Family First: Reclaiming the GOP’s Forgotten Constituency

A groundbreaking post-election survey shows that the Republican Party's future depends on strong families


A Tale of Two Elections

In 2016, Republicans won a landmark election victory thanks to Donald Trump’s pioneering campaign. In 2018, despite a surging economy boosted by one of the largest tax cuts in history, the GOP lost massive ground. So what should conservatives conclude from these two elections about building a national political coalition?

While some elites blame President Trump or insist the GOP fall back on an old, unsuccessful economic message of tax cuts and “job creation,” this is a recipe for political failure.

New evidence provided by a groundbreaking post-midterm survey reveals the real lesson of the last two elections

The Republican Party’s future is wholly dependent on a renewal of the American family, and it is on this goal that conservative leaders should be fully focused moving forward.

Family First: Reclaiming the GOP’s Forgotten Constituency



Surveying America in 2018

Fielded immediately following the midterm elections, the 2018 American Political and Relational Behavior (APRB) Survey — conducted by the Austin Institute on behalf of the American Principles Project — polled 5,285 Americans aged 20-65 on a wide range of issues, ranging from political affiliation and voting behavior to family history and attitudes on economic and social policies.

Below are some key takeaways which should command the attention of Republicans:


The Marriage Gap

In the last two elections, married voters proved far more likely to vote for Republicans than divorced, cohabiting, or never married (and not cohabiting) voters.


The Marriage Gap Among Women

Among women voters, marriage obliterated the much-lamented gender gap faced by the GOP, as married women were also far more likely to vote Republican than their unmarried peers.


Black and Hispanic Married Voters

The effect of marriage on voting was especially pronounced among minorities, where Black and Hispanic married voters were more than twice as likely to opt for GOP candidates as their unmarried peers.

In summary, our survey data shows that the Republican Party is heavily reliant on voters who are married and/or come from intact families for political success.

Family First: Reclaiming the GOP’s Forgotten Constituency

Building on the Trump Coalition

Donald Trump won the White House in 2016 not by sticking to the standard Republican playbook but rather by embracing an entirely new platform which appealed directly to many married and family-oriented voters.

  • Trump refused to adopt a “truce strategy” on social issues, instead using social conservatism to his benefit.
  • Trump developed an economic platform which discarded traditional GOP messaging and instead focused on American workers.

The confluence of the new direction opened by Trump’s bold 2016 campaign and the increasingly leftward plunge of the Democratic Party has created an enormous opportunity for Republicans in 2020.

By taking Trump’s successful 2016 formula and reemphasizing its strongest points, Republicans stand an excellent chance at replicating that election’s result.

Family First: Reclaiming the GOP’s Forgotten Constituency

A “Family First” Agenda for 2020

In order to solidify its current base of family-oriented voters — as well as grow that base long-term by encouraging family formation — the Republican Party should strongly consider adopting a “Family First” platform in 2020, including the following key components:

Parental Rights

  • Parents’ Rights Act
  • Healthcare decision-making protections
  • Sexual education op-outs
  • Judges who support parental rights


  • School choice
  • 529 tax savings accounts
  • Local control of education

Social Issues

  • Pro-life laws and defunding of Planned Parenthood
  • Better parental controls over pornography access
  • Prohibition of commercial surrogacy

Economic Issues

  • Restructure of tax code to stimulate family growth
  • Paid family leave
  • Sound monetary policy

Given present demographic and social realities, adopting and featuring a pro-family agenda for 2020 and beyond offers the best, and perhaps only, path for Republicans moving forward.

Family First: Reclaiming the GOP’s Forgotten Constituency