Young Voters are Willing to Listen, It’s Now Up to Republicans to Speak to Them

Republicans have many reasons to celebrate, not just because we made crucial gains in the U.S. Senate, but because we laid an incredible foundation for future victories. Nowhere is that more evident than the tremendous gains we achieved in the youth vote, both in terms of turnout and vote share. These gains were achieved in no small part because we talked to young adults where they live—online and on campus—and with a message they rarely hear—that the GOP is the party of new ideas, of bottom-up economic growth, and entrepreneurialism.

The results were nothing short of extraordinary, especially in swing states that will play a large role in selecting our next president. Here are just a few of the data points, some courtesy of Salvator La Mastra, who did some number crunching for The Blaze:

  • Ohio Governor John Kasich won the youth vote by 15 points. Just four short years ago he lost the youth vote by 10 points.
  • Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker only lost the 18-to-29 year old demographic by 4 points, a six point improvement since 2010. He did this despite a five percent increase in young voter turnout.
  • In the West Virginia Senate race Shelly Moore Capito won the youth vote by 25 percentage points. In 2008, the last time this seat was up for grabs, Democrat Jay Rockefeller won the youth vote by 26 percent. That’s an incredible 50-point swing!
  • In the Arkansas Senate race, youth vote turnout increased by 50 percent from 2010 and Senator-elect Tom Cotton won the Millennial cohort by five points, a sharp contrast to four years earlier when the Republican candidate lost by 38 points.
  • In Kentucky, Sen. Mitch McConnell only lost the youth vote by 1 percent. In 2008, McConnell lost amount 18-to-29 year olds by 12 percent.

But, as La Mastra writes, we aren’t out of the woods yet. It’s now up to Republicans to be different than Democrats, who took the youth vote for granted, it’s time we show young people that our party shares and advocates for their priorities.

“These results in no way point to Republicans sealing the deal with millennials and being able to compete with a candidate like Hillary Clinton in two years,” writes La Mastra. “It does, although, give Republicans an opportunity the next two years to lead effectively and show millennials they are the party of freedom, prosperity, and effective government.

There are many ways to improve the future of young adults that aren’t specifically targeted at young adults. For instance, reducing regulations to incentivize entrepreneurs and job creators, or simplifying the tax code to alleviate the paperwork burden on small businesses, would directly benefit the next generation of workers. But in order to speak directly to young adults, to let them know that Republicans are working on their behalf, one of the most powerful reforms our party should pursue is changes to our broken system of higher education.

Despite revolutionary advances in technology over the last decade the model for higher education has remained largely untouched for over a century. It consists of a wizened professor standing front of a classroom talking to a group of students in a red brick building situated on a lush green quad. The biggest “innovation” is that students now type their notes on laptops rather than write them in notebooks, a tweak that could hardly be described as ground-breaking.

The result has been exploding tuition prices, declining educational quality, and thus, reduced value. But, as Yuval Levin and Ramesh Ponnuru write for the Washington Post, the solutions to these problems are at our fingertips:

The Democrats’ solutions tend to focus on making student-loan programs more generous and offering loan forgiveness to those who cannot repay. But these policies would risk inflating tuition further and exacerbating the bad incentives that colleges confront.

Exploding costs are a symptom of a larger problem, and bad public policy has long been at its core. Simply put, our higher education system desperately needs market discipline. The structure of the student loan system gives colleges no reason to keep costs down or to better equip their students to succeed; federal rules regarding accreditation and access to student-aid dollars keep new entrants and approaches (especially those that make use of new technology) out of the system; and the government does not share data that could help parents and students find the best value for their dollars.

By and large, each of those solutions is already embodied in Republican-sponsored bills that have fallen victim to Sen. Harry Reid’s procedural high jinks. But in no small part to gains among young voters, Republicans have been granted an opportunity to pursue an agenda capable of improving our stagnant higher education system. It’s time for Republicans to follow through.