The Generation of Choice is Poised to Choose Conservatism

The Millennial Generation is a generation defined by choice. Today, in all aspects of their lives, young people experience unprecedented freedom in an era of rapid change and boundless information and customization. Michelle Diggles, in a report by for the Third Way think tank, comprised a sociological profile of the Millennial generation that characterizes their worldview as ‘a la carte. Millennial have limited brand loyalty, they’re incredibly pragmatic and they consider binary options almost absurd.

However, Millennials are faced with a binary choice of extreme importance: Democrat or Republican?

How will they choose? The answer is not obvious. It turns out the reaching young voters is more complicated than blasting them with tweets or claiming you’re a #pantsuitaficionado. In general, Millennials have abandoned traditional “-isms” and other ideological divides, choosing to view politics like they view the world: ‘a la carte. Congruent with their behavior in other sectors of life, young people feel free to change, to pick and choose and to make decisions based on practical solutions. Diggles reports that young voters:

“may be voting for Democrats in wider margins than Republicans, but there’s no indication that they have bought the “prix fixe” menu of policy options historically offered by the Democratic Party, nor that brand loyalty to the Party will cement them as Democrats forever”

These findings should speak volumes to the Republican Party today, because these voters are winnable. Republicans should not be discouraged by the 2008 record-breaking turnout for Obama. This was not an indication that millennials had bought the democratic platform. They simply bought “Obama in the 2008”, an extremely specific purchase. They did not buy Obama as a whole and they certainly did not buy the complete democratic platform. They bought “Obama in 2008” ‘a la carte. And although 70% of Millennials in 2012 said they’d prefer to play sports with Obama rather than Mitt Romney- their opinions on more relevant matters have become increasingly indicative of how easily they could be swayed.

This Young Republicans video comically demonstrates just disillusioned with their 2008 actions many millennial voters are: 

In fact, since Obama’s election, the number of self-identified independents among the Millennial Generation has increased by 11 points, nearly twice the pace of all other generations. This shows the Millennial’s disillusion with both choices being offered.

And there is even more good news. Although most Millennials believe that the government can play a positive role in people’s lives, the pragmatic nature of millennial decision-making suggests they’ll look to their real-world experience over this lofty ideological ideal. When we think of this generation’s experience with the “positive force” of government, here’s what stands out: the tumultuous rollout of the Affordable Care Act, Iraq and Katrina. Not exactly an inspiring track record. This is why, more than half of young voters think something run by the government is usually inefficient, up 9 points since 2009, and the percentage of Millennials who “trust the government to do what’s right” all or most of the time fell from 44 percent in 2004 to 29 percent in 2013. Furthermore, young voters polled in 2012 were more concern about “the economy in general” than universal healthcare. Young voters are not likely to trust large institutions and they prioritize the health of the economy over unreachable ideals. This is a grand opportunity for the GOP. With a generation used to having the freedom to customize everything in their lives from their playlists to their profiles, the Party has the opportunity to speak to these voters, emphasizing personal freedom over anything else.

Of course, the way to reach these voters is to utilize every available social media forum. According to the Pew Research Center, of the 18 to 29 year olds online 83% are on social networking sites. Parties waiting for a twenty-something to answer their landline are at an immediate disadvantage.

Beyond this, the party to win the millennial generation will be the party to abandon the role of ideological demagogue and focus on providing a brand of pragmatism, leadership and solutions that young voters will be excited to buy.

I am a college student in San Diego, a city that recently elected a Republican mayor through a huge GOTV effort driven by millennial voters. Especially in San Diego, we are poised to be that party to young voters. Kevin Falconer, our new mayor, nailed it when he said, “It’s never been about partisanship, it’s been about leadership,” he said. “It’s not about Republicans, Democrats or independents. It’s about us being San Diegans and moving this city together” because this is what young voters above all want to do, move forward.

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