Youth Vote

While millennial voters still favor Democrats, that margin has narrowed, and exit polls show young Republican voters helped in Tuesday’s red landslide.

Voters age 18 to 29 historically favor Democrats, and in many cases millennials turned out big for Democratic candidates in Tuesday’s 2014 midterm elections. But a strong showing by young Republicans helped offset that trend and pushed several Republican candidates into the winner’s circle.

Overall, exit polls found voters age 18 to 29 favored Democratic candidates by a margin of 54 percent to 43 percent in U.S. House races, a trend often mirrored in Senate and gubernatorial races as well. Yet the youth vote was key in several of the battleground states where Republicans won.

These stats are interesting when considering that the youth voter turnout wasn’t much higher than previous election cycles, coming in at 21.5 percent, or 10 million voters, on Tuesday – compared to 20.9 or 9.5 million young voters in the 2010 midterms.

“MYTH: Low youth turnout = R gains,” Tweeted Alex Smith, president of the College Republican National Committee. “Nat’l youth vote was higher than in past 3 midterms & many key states had near pres. level youth turnout.”

The GOP certainly took the youth vote much more seriously this time around, and their stronger and more proactive ground game at colleges nationwide through their new Campus Captain program, a tech-savvy peer-to-peer outreach strategy, may have paid off. Other emerging conservative campus activist groups, such as Turning Point USA, perhaps also pitched in with the overall red wave.

Much rides on the youth voting bloc, which twice helped catapult Barack Obama to the White House. But it appears young voters this time around often came in at or near a dead heat in their support of Republican and Democratic candidates, perhaps even cancelling each other’s votes out in some cases.

Congressional races

In Iowa, Republican Joni Ernst lost the youth vote, but not by much, garnering 45 percent of the youth vote in her Senate win compared to 51 percent of Democratic challenger Bruce Braley, according to NBC data.

And newly elected Republican West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito raked in a whopping 60 percent of the millennial vote compared to Democratic challenger Natalie Tennant’s 35 percent. In that race, youth voter turnout came in at only 10 percent.

One of the most decisive victories where a Republican won the millennial vote by a comfortable margin was in Arkansas. According to NBC exit polls, voters age 18 to 29 voted in favor of the Harvard-educated Republican veteran Tom Cotton by 50 percent compared to Democratic opponent Mark Pryor’s 46 percent.

In one of the most watched elections, Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes only edged Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell by one percent of millennial vote in the Kentucky race. McConnell handily won reelection.

Kansas Republican incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts lost the millennial vote by a wide margin, yet still won Kansas overall.

Nearly the opposite was true in Iowa governor’s election. Republican incumbent Terry Branstad received 54 percent of the millennial vote, winning his sixth term as governor, while Democratic challenger Jack Hatch received just 41 percent.

In Maine, millennials favored Democrat Mike Michaud by only one point over Republican incumbent Paul LePage, who won the governorship handily, NBC reports.

Overall in the Senate races where Republicans lost the millennial vote yet won election or reelection occurred in North Carolina, Iowa, South Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky, Alaska, and Georgia.

Gubernatorial races 

As far as governor’s races go, all eyes were on Wisconsin, Florida, and Michigan, where 18- to 29-year-old voters averaged a nearly 16 percent turnout, and Republicans incumbents all won reelection yet lost the millennial vote.

In Wisconsin, Scott Walker won handily overall with 47 percent of the youth vote to his challenger’s 51 percent.

In Florida, challengers Charlie Crist and Adrian Wyllie split 58 percent of millennial vote while incumbent Republican Rick Scott comparatively secured 41 percent of the youth vote. A closer millennial race was in Michigan, where Republican incumbent Rick Snyder won reelection easily with 48 percent youth vote compared to Mark Schauer’s 50 percent. Another big win where millennials favored the GOP was in Ohio’s gubernatorial race, where successful Republican incumbent John Kasich secured 56 percent of the youth vote.

Focus on young people paid off for Republicans

Reaction to the election results illustrate many people agree younger voters could not simply be labeled Democrats.

Former College Fix editor Robby Soave tweeted: “Republicans took the ‘MORE young pplz NOW’ really literally, and it paid off.”

Generation Opportunity, a nonprofit that advocates freedom among millennials, congratulated the younger generation on the victory, and noted that: “Overall, young voters were more likely to show up at the polls and more likely to cast their ballots for Republicans than they were in 2010.”

And in particular, an interesting trend has emerged among the youngest of the 18- to 29-year-old age bracket, according to Generation Opportunity’s David Pasch.

“With the exception of Arkansas, where the GOP nominated a likeable 37 year-old candidate, the youngest voters within our demographic (18-24) were more likely to vote Republican than the older ones (25-29),” Pasch notes. “This confirms a trend we observed in 2012 and 2013: first-time voters who supported Barack Obama in 2008 have been somewhat loyal to his party, while their younger siblings and those who came of voting age during the Obama presidency have largely turned away from Democrats in the face of crippling student loan debt and the highest sustained youth unemployment levels since World War II.”

Rachel Jankowski, a University of Michigan law student and senior adviser to the campus chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, said there is still room for improvement.

“While the youth turned out in decent numbers for midterms, it still is not enough, especially when comparing it to older demographics,” she said in an email to The College Fix. “In order for the youth to be properly represented on issues that are of importance to us (i.e. jobs, student loans), it is pertinent that we show up for these elections.”

“The Republican Party has evolved in terms of the people it attracts and who it successfully runs as candidates. The GOP made history this election for its gains, especially involving women and minorities,” Jankowski pointed out. “If it continues this trend and shows the youth demographic that the GOP represents their interests these next two years, the party will run on its successful record and take back the presidency in 2016.”

College Fix reporter Derek Draplin is a student at the University of Michigan.

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Victory parties. Celebratory statements on social media. High fives.

Conservative and college Republican students on Tuesday basked in the glow of the 2014 midterm election results.

“Christmas came early this year,” Berkeley Republicans president Claire Chiara posted on Facebook.

“Victory party at my apartment,” announced William Chakar, former UCLA Bruin Republicans president, after results started rolling in.

“Good riddance,” declared USC College Republicans president Jennifer Massey about Harry Reid losing his Senate majority leadership position.

Although millennial voter turnout results are still coming in, it’s clear many college students played a role in helping to elect a Republican majority in Congress.

Other reactions were similar:

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In recent elections, millennials have participated in droves to the advantage of Democrats and President Barack Obama, and control of the Senate may indeed turn on whether or not Democrats can corral young people to the polls Tuesday.

But according to a recent Harvard University poll, only 26 percent of Americans age 18 to 29 say they will “definitely vote,” indicating significant disinterest in the less popular midterm elections.

That same poll found that 51 percent of millennials who say they will “definitely be voting” on Tuesday prefer a Republican-run Congress, with only 47 percent favoring Democrat control.

It seems young voters – who historically tend to vote Democrat – are disillusioned with their preferred political party. So they may sit this one out.

“It’s all rigged, Obama didn’t do what he said he would but the Republicans are no good either. Neither look after the middle class, why bother?” Carl Ackley, a music student and senior at SUNY Purchase, told The College Fix.

Ashley Spillane, who leads “Rock the Vote,” a popular activist group that visits college campuses in an effort to get the youth to engage in the political process, suggested young people are tired of being falsely pandered to.

“If people were paying attention to young people in an authentic way, actually caring about those issues, you’d see a much higher turnout rate,” she told CBS news.

Recent headlines declare “Millenial voters feel abandoned by Democrats,” and “Millennial voters a new worry for Dems.”

Some campus newspapers echo similar sentiments.

“It would be one thing if Democrats truly disagreed with the president’s core policies like minimum wage increases, student loan reform, and continued implementation of the Affordable Care Act—but they don’t,” an editorial in Harvard University’s Crimson student newspaper declared. “Missing a photo op while privately endorsing all the president’s proposals is just the kind the shallow and superficial politicking that has turned Americans against Democratic leadership.”

The Republican National Committee is even confident millennials will turn out for them, saying their new campus captain program has engaged young people and educated them about how Obama has fumbled the economic recovery and other missteps.

“We’re making sure students know that the GOP stands up for free market innovators, like Uber, for better education through school choice and for lower health care costs,” said Elliott Echols, the RNC National Youth Director, in an opinion column. “Gone are the days of liberal demagoguery standing unchallenged on campuses.”

Some Democrats openly acknowledge they are locked in a losing battle in trying to sway younger voters to head to the polls.

Jim Manley, former spokesperson for Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) grimly told The Hill that for millennials, Obama’s mantra of hope and change has “hit a brick wall.”

College Fix reporter Michael Sorge is a student at SUNY Purchase.

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IMAGE: Young Americans for Liberty

RNC promises tech-savvy, peer-to-peer outreach at universities to gain millennials’ support

President Barack Obama decisively won the youth vote in 2008 and 2012, but the Republican National Committee has launched a campaign that aims to reverse that trend.

With the 2014 midterm elections looming, the committee’s new “Campus Captain” program strives to help student representatives at universities across the nation harness their peers to the Republican ticket come November.

While in the past young Republicans have largely helped with more traditional off-campus duties, committee leaders want Campus Captains to aggressively take their message to the quad in person and through social media.

“This is a new approach for the RNC when it comes to college campuses, and one we have great faith will help Republicans win more younger voters,” deputy press secretary of the RNC, Raffi Williams, said in an interview with The College Fix.

“Conservative beliefs are based in fact, so we are making sure that our volunteers … are given the information they need to engage in a political discussion on campus or in the classroom,” he said.

The program enlists volunteers to “identify, message, and strategically turnout young voters on college campuses across the country using new technology,” Williams said, adding that the goal is to “empower” young people, “arm them with facts,” and encourage them to “not be afraid to engage in a debate on campus.”

Last year, the RNC hired Elliott Echols to be their director of youth outreach with the goal of making youth voter contacts and to encourage millennials to turn out at the polls.

Echols, in an interview with The College Fix, said the way to get young people to identify as Republicans is to have “their peers sharing their message.”

That’s where the Campus Captains come in. Their job is to “spread information about elections, candidates and issues that matter to college students,” according to the RNC.

The RNC will feed the captains voter information and give them the “ability to consistently predict where we are and what individuals we need to touch and with what message,” Echols said.

A recent photo the RNC posted on Twitter showed the captains hunkered down before their computer screens, learning facts and talking points to take back to their schools come this Fall. The issues Echols said he believes will win young people are their grim career prospects under Obama. RNCTweet

“Obama has failed them,” Echols said. “Jobs and the economy are what will bring people to the polls in November.”

He cited the overwhelming number of college graduates who lately have been returning home to live with their parents because they cannot find employment.

Echols said one of the main cruxes of the Republican argument they are teaching the captains is that “allowing more competition into the marketplace” is the best way for a free market economy to function.

Harnessing social media to get that and other messages out is a big part of the new program.

He said their social media team is integral in giving important tools to Campus Captains across the country. One of those tools is helping the captains make voter contacts.

Williams added that the RNC has a “strategic partnership” and a “supportive relationship” with the College Republican National Committee.

“Currently we have more than 220 campus captains signed up and we expect that number to continue to increase,” he said. “Some CR presidents are campus captains, but that is not a requirement.”

“We are looking for conservatives on campuses who are passionate about getting conservatives elected to office,” he added. “College Republicans do great work on campuses, but the goal of Campus Captains is to utilize all the new digital tools the RNC has to turn out more conservative youths.”

According to a CIRCLE study, Mitt Romney would have won the 2012 presidential election had he secured the youth vote in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Florida.

Acknowledging this shortfall, Williams said the GOP “has a great opportunity to leverage the young vote to win elections in 2014, 2016, and beyond.”

“We will win national and at a state level [if we engage more with youth voters],” he said.

The Campus Captains come as a similar effort within the Hillary Clinton camp also emerges at universities. It’s called the “snowflake” model and aims to create Clinton armies on college campuses.

College Fix contributor Andrew Desiderio is a student at The George Washington University.

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IMAGE: Internet screenshots

New Jersey’s Republican governor won re-election, partly because he dramatically improved his performance among young voters on Tuesday.

Gov. Chris Christie improved his performance among voters age 18-29 this election cycle, winning 48% this time around vs. 36% during his previous campaign in 2009.


Nathan Harden is editor of The College Fix and author of the book SEX & GOD AT YALE: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad.

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When Republican activist Caleb Bonham wanted to spread the news about an upcoming conservative conference in Colorado, he headed to CU Boulder with a pen, poster board and video camera and convinced many students to sign a big (and fake) thank you card to President Obama for targeting conservatives through the IRS.

The video of that undertaking – which included references to the Western Conservative Summit conference he aimed to promote – quickly went viral, garnering tens of thousands of views online within a few short days.

What Bonham understood was that reaching the hearts and minds of young people isn’t about talking at them, it’s about making them chuckle – and think – all at the same time.

Enter the Internet meme, the way many twenty-somethings spread messages and debate politics nowadays. Whether memes change hearts and minds, however, is up for debate.

Internet memes can be videos, pictures, cartoons, hashtags or similar platforms. They begin small and grow through social media networks, blogs, emails and news sites, and can ultimately go viral, reaching a large and diverse audience.

Bonham emphasized their usefulness as agents of reinforcement.

“I do believe memes are effective in reaffirming the beliefs of those on either side of the isle,” Bonham said. “If one is prone to change their ideology based on some snarky comment placed on a grumpy cat photo, then that person really needs to explore their political stance further.”

Chris Telfer, executive director of the California College Republicans, said he believes the medium can be useful in bringing younger audiences into the political public square.

“Memes or cartoons have the potential to draw people into the political process that might not be attracted to traditional political media,” he said. “They provide a humorous side to a political process that can sometimes be very rigid and uninteresting to some individuals.”

The best part about a meme is – anyone can create one. All they need is photoshop and a witty or snarky comment. The hope is that viewers would look up the issue the meme aims to tackle and become more informed. It’s a sneaky, guerilla method of teaching the general public: no one wants to be left out of a joke.

According to an NPR report, the memes are working.

While both Governor Romney and President Obama spent millions on ads in their respective campaigns, the explosion of memes created by viewers during speeches or debates stole most of the campaigns’ thunder with cheaper and better messaging, the article noted.meme2

Bonham said he sees the branding power behind the political humor.

“I believe political cartoons do have the power to advance a narrative,” he said. “For instance, when late night comedians used one-liners to advance the myth that the Ivy League graduate, George W. Bush, was a buffoon, it connected.”

Thus, the saying could go: Meme or be meme’d.

The rise of political memes are increasing the possibility for a candidate’s misspeak to shape his or his campaign. Think of Big Bird, binders and bayonets. If memes have the power to brand the candidate, then those on social media sites must be listening.

If this medium works, the question now is how parties and organizations will respond.

Telfer suggests an adapt-or-die approach: “Parties need to embrace these not only to increase their potential to attract younger voters, but also because these are not going away any time soon. That being said, it’s also important that people take them for what they are – satire – and not underestimate the importance that these issues hold.”

Raffi Williams, deputy press secretary for the Republican National Committee, agrees.

“We want to get our message out to voters through every medium possible–if a lolcat can tell people that this administration’s spending has spun out of control, then we’ll have a graphic out there saying ‘icanhazlowertaxes?’” he said.

Bonham said he believes “memes must be done right, or not at all.”

The temptation for either party is to overly embrace the medium and overshoot its effectiveness, he said.

“Republicans should avoid memes in mass,” he said. “If the GOP finds a witty and compelling meme, absolutely use it. But don’t become the party of stupidity, we don’t need another one of those on the ballot.”

As Churchill once said, “a joke is a very serious thing.”

Fix contributor Haley Littleton is a student at Colorado Christian University.

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