Observations by Ron Thompson
With the Presidential election fast approaching, politics have been top of mind for many of the Millennials we’ve been speaking to in the US through CultureQ. In research last December, many started to express Libertarian-like ideals, mostly in response to SOPA, which had the potential to impinge upon their right to on-demand entertainment.
Two thirds of registered Millennials backed President Barack Obama and his promise to deliver a “change we can believe in” in 2008. Yet, today, many of those same voters feel that while their candidate won, they have still lost. Current numbers show that less than half of younger voters plan to take part in the coming election compared to almost 70% for 2008. So where have all these Millennials gone? Sadly, a large segment likely will not vote, but many of the others have chosen a new standard bearer, the Libertarian Party.
It’s not surprising, when you think about it. Libertarian ideals are perfect for Millennials; both groups favor open and transparent systems and feel that the government should not be involved with the minutiae of everyday life. Millennials, who have been empowered by technology since a young age and are entering the workforce during a prolonged downturn, feel that the political system is broken and needs to be fixed. Like Obama in 2008, Libertarians represent an anti-establishment movement. They fit the bill many Millennials are seeking - they berate government intervention.
Recently, there has been a surge in support among youth for Libertarian candidates, the highest profile being Representative Ron Paul of Texas. Many CultureQ participants qualitatively and quantitatively spoke about Paul. And, despite him not winning the Republican nomination for president, many of his followers have not given up the Libertarian cause. In fact, these young voters even have a super PAC, Liberty for All http://pacliberty.com/
Liberty for All is the creation of John Ramsey, a 21-year-old college student from Texas. After inheriting a sizable amount of money from his grandfather, Ramsey decided to create the group this past April. According to Ramsey, “Americans are tired of two parties with the same outcomes… We’re changing everything about the way the game works.”
Liberty for All has already seen some success. The first candidate they backed, Thomas Massie (a Republican running in Kentucky’s 4th District), took his Primary easily and will no doubt have an easy win in November. All across the country Liberty for All is backing smaller elections and putting Libertarian candidates in a position to succeed in November. Liberty for All is doing what the Tea Party did in 2010; they are taking control of Republican assumed strongholds in attempt to get a seat at the table of the party.
“Karl Rove’s fear-and-smear-style Republicans are going to wake up at the end of the year and realize we are now in control of the Republican Party,” said Preston Bates, the executive director for the group, to the New York Times in May http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/23/us/politics/after-paul-falters-backers-push-agenda-in-party-and-other-races.html.
Liberty for All, and the candidates the group has supported, undoubtedly will have some impact in November but what it specifically will be remains to be seen. The outstanding question today is, will the Obama campaign be able to win back Millennial support or will Romney get some of these voters? Of course, there also always is the possibility that Millennials will not exercise their right to vote on election Day or support a yet to be identified third-party candidate.
No matter who Millennials are planning to vote for, all politicians should be looking to mobilize this important and disenfranchised group and motivate them to actively partake in creating America’s - and their own - future rather than just sit idly. After all, Millennials have been guided since early on to achieve.