FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE)- Today’s Millennials -18- to 33-year-olds- largely see the Grand Old Party as more old than grand, out of sync with causes they overwhelmingly support such as gay marriage and legalizing marijuana, according to Pew Research Center.
They also view Democrats in a considerably more favorable light than they do Republicans, especially minority Millennials. But that doesn’t mean the GOP is necessarily on the road to extinction.
Adult Millennials may not have much love for the GOP and its history right now, but some in the party think that will change. They’re putting stock in the conventional wisdom that people generally grow more conservative with age. It’s a factor that gives the party real hope, according to Indiana Republican Chairman Tim Berry.
“I think what generally happens with age is that people get refocused on different issues,” said Berry. “They’re concerned about education for their children. They become more concerned about economic stability.”
There’s definitely some support for that notion. According to Pew Research, 53 percent of Baby Boomers have become more politically conservative with age while only 35 percent have become more liberal. However, IPFW political science professor Michael Wolf said most of the research he’s seen tells a different story.
“Your worldview gets pretty well baked into the cake early on,” said Wolf. “And those kinds of ways of viewing the political world don’t tend to change.”
Even if this generation does become more conservative, Indiana Democratic Chairman said he’s not concerned.
“When we’re talking about cultural shifts, ideological changes, there may be a new brand of what ‘conservative’ means by the time Millennials reach middle age, say, so I’m not too worried about that,” said Zody.
One thing Democrats should be worried about, however, is a second reason for Republican hope: While the Dems’ problems may appear less severe than the GOP’s at this point, they haven’t won the trust of Millennials either.
“Since the Democrats haven’t done that, they haven’t necessarily taken full advantage of what should be, in a two-for-one voting advantage, something that leads to a future dominance,” said Wolf.
Future dominance could be tough for any party to achieve among this generation. Half of Millennials in the Pew survey considered themselves political independents, and only 31 percent said there’s a great deal of difference between Republicans and Democrats. Still, at the moment, neither party seems focused on attracting and locking up the loyalty of today’s young adults.
“Both parties right now are so scared of losing elections that they’re only trying to turn out the voters that they know,” said Wolf.”Expanding the electorate is a threat, maybe, because you might expand it in the wrong direction.”
Maybe that lack of engagement from the parties is one reason the local Millennials NewsChannel 15 talked to seemed so cynical toward and disengaged from the political process.
The bottom line is that there’s an opportunity out there; a generation to be won. How could the Republicans do that?
They probably have to take advantage of a third factor in their favor: economic concerns.
Millennials have higher levels of student debt and unemployment than previous generations, and Republicans feel very comfortable speaking to those issues. Seasoned political operative Pete Seat said Millennials crave candidates who have compelling ideas to lead them out of their economic anxiety. Hear from him as NewsChannel 15 concludes its special reports Tuesday on Nightcast at 11.