As the momentum of an exciting presidential campaign has died down and the government works to get the country back on track, experts say more and more young people are turning an eye to the conservative side of politics.
Or, at least that’s the trend nationally. Only 54 percent of 18- to 28-year-old voters identify themselves as Democrats, compared to 62 percent in 2008 during the presidential election, according to the Pew Research Center.
Locally, however, the state still remains mostly liberal according to Sherry Jeffe, a political analyst for KNBC and senior fellow at the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development.
“Young people are becoming more ‘decline to state,’ if anything,” Jeffe said. “They’re independent, swing voters. They’re not affiliating with either of the two major parties.”
Micah Scheindlin, political director of USC’s College Democrats, said he doesn’t see a declining number of Democratic voters is an issue on USC’s campus.
“I don’t buy that theory,” Scheindlin said. “New voters are registering Republican less and less.”
Katherine Cook, chairwoman of the USC College Republicans, also said there doesn’t seem to be any increase in Republican sentiment.
“I have found that students are particularly passionate about social issues — abortion, gender issues, gay rights and similar topics,” Cook said. “In those areas I find students come down on the liberal side of the issue, and I don’t think that has changed since 2008.”
Even so, Cook said that economic issues are weighing heavily on students’ minds, which could mean a more conservative outlook overall.
“With the current economic recession affecting the job market, students may feel it is in their best interest to vote for candidates who are more fiscally conservative,” Cook said. “Republican candidates are offering viable solutions to improve the economic crisis, and Americans — students included — are responding positively to that.”
Voter focus on candidates rather than a political party, on the other hand, does seem to be a trend that’s going strong in California.
“I think [students] are just disgusted with both of the major parties,” Jeffe said. “[Students] are more candidate-centered. You saw that in 2008 when Barack Obama had such a significant turnout of voters and now they seem to be less loyal to him, less satisfied with what he’s done among the groups.”
No matter what political party young people affiliate with, the economy continues to be the No. 1 issue on their minds, Scheindlin said.
“People’s concerns are equally severe now,” he said. “We’ve yet to see which party they’ll blame.”
Still, Cook said she has seen more student interest in College Republicans this year than in years past.
“We were extremely well-received at the Involvement Fair,” she said. “We added a remarkable number of students to our database.”