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2 weeks 'til Election Day and young Republicans agree, it's all about the economy.
With just two weeks until the midterms, I checked in with some young conservatives to see how they’re feeling ahead of election day. Asked what issues are driving young Republicans to the polls this cycle, consistently (and this won’t come as a surprise) they had the same reply: the economy and inflation.
“I think the biggest thing for young Republicans is definitely going to be the economy. I don’t think there are a ton of social issues moving young Republicans right now,” said Iowa state Rep. Joe Mitchell, who is 25-years-old and founded Run Gen Z, an organization that recruits, trains, and mentors young conservatives to run for state and local office.
“The economy, inflation,” said Karly Matthews, the 24-year-old communications director for the American Conservation Coalition (ACC), a conservative environmental group.
Mitchell and Matthews both stressed that while the economy is generally talked about as an issue that affects older Americans, it has unique implications for members of Gen Z, who are just starting out in their careers.
“If you’re Gen Z, you’re in the last batch of people that just got hired, and you’re going to be in the first batch of people that gets let go in a recession. If you’re a young person looking at the economy, at this point it went from, ‘I’m worried about paying my rent, paying for gas and groceries,’ to ‘Am I going to be able to keep my job?’,” Mitchell said.
In a text message, Christopher Trzaska, a 21-year-old conservative who founded the group College Republicans for Biden in 2020, said: “Inflation is the number one issue. Without a doubt. At a time when young people are already getting squeezed by long term cost of living issues like college affordability and the housing crisis, massive increases in the price of food, gas, and other necessities are hurting young people particularly hard.”
The fact that young Republicans focused on the economy in our conversations may not come as a shock, given that the GOP began painting the midterms as a referendum on the Biden administration with a focus on the economy and inflation since the start of the cycle, but it’s worth noting that like their older counterparts, young conservatives (even one who no longer considers himself a Republican) are consistent in their messaging.
On the contrary, when I’ve asked young Democrats which issues matter to them most this cycle, I’ve gotten a wide range of answers, including: the economy, abortion (which some young Democrats point to as an economic issue), gun violence, preserving democracy, and more.
Though young Americans do lean to the left, both Mitchell and Matthews believe that record high inflation coupled with the dismal economy could motivate some young conservatives, who were perhaps disillusioned by former President Donald Trump and either voted for President Joe Biden or didn’t vote at all in 2020, to vote for Republicans down ballot next month.
Ebo Entsuah, a 29-year-old city councilman in Clermont, Florida and also a board member with Run Gen Z, said, “there’s tangible proof that Biden’s policies aren’t working for everybody.” He believes there may be some young people who voted for Biden or a third candidate in 2020 who will swing back to the GOP this cycle.
Though Trzaska (one of those conservative 2020 Biden voters) stressed inflation as a top concern, he wasn’t as gung-ho about a potential red wave in 2022 as some of his peers. In fact, he switched his voter registration to Independent on January 7, 2021, the day after the insurrection at the Capitol. While in a phone call Monday he stressed that he is still a conservative, aside from the fact that he views the economy as the critical issue this cycle, he said he doesn’t align with many of this year’s GOP Senate and gubernatorial candidates. Trzaska said the group involved in College Republicans for Biden has “mostly gone their separate ways.”
While Run Gen Z and ACC aren’t doing any GOTV work this cycle, I spoke with Hayden Padgett, 30-year-old co-chair of the Young Republican National Federation aka. The Young Republicans about how the group is working to turn out voters.
Padgett explained that the group is working with state federations and local clubs to help young Republicans reach their peers in their home communities, on college campuses, and on social media.
“Conservatives seem to be really effective at reaching young people because we tend to be a little more lighthearted in the way we approach campaigns. We meme a lot more, we poke fun at our opponents a lot more. We’re making jokes and don’t take it as seriously [as] what you’ll see generally on the Democrats side,” Padgett said of Republicans' digital strategy across the board over the past few cycles.
When it comes to IRL organizing in 2022, The Young Republicans have been visiting two different U.S. regions each weekend.
This weekend, they’ll be in Arizona (around the Phoenix area) and in Tampa, Florida. The weekend before Election Day, as is tradition for the organization, field organizers will return home and mobilize their own communities, Padgett said.
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More youth vote in the news 🗞
Opinion: As Gen Z, we're told we will 'fix everything.' Voting in the midterms is the first step, Marianna Pecora, Samantha Bernstein and Raghav Joshi for USA Today
Watch: Two rising stars in Texas politics urge more young voters to participate ahead of the election, Fabiana Chaparro for The Texas Tribune
Join us! 📲
Today at 2:30 pm EST, I’ll be Live on Instagram with Marianna Pecora and Victor Shi to discuss how the Gen Z-led organization Voters of Tomorrow is mobilizing young voters two weeks out from the midterms (last week the group launched a condom distribution on college campuses to push back against contraception restrictions). Join us today to learn more about their creative techniques!