Where Will Ron Paul’s Young Supporters Go?
by NextGen Journal | Everywhere
As the national conversation shifts to a probable Mitt Romney v. Barack Obama general election, NextGen Journal is providing a preview of one of the most critical themes for 2012: the youth vote. Throughout this week, we’ll be addressing the major questions about the 18-29 year old voting block, with analysis of the most essential data, expert interviews, and direct student perspectives. The focus for today: Where will Ron Paul’s youth supporters go, assuming he’s not a candidate in the general election?
Mitt Romney, the most likely GOP nominee even in the wake of Rick Santorum’s recent victories, is no doubt concerned about young voters- especially the young voters in his own party who have propelled Texas Representative Ron Paul to national prominence. While the vehemence of Congressman Paul’s advocates is undeniable, the likelihood of Paul’s nomination decreases with each caucus and primary. Important to the election result, then, is who Paul’s supporters will turn to come November.
Ron Paul’s supporters are, by and large, young men (and women) leaning towards a purer, more ideological libertarianism rather than the standard Republican platform. He dominated the youth vote in Iowa, of which he received nearly 50% support, and statistical analysis suggests that he’s actually mobilizing a different segment of voters than those who turned out for his 2008 campaign. Exit polls from New Hampshire, where he placed second, indicate that he also performs well among first-time primary-goers, those who identify themselves as politically moderate or liberal, as well as “very conservative” with regards to fiscal matters. However, he also polls fairly well with voters who identify as socially liberal.
Little polling data exists concerning Ron Paul supporters’ second choices. NextGen’s own discussions with young Paul supporters in Iowa suggest that many are primarily concerned with American overextension abroad and the ballooning national debt. When asked about the possibility of Paul launching a third-party bid, respondents who found his plans to cut various government agencies and cabinet offices disconcerting indicated a greater likelihood of voting for Obama in the general election. Those who focused more on fiscal policy suggested either a desire to stay with the GOP or continued conviction in Paul’s candidacy. Some suggested that, while having no intention of voting for Obama, they were equally uncomfortable with the rest of the GOP field.
While data directly relating to alternatives to Paul is sparse, data about where young voters stand on issues is pretty solid. Like most Americans, they are highly concerned about the economy, although only 27% indicate support for the Tea Party movement. As of 2010 they were still more likely to support Democratic candidates and approve of President Obama’s policies than the general voting population.
A few extrapolations emerge from these data patterns. Paul’s supporters do not fall into a clearly-defined political category (and although libertarian may be the best label, it seems unlikely that Paul dropping out will spawn a massive youth exodus to Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson). However, they can, to some extent, be divided into two camps with two different priorities in the election.
The first is the fiscal, economically-minded group, which adores Paul’s policy of cutting wasteful government organizations; these voters are more likely to levitate towards Romney in November. The second camp is focused on U.S. military presence abroad and other liberal social bulwarks; these are clearly more aligned with a Democratic platform. The question, then, is one of priorities. If general trends among young voters are any indicator, Romney may have trouble absorbing Paul’s supporters during the general election. A solid portion may shift to President Obama, and quite a few might just stay home.
Perhaps the most interesting question concerning Paul supporters, then, is not where they intend to go, but rather what Mitt Romney will do to try to earn their support. Can he garner votes from a highly activist group that could siphon youth support from President Obama? And if so, might that lead to a general election victory?
By Amanda Fox-Rouch- Hunter College
2012 will be the first time I’ll have the chance to vote in a presidential election, but it looks as if I’m going to forgo my patriotic duty this time around. Unless Ron Paul gets the Republican nomination or President Obama turns his policymaking around within the next nine months, it seems I will not be voting for president. Whether Obama or, say, Mitt Romney wins the election, I believe we will not see significant differences in actual policy.
It would be nice to have someone progressive lead the country, but if it comes down to two candidates who fall short of that qualification, I would rather not waste my vote on maintaining the status quo.
By Eric Rodeschin- University of Miami
I talk about Ron Paul and his ideas with passion because his ideas largely mirror my own. This is the main effect Paul wants to achieve during his campaign; he wants people to open their minds to the ills of our society and continue spreading the messages of freedom, independence and liberty. Additionally, he hopes to mold future leaders who will continue spreading these messages long after this election is over.
So come this election, if Ron Paul is not on the ballot as a Republican or as a potential running-mate, I will not give my support to any other candidate. I will instead write-in Ron Paul’s name, if he is not already listed as a third-party candidate, and will continue to spread his message in honor of him and in honor of the freedom of all the people in America and throughout the world. I believe in a society which works together as a single entity toward the prosperity, peace, and harmony of all people. This can be achieved, but it will take more than Ron Paul to make this change. It will take us as a people to wake up from our American dream and start creating a peaceful reality of freedom and independence.
By Alan Chramiec- Cornell University
Every time I hear a member of the Republican “establishment” dismiss a young Ron Paul supporter as “unserious,” or even more rudely suggest that the only reason young people support Ron Paul is because of his opposition to the Drug War, I shed a tear for the further loss of intelligent political discourse.
Dr. Ron Paul. I support Ron Paul on what I like to think of as two levels: policy and philosophy. On the level of policy, I lump in nearly all of the things he would push for as president. This includes his $1 trillion cut in the budget in order to maturely address our growing national debt. I say maturely because every other candidate, including the president, has only made promises of cutting the rate of growth of the national debt, with no actual plan of decrease in sight. On the philosophical level, it is Ron Paul’s vision for America that makes me so passionate about him.
By Tim Rogers- Clemson University
Ron Paul’s influence on young Americans will be felt for years into the future. It will be the role of these supporters, primarily the young ones, to stay active in the political process and to develop his ideas more fully in the intellectual realm, where he has not received as much attention.
Instant change and gratification is not what these young but mature supporters are shooting for. Hundreds of thousands of us have seen the movement grow to millions in just four years, and, given our capacity for perseverance, it shows no signs of slowing down.NextGen Journal is the website for the ‘next generation,' run by a nationwide team of college students.