Before the Republican presidential debate on Wednesday, experts who research youth engagement are reminding the candidates to not forget about young voters.
"A common misconception about young voters is that they are all liberal, Democratic voters," said Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE). That's a non-partisan research center on youth engagement at Tufts University's Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service.
"The truth is, like all Americans, young voters are a diverse group that includes millions of self-identified Republicans," Kawashima-Ginsberg added. "As the 2016 GOP candidates prepare to take the debate stage tomorrow, they should be prepared to talk to and engage this group of young voters who historically have been a decisive voting bloc in presidential elections."
CIRCLE is calling attention to national polling that shows 35 percent of young U.S. voters identify themselves as Republicans or lean Republican.
The researchers are also pointing to a past CIRCLE analysis showing that Republican Mitt Romney would have won the 2012 presidential election if he captured half of the youth vote in the states of Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Florida.
For candidates on both sides of the aisle interested in mobilizing young voters, Kawashima-Ginsberg said their campaigns should ramp up outreach to them.
"The rate of youth turnout in presidential elections corresponds closely with the rate of campaign contact," Kawashima-Ginsberg said. "A word of advice for 2016 GOP presidential candidates heading into this week's debate is: Young Republican voters are a potentially powerful voting bloc in this primary, but their opinions and priorities are quite different from those of older Republicans. Candidates should be speaking to and engaging these voters now to understand how they can gain youth support."