SRLC: Socially liberal, but voting for a Republican 

click to enlarge A volunteer takes straw poll votes during the first day of the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Oklahoma City. - BEN FELDER
  • Ben Felder
  • A volunteer takes straw poll votes during the first day of the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Oklahoma City.

Connor Bannon, an 18-year-old from Edmond, supports same-sex marriage and describes himself as a liberal on most social issues. Yet, moments ago, he cast a vote for Sen. Rand Paul in a presidential straw poll at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference.

“Rand Paul is not as socially liberal as I would like, but he is definitely committed to civil liberty and his advisors are dedicated to liberty,” Bannon said.

On the first day of the SRLC in Oklahoma City, Bannon was not the only young adult throwing his support to a Republican candidate who he disagrees with on social issues.

“I lean left on some social issues,” said Rachel Brown after casting a ballot for Sen. Ted Cruz, an outspoken critic of same-sex marriage and abortion rights.

Brown is a political science major at Oklahoma City Community College and said she was excited to experience the conference and the political world she hoped to some day work in. When asked to elaborate on which social issues she was liberal on, Brown declined to comment and said she didn’t think they should drive her vote.

“I think that’s something you should be picking your candidate on,” Brown said about the economy. “You shouldn’t vote based on your personal beliefs, but more on who is best for our entire country.”

Appealing to young voters like Bannon and Brown has proved more challenging for the GOP over the past several years as a recent Pew Research Center study found that Democrats are winning the race for millennial voters.

“Today, about half of millennials (50 percent) are Democrats or lean to the Democratic Party, while just 34 percent affiliate with or lean to the GOP,” wrote Jocelyn Kiley in a 2014 Pew study. “By comparison, baby boomers (those ages 50 to 68) lean slightly Democratic (46 percent Democratic/Democratic leaning, 42 percent Republican/Republican leaning), while those in the silent generation (ages 69 to 86) are about evenly divided (47 percent Republican/Republican leaning, 44 percent Democratic/Democratic leaning).”

However, the same report showed that even young adults who identify as Republican rank as less conservative than older voters in the party. On same-sex marriage, immigration and environmentalism, millennial voters come out as less conservative when compared to each other age bracket, Pew reported.

Some issues, like same-sex marriage, may fade away as campaign talking points as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to render a decision this summer.

“Ultimately, I think [same-sex marriage] is going to be null after this year,” Bannon said. “I don’t think that’s a real issue for me.”

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