As a conservative “twentysomething,” I took great pride in helping NC go red in the last presidential election. The President’s approval rating is not only dropping overall, but he is also losing steam with the 18-24 age group. But, if support for a liberal president is sliding among young people, it’s not because they are fleeing to conservatism.
According to a recent Harvard University poll, there are signs young people’s enthusiasm for liberalism may be cooling. For instance, support for the Democratic Party has been steadily dropping among 18-24-year-olds since 2009, with a 5 percent point drop in the last seven months alone. Only 31 percent of college-aged young people now identify as Democrats, and 25 percent now identify as Republicans. College students’ approval of the job Obama is doing is also down significantly from 51 percent earlier this year to 39 percent. Across the entire 18-29 age spectrum, 37 percent of respondents identified as conservative versus the 33 percent who self-identified as liberal.
This comes in the wake of strong showings by young conservatives in both Virginia for gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli and in New Jersey for Gov. Chris Christie.
Conservatives shouldn’t be quick to claim the twentysomethings just yet, however. Consider party identification as one indication of seeing the liberal/conservative balance. While fewer college students identify as Democrat, they aren’t necessarily running to the Republican Party. The percentage of college students that identify as Republican has remained roughly unchanged. In April, 39 percent of young Americans called themselves Democrats. Now, 38 percent consider themselves Democrats. Then, 23 percent of young Americans claimed to be Republicans. Now, 22 percent say they’re Republicans.
These numbers tell me that twentysomethings are growing frustrated with both sides of the aisle or they are simply losing interest in politics. If conservatives want to grow their twentysomething pool, they need to continue to transition to the 21st century. They are taking this problem more seriously by doing away with the dry press releases and reaching for the BuzzFeed, Instagram style and humorous tumblrs. Conservative organizations such as non-profit Generation Opportunity are reaching out in what better way than a tailgate party. There’s nothing better than reaching out to twentysomethings than in their own environment.
I love seeing this move toward pulling in the twentysomethings. When in full force, this age group can do great things. They love being the boots-on-the-group type of people and they are willing to give their all to a cause they truly believe in. I am excited to see where this movement goes and my hope is that the conservative movement will do more to pull in us twentysomethings.