Rock the Right: Free-market activists eye youth vote

Younger Americans are growing more worried about their generation’s future prosperity, and a group of free-market activists have created a new advocacy group — Generation Opportunity — to boost their impact in public life

The campaign’s site on Facebook, “Being American,” was established by December, and has more than 540,000 likes, mostly from the increasing number of Americans aged 18 to 29 who are trying to pay off their share of the nation’s $1 trillion in college loans, get on a career track, get married or simply get out of their parents’ house in an stalled economy.

Those attitudes are outlined in a week-long April poll of 600 young people conducted for the group by Kellyanne Conway’s polling company. “People are more optimistic about their own future than the future of the nation,” Conway told TheDC. Their worries about economic trends refutes the cliche that they’re only worried about social issues, she said.

Seventy-six percent of the respondents wanted to see federal spending reduced, and 69 percent preferred spending cuts to greater taxes, she said. One in four of the respondents said they’ve had to delay paying students loans, get better training for work, changing jobs or moving cities, according to the survey, while six in 10 see the fast-growing national debt as a great threat to the nation’s long-term security.

That’s partly why almost 60 percent of younger people say they and their peers will pay more attention to politics prior to the 2012 election, she said.

Election data shows that people aged 18 to 30 are increasing their voting rate, said Paul Conway, president of Generation Opportunity. That increase will continue and will get more attention from politicians, he said.

“For both parties, if you want to stay in office, you need to be responsive to the generation which is being asked to pay for the long term costs” of current government policy, said Conway, who formerly worked as an acting manager for the federal program tasked with rebuilding the Gulf Coast region after Hurricane Katrina, and as chief of staff to Labor Secretary Elaine Chao.

“Anyone who dismisses an entire generation of intellectually savvy men and women will do so at their own political peril,” predicted pollster Kelleynnne Conway.

The advocacy effort comes as bad economic news continues to pour in. The unemployment rate of people actively seeking jobs is 9 percent, and the economy created only 38,000 new jobs in May, according to a payroll-management company, ADP, even though the working-age population increased as younger Americans and immigrants entered the workforce. Economic forecasters are scaling back their projections for economic growth in the second quarter of the year, from roughly 3.5 percent to 2.7 percent, according to a Wall Street Journal piece on forecasts by JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Deutsche Bank.