The youth vote is an often neglected group by those on the conservative side of the political spectrum. However, in this election, whilst millennials still overwhelmingly voted Democrat, Donald Trump secured enough of their support to flip the key swing state of Florida.
Whilst young people are still the ones most likely to be out protesting against the President-elect, the more moderate members of their generation may have let the establishment down and cost Clinton the election — at least in Florida.
In terms of the national vote, Trump won 37% of the youth vote – the exact same percentage Romney received in the last election. However, the Democratic vote share dropped by 5%, likely caused by the Democratic party’s rejection of Bernie Sanders, who millennials much preferred to Clinton.
This rejection of Clinton was seen most starkly in the Sunshine State, with the Democrats winning their support only 54% to 36% – a swing of 16 points to the Republicans from 2012.
Trump’s victory in Florida can largely be attributed therefore to this massive shift in voter preferences because of just how sizeable the youth vote is. Millennials are the fasting growing section of the electorate. In Florida, they represent 20% of the electorate and currently outnumber the over-65 age group.
Trump’s marginal victory of 1.3% in Florida equated to approximately 120,000 votes. If the millennial voting patterns of 2012 had remained the same, Clinton would have taken Florida, and its crucial 29 electors by around 250,000 votes.
Young Republicans in Florida put their success with millennials down to the constant campaigning that they carried out within their own community, rather than any message from the GOP establishment.
“There’s more truth and value in focusing get out the vote efforts on millennials using peer to peer methods as opposed to the top-down approach,” says Lauren Cooley, co-founder of Campus Red PAC, a pro-Trump youth campaign group run by millennials. “CR PAC was the only organization that launched with this approach, and the youth vote swung the election. We capitalized on this groundswell of support for conservative values in millennials on college campuses, akin to but on a smaller scale, what Trump did nationally as an America First candidate.”
Campus Red PAC was itself responsible for helping over 11,000 young conservatives get on the electoral register, and reaching around 350,000 undecided and independent millennial voters with their digital marketing campaign.
Jarrett Cathcart, who worked for CR PAC and supported Trump as his candidate from the primaries onwards, told Breitbart News that he felt disappointed with how no conservative groups had figured out how to tap the potential power of the youth vote. “Without CR PAC, Millennials would not have turned out to vote Republican in the astonishing numbers that they did, and Trump would not have won Florida.”
Despite outreach efforts geared to racial minorities, the RNC has not yet funded any programs geared to persuade millennials.
“For years, the GOP and its auxiliaries have largely written off the millennial generation as a lost cause- we’ve just proved them wrong,” argued Cade Marsh, the co-founder of Campus Red PAC and Florida Federation of College Republicans state chair. “We were given the freedom and resources we needed to operate on campus without interference from campaigns or the party – largely because none of them cared enough to try.”
“We went dorm to dorm, peer to peer, and formed relationships by discussing issues on an individual basis, instead of shaming those who disagreed with us into silence. The key to winning the millennial vote? Treat us as more than a bought-and-paid-for voting bloc, engage with the issues that matter, and talk to us as peers. No more hive-mind syndrome.”
What happens when you don't lose 1/5 of the electorate by double digits. I cannot thank our CRs, State Chairs, staff, and donors enough. pic.twitter.com/crZy2Cwyyv
— Alex Smith (@AlexandraCSmith) November 9, 2016