Democrats and Republicans are battling to win the millennial vote, and so far the Dems are winning. Young people aren’t interested in a party that brands itself as the “party of no,” and they’re turned off by messaging about social issues that don’t mesh with their own beliefs. In fact, only 18 percent of millennials say they belong to the GOP, while 31 percent call themselves Democrats.
This week, as conservatives from across the country have convened in Washington for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the GOP can send a strong, unified message to millennials. Rather than focusing on what divides our nation, Republicans have an opportunity to speak to this generation about the massive, ever-growing debt that threatens our future — and what we can do to fix the problem.
The millennial opportunity for both parties lies in the 45 percent of young voters who identify themselves as independent. Here, Republicans should have a clear advantage. Millennials are smart. They realize the government spends more than it takes in, and our growing national debt isn’t going away on its own. They want Congress to take their future seriously and stop kicking the can down the road. They want entitlement reform. The GOP has a unique opportunity to win over these young voters by showing how Republican principles can fix the fiscal problems that threaten to destroy our country’s future.
Young voters are fed up with our government’s reckless spending, which continues to bury their generation under a mountain of debt they’ll never be able to pay off. Even President Obama’s signature law hasn’t escaped their criticism. According to a recent study by the Harvard Institute of Politics, 57 percent of millennials disapprove of Obamacare. Only 13 percent said they would definitely enroll.
Millennials are already bearing more than their fair share of the weight of our nation’s massive debt. Student loan debt has topped $1 trillion, and too many young adults can’t find a job when they graduate from college. Facing years of student loan payments, many young adults are moving back home after college, and many more are defaulting on their payments.
Entitlement spending is also out of control. Consider Social Security. Longer life expectancy for retirees, coupled with a tidal wave of retiring baby boomers, means we’re facing a disproportionate ratio of young workers-to-retirees, which will deplete the Social Security system by 2033 if we don’t take steps now to reform it.
The GOP has taken some proactive steps to up its appeal to millennials. Last year the Republican National Committee (RNC) hired Elliott Echols to be the party’s first national youth director, charged with increasing outreach to people under 30. Young people must understand that their future is at stake, but they aren’t interested in a party that perpetuates division and gridlock. They want to see compromise and all sides working together. This kind of effective politics is being spearheaded by No Labels, an organization that focuses on how to fix our problems, without painting every issue either red or blue.
Winning the millennial vote will take smart, targeted messaging that shows young people the facts and lets them make informed decisions. Condescending and unsophisticated ad campaigns targeted at young voters (both parties are guilty of this) only alienate millennials. If the GOP wants to win young voters, it’ll have to focus on the issues that really matter most to them.
Millennials deserve the same bright future their parents and grandparents enjoyed. But unless we reform our spending habits, their lives will be harder, and the American Dream will be much more difficult to achieve. If the GOP can share this message effectively, it will have no problem winning and securing the millennial vote.