Old is New

Harvard’s Institute of Politics (IOP), which is a part of the John F. Kennedy School of Government, surveyed America’s 18 to 29 year olds, and the numbers are very relevanat for election 2012.

“As the 2012 presidential primary and caucus season draws closer, young people will again have the opportunity to greatly impact the race for the White House,” said Harvard’s Institute of Politics Director Trey Grayson in press release.  “Political campaigns which incorporate an effective youth outreach strategy will have a strong advantage in the 2012 cycle.”

“What’s been proven in 2008 and in the events in the Middle East of late, is that young adults can make the difference when inspired,” said John Della Volpe, Director of Polling for the Institute of Politics in the press release.  “And before inspiration happens, it’s important to understand how Millennials communicate – providing this perspective is what we aim to do every semester with our national research project.”

Here are some of the findings I found to be relevant for 2012.
    * Economy remains the top national issue of concern and source of anxiety among 18 to 29 year olds.  .  As seen in October 2010 IOP polling, a majority (57%: Feb. 2011; 53%: Oct. 2010) said economic issues are their top concern, far outpacing the next highest issue (health care: 10%).

Older voters may place more of an emphasis on culture and Americanism issues especially as the country gets more demographically diverse, but younger voters may strikingly differ in valuing fiscal issues above all else. Mitch Daniels has tried to tap into this spirit by embracing reducing the debt as a paramount issue. The question for the man known as “The Blade” will be if he can get enough young voters, or those who similarly place the debt above other issues, to support his potential candidacy in a primary that will consist of older voters.

    * Facebook adoption continues to rise, outpaces Twitter by more than three-to-one.  Over the past year, Millennial Facebook adoption has grown significantly from 64% to 80% (90% adoption among four-year college students), while MySpace has shed six percentage points over the same period. Although Twitter is clearly a less relevant tool for young adults than Facebook, Twitter accounts among young adults also rose over the past year from 15% to 24%.

Twitter and Facebook, as many smart analysts have noted, are two branches of the same tree. Much of what happens on Twitter influences what is posted on Facebook. Much in the way cable television and the mainstream media still influence what gets written about in the fragmented media universe in which we live, Twitter probably has much more of an impact than can be currently quantified.

    * Social media tools viewed as having a greater political impact than in-person advocacy.  Among all Millennials, 27% percent reported that compared to in-person advocacy, they believe that “advocating for a political position by using online tools like Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and YouTube” makes more of an impact – while only 16 percent said it made less of an impact. Approximately one-quarter (24%) believe the impact is about the same and one-third (33%) either did not know or did not answer the question.

Without question, social media allows us to familiarize ourselves with candidates and people to minimize the amount of ice that needs to be broken in a face to face meeting. Candidates who are best able to use social media for virtual retail politics will have a huge advantage with young voters.

    * Nearly twice as many Millennials view community service as “honorable” compared to running for office.  While nearly seven-in-ten (69%) young adults view community service as an “honorable thing to do,” only about half that number (36%) believe the same about running for office.  These findings have not changed significantly in the last year, when 70% found community service honorable and 35% viewed running for office the same in February 2010 IOP polling.

The GOP must be careful in criticizing “community organizing.” If Millennials hear those words to imply that the GOP is mocking or making fun of community service instead of the seedier side of urban politics, there will be pushback among Millennials. During the 2008 election, I was surprised that seasoned professionals such as Nicolle Wallace seemed clueless on what community organizing was. Is there any wonder McCain lost the youth vote by such drastic margins? The GOP still has many of these clueless, stale strategists among its ranks, and they do the party a disservice.

    * Millennials are not optimistic about the United States’ role in the world.  America’s young adults are fairly pessimistic over the U.S.’ place in the world in the next ten years, with 31% saying they believe it will be “worse” and only 23% saying it will be better than it is today.

What I take from this set of data is Millennials are not as concerned about out doing their parents in the material “rat race” as previous generations. Instead, Millennials would like to do better than their parents when it comes to quality of life issues. There also may be some difference among how minorities view this questions (minorities may be more optimistic about the future). In any event, how 2012 candidates incorporate this reality into their message will be important in connecting with young voters.

    * America’s 18 to 29 year olds look first to major national newspapers – followed by “Facebook Friend” statuses – to track 2012 presidential campaign.  Major national newspapers, by far, were considered the most preferred sources for political news and information, with 49% of 18 to 29 year olds and 60% of four-year college students reporting that they are interested in receiving information from this source.  Regarding various new technologies and social media channels, interest was next greatest in friends who share using Facebook (36%), official campaign Facebook feeds (29%), partisan, political blogging websites (22%), text or mobile alerts (19%), friends who share using Twitter (16%) and official campaign Twitter feeds (16%).

This was the most compelling slice of data for me. Social media is certainly making what was old new again. Going forward, everyone will have instant access to raw news. What will be valued will be premium valued added analysis that analyzes or builds upon the raw news that everyone now has access to because of the Internet and new media like Twitter in a way previous generations did not. In a similar vein, HUMAN EVENTS published an editorial in this week’s print edition that hits upon this same theme. In a way, I think it is also a perfect mission statement for The Chase 2012 section. I hope you can take some time to read it below.

Here is the editorial in the current issue of Human Events:

Old is new again.

According to Gary Vaynerchuk, in his pioneering book The Thank You Economy, this is so because “social media has made it possible for consumers to interact with businesses in a way that is often similar to how they interact with their friends and family.”

This issue of HUMAN EVENTS is important for two reasons. First, in the spirit of valuing every reader in the interconnected world in which we now live, everything from the subject of the cover story to the story itself was user generated through the use of social media. Second, this is the first issue in recent memory in which HUMAN EVENTS will be in bins on the streets of Washington, D.C., close to the corridors of power.

Symbolically, it is a perfect symbol of how HUMAN EVENTS seeks to be the voice of conservative movement and influence those in power from the bottom up, and not the other way around. 

During Reagan’s rise to power, it was remarked that while people in the country clubs read publications like National Review, movement conservative foot soldiers read HUMAN EVENTS.

In fact, HUMAN EVENTS was Ronald Reagan’s favorite newspaper and influenced him greatly. . Editors Allan Ryskind and Tom Winter fiercely advocated supply side economic policies, which got picked up by Jack Kemp, and which later directly influenced Reagan himself.

HUMAN EVENTS influenced Reagan to adopt what became a pro-growth agenda, and America’s economy boomed, allowing Reagan to ratchet up defense spending and defeat the Soviets, resigning them and their ideology to history’s ash heap.

Such ideas and those who have them are lacking on the right today. And this must change.

As the 2012 presidential nominating process kicks off in full and Republicans assert themselves with their greater numbers in Congress, ideas must be embraced above the short term tactics, political and accounting tricks, and cheap rhetoric that turns off Washington outsiders.

As Ronald Brownstein recently noted in National Journal, “the slowly emerging class of Republican presidential candidates increasingly looks like a bunch of bystanders.”

He’s right.

There are paramount challenges facing the country in both the domestic and foreign policy arenas, in addition to the cultural front.

Yet, while there have been ample and justified criticisms about how liberals are allowing America to rot and decay, there has been a dearth of positive and compelling ideas on how to revive and restore America to greatness.

In a recent issue of The Economist, it was written that “the strongest force shaping politics is not blood or money but ideas … So the people who influence government the most are often those who generate compelling ideas or supply them to the right politicians at the right time.”

We hope politicians in our party take heed of the importance of ideas, and HUMAN EVENTS hopes to have a prominent role in influencing this conversation going forward.