A recent poll suggests that, contrary to popular belief, young Republicans may be more enthusiastic than their Democratic peers — at least in the upcoming midterm elections.
According to a national poll released Sept. 15 by Rock the Vote, a nonpartisan organization focused on increasing voter turnout among 18- to 29-year-olds, 82 percent of those who consider themselves Republicans said they were likely to vote — as opposed to 80 percent of those who consider themselves Democrats. Republicans also outpaced Democrats 62 to 58 percent when it came to how much attention respondents paid to the election.
Similar results were seen when ideology, not party self-identification, was measured. Eighty-one percent of conservatives said they were likely to vote as opposed to liberals’ 79 percent, and 65 percent said they paid attention to the election, compared to liberals’ 59 percent.
According to Rock the Vote spokeswoman Maegan Carberry, the poll’s trends are not historically dissonant.
“It’s in line with historical trends where the incumbent party loses in the first midterm election year. 2002 is one of the only times in decades that didn’t happen,” Carberry said.
She also emphasized that, despite the apparent enthusiasm gap between young Democrats and young Republicans, high levels of 18- to 29-year-olds responded positively to voting. “We found in our research that young people want to vote — more than two-thirds nationally, with similar numbers in Pennsylvania … but [they] are battling feelings of cynicism,” Carberry said.
Peter Levine, director of the Tufts University-based Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, which studies youth voting trends, is unconvinced of the turnout suggested by Rock the Vote’s study.
“25% turnout for 18-29s would be quite good in a midterm election,” Levine wrote in an e-mail. “Still, the fact that most young people say they will vote shows a reservoir of commitment that could be tapped.”
Penn Democrats President and College junior Emma Ellman-Golan said Penn’s College Republicans have indeed become more active since the 2008 elections. One hypothesis she offered was the strong business presence at Penn.
“I’d say, out of the Ivies, we have a more conservative student body due to Wharton,” Ellman-Golan said.
However, she added that she is not worried by the poll results. “I think voter turnout for Democrats and Republicans will be pretty even on campus, and I still think in raw numbers we’re still going to get those votes,” she said.
The poll, however, has made College Republicans President and Engineering junior Peter Terpeluk more hopeful. “It’s a pretty strong poll number in what it implies, and I think it has to do with the majority opinion in America right now … I would say, it’s our turn now,” Terpeluk said.
In line with the poll results, there were 55 attendants at the College Republicans’ first meeting — “a large number for us,” Terpeluk said. “I think we’re doing a lot more than we would have done in the past year, in light of public sentiment,” he said.