The words “Millennial” and “Republican” look like they belong in a BuzzFeed article titled “10 Words You Never See Together.”
However, there are some Millennials out there who are conservatives. According to a recent Pew Research poll, about 35 percent of Millennials lean towards the Republican Party. The conservatives are undeniably winning over a significant number of the Democrats’ staple 18 to 29 year-old voting block.
The distribution along the political spectrum of young conservatives is very different than that of Republicans as a whole, according to the Pew study. Roughly half (51 percent) of young conservatives say they have a “mix” of liberal and conservative political stances.
Only 31 percent of young conservatives have mostly “right-of-center” views; 18 percent actually have “mostly liberal” views. Young conservatives are generally skeptical of federal welfare programs, but are divided on whether stricter environmental regulations are worth their cost.
On the other hand, the Republican Party as a whole is made up of 53 percent voters who are “consistently conservative.” There is a stark disparity in the conservatism of young Republicans and their older counterparts.
Social issues seem to be the place where young conservatives differ most from the older generations in the Republican Party.
Over 60 percent of young Republicans hold that “homosexuality should be accepted by society rather than discouraged” — older Republicans are about split even.
The majority of young conservatives agree that, in general, “immigrants strengthen our country.” The majority of older conservatives hold that “immigrants are a burden on our country by taking our jobs, housing and healthcare.”
If Millennials tend to differ from the Republican Party as a whole, what are the issues that make the conservative ideology appealing to them?
The draw to the Republican Party among young voters seems to be fiscal conservatism.
Corey Pray (CAS ’17) is the president of Boston University’s College Republicans. Pray described his attraction because of the Republican Party’s answer to the rising costs of education: “Most young people don’t know that the federal government sets the rate for student loan payments … What if instead we phased out government-provided loans and allowed private transactions between lending institutions and students?”
“This would result in competition, resulting in lower rates and better services,” Pray explained.
The rising costs of higher education are an issue that all young people are concerned with. Young conservatives’ apparent disdain for the federal loan program is in line with their overall distrust of the federal government. Instead, they hold that market competition could resolve the rising cost of education.
Michael Holtz (CAS ’18), another member of BU College Republicans, echoed these sentiments. “I definitely see [Republicans] as more focused on economic issues. We’re going into a job market that doesn’t have many jobs, and we have all this student loan debt, so it’s really worrisome.”
“I listen to what Republicans have to say about making college easier and open[ing] up markets and to get more jobs flowing,” continued Holtz. “I definitely agree more with what they have to say than Democrats.”
The College Republicans’ comments are indicative of the common Millennial concerns about job prospects and the cost of higher education. For young conservatives, a smaller federal government is the solution. Republicans want a neo-liberal economic model; they want government out and believe the private sector will fill the void.
Right-leaning Millennials generally view government as a threat to individual liberty and are opposed to most government programs; roughly 60 percent of young conservatives agree that “government is almost always wasteful and inefficient.”
On his opinion of the Republican Party’s overall values, Pray noted “every person, no matter who you are, what you look like, or where you started out, has a right to fulfill their potential and to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and that these rights cannot be taken away or interfered with by government. Big government should not create one-size-fits-all solutions for everyone. Individuals and communities know what is best for themselves and should be able to make certain decisions without the federal government being involved.”
Young conservatives consider the size of the federal government to be a primary concern. While in many areas they break from older Republicans’ positions, they generally want a smaller government and a more market-driven economy.
Like all young people, Millennial Republicans are concerned with forward-looking issues such as employment prospects and sky-rocketing university costs. Despite our idea of Republicans as old men with cowboy hats who spit at people who say “Obamacare,” there are young conservatives out there who don’t wear cowboy hats; rather, they speak cogently and passionately about political engagement, and hold that a smaller federal government is the right direction for the country.