(CN) — Young Republicans are more likely than older party members to switch their political affiliation — and more likely to do so than Democrats, according to a Pew Research Center report released Wednesday.
Nearly a quarter of people younger than 30 who said they were Republican or leaned Republican in December 2015 had defected to the Democratic Party by March this year.
That’s far more than the share of older Republicans, or Democrats across all age groups, according to the 12-page report, “Partisan Identification is ‘Sticky,’ but About 10% Switched Parties Over the Past Year[:] Nearly a Quarter of Young Republicans Left the GOP.”
About 9 percent of young Democrats switched parties in that time, according to the report.
The study, based on Pew’s nationally representative American Trends Panel, found that 53 percent of Republicans younger than 30 remained with the party over five surveys conducted between 2015 and 2017.
Brian Bodine, national committeeman for the Texas Young Republican Federation, said he does not believe millennial voters have left the party for good, but have been “temporarily turned off by some of the grandstanding that we are seeing from a small number of Republican leaders and personalities in the last few years.”
“They see right through it,” Bodine said. “They see that the wrong issues are being given too much attention and at the wrong times. … These millennial voters will come back, but the GOP has to earn their confidence and support.”
Another Texas Young Republican Federation leader, Elizabeth Alvarez, said the GOP knows it has a “young people problem,” but it’s not being addressed.
Alvarez, vice chairman of the federation, said that the dissatisfaction the party is starting to see among the younger generation should be “incredibly disconcerting” for candidates and citizens who hope to keep Republicans in control of the federal and so many state governments.
“If nothing is done to try to keep young people in the fold and attract new ones, the Republican base will continue to age out,” Alvarez said.
Older Republicans are more loyal to the party, according to the Pew study, with 80 percent consistently identifying as Republican or Republican-leaning.
Bodine said that young voters are concerned with issues that may not be as important to older Republicans. Millennials, he said, are worried about rising tuition costs and “are going to have to deal with massive debt for years to come.”
“Republican leaders need to offer solutions on issues like these,” Bodine said. “We cannot simply be the party of No. We have to offer solutions, or else we will lose elections.”
Alvarez said that young voters care far less about traditional social issues than older generations. For example, while older voters may be concerned with preventing gay marriage and limiting LGBT rights, there’s less support for such restrictions among millennial voters.
“We are far less concerned I think, with winning a culture war we see as unimportant, or imposing religion, which we see as a private matter,” Alvarez said. “We are very concerned with being able to find good jobs, being able to deal with skyrocketing costs of education and with the total lack of understanding the older generations seem to have as to the cost of that education.”
The study results reflect a rise in libertarian-leaning attitudes and socially moderate views among younger voters, Bodine said.
Alvarez agrees. She said that millennials “tend to gravitate more toward the small government, economic freedom aspect of our party.”
“Younger generations are more apt to support the right of people to choose their own hobbies, their own vehicles, modes of travel, and other goods and services without government interference, or the imposition of other people’s choices onto them,” Alvarez said.
“If you don’t like Tesla, don’t buy one, but don’t stop me from buying one,” she said. “If you don’t like medical marijuana then tell your doctor, but don’t interfere with my doctor’s ability to prescribe medical cannabis oil when they deem appropriate for me, or my ability to discuss my own health care choices with my doctor.”
Alvarez said that young Republicans today do not feel they’re part of a “Reaganesque” big tent, which had room for a wide variety of opinions.
“We aren’t asking for a new team bus, with seats just for us, just room on the old one,” Alvarez said. “If the older generation doesn’t make some room, the party will arrive at its destination a few presidential cycles from now with no one to carry its flag.”
Bodine said the Republican Party might retain and attract young voters by educating them about “economic liberty and how lowering their taxes now is critical to their long-term financial well-being.”
“We must convince them that our rising national debt could end America’s status as an economic powerhouse and make for a bleak future for them and their children 20 years from now,” Bodine said.
Party switching is more common among people who are not very engaged with politics than those who are consistently vote and say they follow what is going on in government and politics most of the time, according to the Pew study.
Only 5 percent of politically engaged adults who initially called themselves Republicans identified as Democrats in the March 2017 survey, and about the same percentage of politically engaged Democrats switched parties, too.
The Democratic Party was slightly more successful at catching the interest of less politically engaged adults than the Republican Party. Fifteen percent of less-engaged adults who initially identified as Republicans became Democrats, while 12 percent of less-engaged Democrats moved to the GOP.
Among Republicans who left their party, 84 percent expressed sharply negative views of the way President Donald Trump is handling his job, with 57 percent of defectors expressing strong disapproval of the president.