as published in The Chicago Tribune

The GOP presidential candidates have all addressed it passionately, hoping to appeal to the conservative base, but the issue of gay marriage ranks low on the list of priorities for young voters at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Rick Santorum Mitt Romney

“We’re worried about getting jobs after graduation,” says Lindsay Matera, a freshman at Roger Williams University. “Gay marriage isn’t as important of an issue for me.”

Nick Moon looks to Mitt Romney as the man with the economic credentials to turn the country around and criticizes peers who argue that Romney’s not conservative enough on social issues.

“Social issues are important to recognize and acknowledge, but they shouldn’t take precedent over economic, military, and foreign policies of a candidate,” 18-year-old Nick Moon says.

In the wake off a three-state caucus loss, Romney’s CPAC speech focused on his credentials as socially conservative GOP candidate.

“I know conservatism because I have lived conservatism,” Romney said during his speech.

He promised to defend the defense of marriage act, but his appeal didn’t impress young supporters who say they are attracted to Romney’s business background.

“I don’t really care about the social stuff,” Millersville University student Jordan Smith says. “I think it’s big government when the government tells you who you can and cannot marry and that’s not conservative.”

by Lauren Fox