, said he now considers himself a Libertarian because he thinks social issues are taking over the party. He said social issues don't matter to him.

"As long as you have a completely healthy relationship with whatever you're doing in your own home, I don't care," Kevin said. "Unfortunately the Republican Party is spending way too much time on that. They're not talking about economic issues like they should be."

On Facebook, Jeff Hall called himself an independent, but has veered away from the GOP because of social issues.

"I feel they're trying to dictate individual rights too much, they want states rights, but continue to push restrictions — usually based on religion — on people," he wrote. "I support many of their ideas for fiscal conservatism and a balanced budget, but the parties' constant war on women, health rights, and individual rights is terrifying."

Mitt Romney
Students listen to Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, Friday, April 27, 2012.
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Curtiss encouraged voters who believe much of the Republican Party's platform to continue staying involved and help bring about changes.

"We don't have to worry what the party elders think," she said. "Don't wait your turn. We are not the future; we're the present."

Agness encouraged Republicans looking for change to get involved in their hometowns.

"Politics is local," she said. "If you want to make a difference, start in your local community. Run for something, get involved in something, write a letter to the editor. That's where you can start making a difference."

Join the conversation on Facebook.

Madelyn Mahon contributed to this report.