But it will take more than an exciting election before it can compete for millennial support.
By Ilya Timofeyev
In the buildup to the 2016 election, the Republican Party has attracted the attention of students across the nation at even the most liberal campuses, but long term youth sustainability remains unsure.
A quick look at polls show young voters consistently favoring the Democratic Party in recent years, but the surprising facts take a bit longer to find. The leading statistics from Pew Research show that 51 percent of millennials identify as Democrats or lean Democratic, compared with 35 percent who identify with the GOP or lean Republican.
However, at New York University (NYU), rated the 8th most progressive college in the country by College Magazine, the Republican club boasts almost 3 times as many members than the Democrat Club. The Republicans have seen a 30 percent increase in membership in the last two years resulting in a record 1,230 members.
Kelsey Trumbach, a senior at NYU and the President of the NYU Republican Club, explains this rise through the club’s work ethic. “We are very active on social media,” she said. “Our media director is amazing. He is always posting interesting articles on Facebook and live tweets our events. We have one of the largest social media followings of all the College Republicans in the nation of which we are proud.”
The official Facebook page of NYU College Republicans has over 3,400 likes, which is especially impressive compared to NYU College Democrats, who have just over 680 likes.
Trumbach explained that people join the club as a means to find like-minded people. “Being on such a liberal campus, it provides an outlet for me to express my beliefs without seeming like such an outsider,” she said.
On the Democratic side, John Leake, the secretary of the NYU Democrats, thinks that membership for his club will increase. “Next fall, we are most likely expecting a membership increase for a short period because it will be an election year,” he said.
However, experts believe that these trends could be reflecting a more widespread trend. According to Lawrence Mead, a professor of politics at NYU, “The numbers are very interesting, I’m certainly surprised. There is discontent in the right wing population, and there’s a pressure on the government. We saw this in the recent change of the Speaker of the House. The Democrats already have a dominant candidate in the form of Hillary Clinton. The discontent and the lack of a dominant candidate within the Republican party is drawing young people to the issue, which could explain those numbers.”
Polls seem to align with Mead’s ideas, as since 2008, the Democratic advantage in the Millennial demographic has decreased by 13 points, according to Pew Research.
For Ryan Baca, a California native and current junior at NYU, “Growing up in California many of my classmates grew up with families who were Democrats, and inevitably my views on politics conflicted with their beliefs,” he said. Today, Baca leans Republican, and he said it’s mostly because of their solutions to fiscal issues. “I’m primarily a fiscal Republican,” he said. “Just from what I’ve learned in school on economics and from what I’ve read on global politics, I feel that Republicans generally offer programs and enact laws that adhere more to economic efficiency than Democrats.”
The GOP has also been benefiting from a more active membership for many years, and this is true for younger members as well. The Harvard Institute of Politics reports: “While more 18- to 29- year-old Americans would prefer that Congress be controlled by Democrats, instead of Republicans, the numbers improve dramatically for the GOP when only likely voters are studied. Among likely voters, the GOP turns a 7-point deficit among all 18- to 29- year olds (50 percent to 43 percent) into a four-point advantage.”
The report adds that the “poll shows that among those who say they are “definitely” voting, the preference shifts, with 51 percent preferring a Republican-run Congress and 47 percent wanting Democrats to be in charge.”
However, while current trends reflect Republican voters as being more likely to vote, Michael Traugott, Gallup Senior Scientist and Research Professor at University of Michigan, believes there are deeper challenges for the GOP looking ahead. “Yes, Republicans are more likely to vote, and this is especially true for local elections,” he said. “But, there will always be partisan divisions and youth will always be participating in politics, no matter what. The difference is that the Republicans are not looking at a problem of recruiting the young, but instead I say they are looking at a problem of the aging. As the white population is set to be a minority by 2040, the GOP will need to adjust to global trends in order to secure a rise in partisanship.”
Traugott explained that “One of the reasons that the Republican party has experienced the level of success that it did this past couple of years is due to the GOP success in the redistricting process in 2010. I’m sure the Democrats will pay more attention in 2020, posing further issues for the GOP.”
For Michael Genett, a registered Republican voter and member of the NYU Republicans, there are many problems within his party that still need to be addressed. “Fiscally, I’m conservative but I don’t usually agree with what republicans are doing now because it’s not fiscally responsible to threaten default every 4 months,” he said.
As a millennial, Genett has long term goals for the GOP that many Republicans might not agree with. He said: “I wish more republicans believed what I believed. Let people get married. Who cares? I thought we were a party of limited government? Same thing with abortion. Sure, we should try to bring the number of abortions down. But banning them isn’t a good idea, just the easiest one.”
So while Republicans might be benefiting from the short term attention surrounding the 2016 campaign, it will take more than an exciting election before the party is in shape to compete for millennial support.