Millennials Could Doom Trump — and GOP

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After watching Barack Obama win the support of a large share of young Americans in back-to-back presidential elections, Republican party officials launched an effort to court these voters. But Donald Trump is taking a wrecking ball to these plans — and that could be a big problem for the GOP way beyond November 8.

“I think what Trump is doing is a disaster for Republicans trying to court millennials,” Dr. Jonathan Weiler, a University of North Carolina political scientist and co-author of Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics, told WhoWhatWhy.

Recent studies back him up. A Quinnipiac University poll found that only 26% of millennials would vote for him. This response trails behind the roughly 40% of youth voters who supported the Republican candidate in the past three presidential elections.

The GOP is acutely aware of the problem, if not its causes. They began to court millennials in 2013 after surveys confirmed their dwindling appeal among that generation. The GOP’s “Growth & Opportunity Project” highlighted young leaders like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who was soundly thrashed by Trump in the primaries.

Millennials — Too Diverse for Trump?


Now, the GOP’s youth drive is seriously off the rails. Geoffrey Skelley, an analyst with the University of Virginia Center for Politics, thinks Trump is the reason.

“Trump’s nostalgia-driven slogan ‘Make America Great Again’ partly encompasses the way Trump exacerbates Republicans’ problems with young voters: this more diverse block of voters doesn’t necessarily think America was better before the current era,” Skelley told WhoWhatWhy.

Skelley noted that the youth population has a greater proportion of non-whites than the 65 and older population. No wonder millennials don’t look back fondly to the days when non-whites had to sit in the back of the bus.

“Non-white voters are more likely to support government intervention in the economy, more liberal and inclusive social policies, and other tenets that more closely match those of the Democratic Party than the Republican Party,” he said.

Benjamin Rasmussen, a former member of the Yale College Republicans, painted a grim picture of the GOP’s future if Trump solidifies his hold on the party.

“Standard Republicans have certainly tainted their perception in the eyes of myself and many millennials by endorsing Trump, and will only become less popular should they continue endorsing candidates as hateful and unqualified as Trump in future elections,” he told WhoWhatWhy.

“Trump has made the Republican Party a bastion of nationalism and xenophobia. Since most millennials like myself find such views morally reprehensible, the GOP will certainly lose support among moderate college students.”

That, of course, is music to the ears of Democratic Party activists like Michael DeLuca, president of the College Democrats at New York University.

“When Trump threatens basic tenets like the freedom of the press or a woman’s right to reproductive health care, those who might not usually participate or volunteer start playing an important role. They start to see how dangerous Trump could be,” he said.

Donald Trump Protesters gather on the campus of the University of Northern Iowa. Photo credit: iprimages / Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Donald Trump Protesters gather on the campus of the University of Northern Iowa. Photo credit: iprimages / Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Low Ratings Blamed on “False Characterizations”


But such views are hardly universal among more conservative millennials.

“Donald Trump speaks about issues young voters care about like creating jobs and lowering student loan debt, and more than most candidates he has shown a willingness to go to campuses and to use the social media channels young voters use,” Justin Giorgio, Communications director of the College Republican National Committee (CRNC), told WhoWhatWhy.

“College Republicans continue to believe in and support principles that Republicans have always believed in,” Giorgio added. “Freedom and liberty are timeless, and fortunately, this generation of Americans craves these values in our everyday lives.”

Salvator La Mastra V, a campaign strategist for the Trump campaign who specializes in the youth vote, also does not believe the Trump campaign will adversely affect millennials’ perceptions of the GOP.

What explains Trump’s low approval ratings among millennials, La Mastra said, is the media’s “false characterizations of him and his policies.” He predicted the candidate’s ratings will bounce once the debates commence and the Trump campaign begins spending more money advertising on millennial-friendly platforms like YouTube and Instagram.

But with Trump’s rhetoric already being broadcast 24/7, it is unlikely that a few commercials on social networks will move the needle in favor of the GOP nominee.

The Republican’s Growth & Opportunity Project declared, “the Republican National Committee must… fundamentally change the tone we use to talk about issues and the way we are communicating with voters.”

Trump’s campaign rhetoric certainly reflects a change in tone  —  though not likely what the GOP had in mind.

Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Trump supporters (Elvert Barnes / Flickr – CC BY-SA 2.0)

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3 responses to “Millennials Could Doom Trump — and GOP”

  1. richardbelldc says:

    I keep seeing stories about how Millennials are turned off by both Clinton and Trump and are thinking of either not voting, or voting for some “3rd party” candidate.

    Millennials need to grow up and get real. Trump will bring down the hammer on any inkling of political protest, over climate change (which he says is a Chinese “hoax”), police violence and killings, economic inequality, immigration, etc. We have to remember that those who are most in danger from Trump are also those with the lowest voting turnout records. If any voting group decides to hold its nose over voting for Clinton, either by not voting, or by voting for some so-called “3rd party” candidate, they will condemning millions of Americans who are already suffering to even greater misery.

    I put “3rd party” in quotes because these operations consist almost entirely of a figurehead candidate with almost nothing behind them that would constitute an actual political party. It is a bitter irony that these so-called parties, while they give lip service to grassroots empowerment, are basically top-down organizations that flare into visibility with presidential candidates, and then disappear for another four years. In Europe, green parties built from the grassroots up, but in the U.S., there is no 3rd party that has any meaningful electoral presence across states or cities, except at the presidential level.

    That millennials act as though these “3rd party” candidates represented real political forces is just another example of the almost compete failure of the American educational system to teach anything useful about the realities of political power, the history of parties, and the ever-present dangers of government repression of grassroots movements for change.

  2. James says:

    I honestly thought Rand Paul had a good chance of attracting the youth vote, since his father Ron Paul got a lot of youth attention with his anti-interventionist foreign policy and anti-bank-bailout, anti-crony capitalist domestic policies in the 2008 and 2012 primaries, especially in ’08 on the heels of the W. catastrophe (though his libertarian ideas on health care/welfare less popular?). Rand really made a concerted effort to reach out to groups that the Repubs had traditionally neglected: he spoke at Berkeley, Howard Univ., and the NAACP. He got the memo from 2008. But of course the Donald blew up Rand like everyone else. It’s tragic because I feel that only Rand and Bernie could have really challenged Hillary’s failed and dangerous foreign policy. Rand didn’t get the opportunity, and for some reason Bernie failed to address it, though he took her to task on domestic issues, Goldman-Sachs, etc. The Don can’t even articulate a coherent policy, much less keep it the same from day to day.

    But to your point about millennials, I think the root of it goes more to our disdain for bs. The Don is literally a reality TV star. Enough said. (Wait a second…Reagan was a B-movie actor?…) But I think that same appreciation for honesty is what turned so many on to Bernie (interestingly similar to, but stronger than the Ron Paul phenomenon), and why they are failing to get behind Hill and instead are looking closely at Jill. The real tragedy is that because we don’t have Rank Choice/Instant Run-off voting reform, people are trapped into the position of “throwing their vote away”, or voting the lesser evil Hillary to prevent a Trump presidency.

  3. bobcannon says:

    Millennials can’t find jobs and don’t pay taxes. The FIRST taxed paycheck will turn them Republican. Trump could change an entire generation by turning around the Obamaconomy.