Lost and found: Young Republican enthusiasm

Rachel Hoff Contributor
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A new poll of America’s 18-29 year-olds released yesterday by Harvard’s Institute of Politics gives the Republican Party serious hope for change in 2010.

The poll reveals a significant enthusiasm gap among young voters, with young Republicans expressing greater eagerness to vote in November’s midterm elections than their young Democrat counterparts. Among young Republicans, 41 percent said they will “definitely be voting in November” compared to 35 percent of under-30 Democrats and 13 percent of young Independents.

Even more significantly, young McCain voters are much more likely than young Obama voters to show up at the polls in 2010. Fifty-three percent of under-30 McCain voters say they will definitely vote, compared to 44 percent of those who supported President Obama. There have been early signs that the young Americans who helped fuel the Obama campaign are not beholden to the Democrats: Bob McDonnell won the under-30 demographic 54-44 in Virginia’s gubernatorial election, and only 15 percent of 18-29 year-olds came out to the polls in the crucial Massachusetts Senate special election.

Those were not the poll’s only hopeful signs for the center-right. On the question of political ideology, a statistically equal number of young Americans identified themselves as conservative as they did liberal (34 percent vs. 36 percent, within the poll’s +/- 2.3 percent margin of error).

What a difference a year makes.

But that data does not necessarily translate into party identification on the right. When asked about party affiliation, the exact same number (36 percent) who said they were liberal also called themselves Democrats. But only 23 percent identified as Republicans, 11 percent less than those who called themselves conservative.

The GOP still has a long way to go to revive its brand among America’s youngest generation of voters. But this new data gives the Republican Party hope that its youth movement, once thought lost, can be found – and maybe as early as November.

Rachel Hoff is a young conservative activist based in Washington, D.C. She developed and implemented a strategy for national media outreach that has established the Young Republicans as the prominent voice of young conservatives, with YR leaders appearing on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, and CBS totaling over $2 million of earned media coverage.