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College Republicans latest to issue warnings for party's future

To young voters, the Republican Party can appear “closed-minded, racist, rigid, and old-fashioned,” according to a newly-released post-election report probing the party’s failures to capture more of the young electorate in last year’s presidential election. 

The 95-page report from the College Republican National Committee, the latest post-mortem from party leadership, paints a grim picture of the GOP’s image with voters under 29, citing a series of surveys and focus groups conducted before and after the 2012 presidential election. The report found that younger voters – even those considered “winnable” for Republicans-- tended to associate the party with words like “rich” and “religious” while stating that adjectives like “open-minded,” “caring,” and “co-operative” were traits that least describe the GOP. 

The study also found that young voters were turned off by the party’s “brand” when it comes to same-sex marriage, Latinos, and "outrageous statements made by errant Republican voices." 

For many Americans under 30, in other words, the Grand Old Party conjures up a caricature mashup of The Simpsons’ Mr. Burns, Eugene Levy’s dorky dad character in “American Pie” and a drawling George Wallace. 

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The CRNC study, which draws on two polls conducted in conjunction with The Winston Group and YouGov as well as six focus groups, comes seven months after GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney won only 36 percent of voters aged 18-24 and 38 percent of those aged 25-29.  
Its findings largely echo the concerns voiced by the Republican National Committee’s post-mortem “Growth and Opportunity Project,” spearheaded by RNC head Reince Preibus, which laid out the party’s path to shed the label of what one focus group participant called “stuffy old men.”

Both studies’ findings indicated that the task of repairing the GOP brand’s image will be difficult, but the CRNC report does point to some optimistic data from its sampling of young voters.

The young people surveyed, for example, expressed broad support for measures like “reducing the size of government” and “fixing the national debt” – major policy platforms for Republican candidates.  They rated attributes like being “intelligent,” “hardworking” and “responsible” over being “cool” and “adventurous.”

And focus groups found it easier to identify future leaders of the Republican Party – like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, new Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul – than to point out up-and-comers on the Democratic side.

“We believe the work will be hard, but that it can be done,” the report concluded. ‘And that it must start today.”