Many Republicans and conservatives are fixated on Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum, but for many younger Americans the choice is a different one: they’re voting for Ron Paul.
They already have, both online and in actual elections.
Paul’s support among voters under 30 has been apparent in Republican primary voting. In Iowa, he held two youth-specific rallies at college campuses in Iowa, and while the caucus youth turnout was only 4%, they delivered Paul a third of his total votes.
In New Hampshire, which voted next, youth participation has exceeded the national average in every election since 1998. Approximately 29,000 eligible voters under the age of 30 participated (15%), and Paul received about 47% of this vote – double what he received in the state’s 2008 primary.
South Carolina’s youth vote was a bit more than half that of New Hampshire at 8% and Paul won the youth vote with 31%, whereas in Florida, Romney captured the majority of the 4% of eligible voters under 30, but Paul came in second without investing any time campaigning in the state. And Nevada? Well the Silver State came in at just 1% of eligible youth casting a ballot in the caucus, but as UW Election Eye witnessed, Paul had vocal support and edged out Romney with over 1000 votes.
Online the support is also strong among youth. The Youth for Ron Paul 2012 Facebook page has more than 10,000 “likes.” Compared to the 4 “likes” that the “Rick is Right! Youth for Santorum Facebook page and the 132 “likes” that the Youth for Mitt Romney Facebook page have, Paul’s support is a tsunami to their trickle. (Newt Gingrich doesn’t appear to have a youth specific Facebook page that’s easily searchable. Hmmm.) We’ve met several former Barack Obama supporters — almost all of them relatively young — that are now with Paul.
According to their website, Youth for Ron Paul chapters are the foundation of Paul’s grassroots campaign. And indeed the website has made it easy to create a chapter branch: all one needs is contact information, information on five other Ron Paul supporters, and a 300-character justification for why the person would be a good leader for the chapter.
Once a chapter is created, the Paul campaign supplies fliers and a range of resources that students and other youth can download for recruitment purposes. Some of these include sign-up sheet templates, a rather helpful Recruitment Guide and even a Youth for Ron Paul Constitution.
The largest chapter is at the University of Kansas, with 1,650 members registered online. They claim to be taking hold of the youth vote in the state.
There are 10 Youth for Ron Paul chapters in Washington state, including one at Bellevue Senior High School, but many have pretty low participation. The Washington State University chapter has 69 members, just ahead of the UW chapter’s 59 members.
Andy Mack, the leader of the UW chapter, put his support for Paul this way: “The biggest reason I’ll be voting for him is that he is the only candidate that has an actual plan. He has a stance on how to deal with the debt and keep the federal government out of things.”
Mack, a senior studying Microbiology, has long identified with the libertarian movement and says that Paul first caught his eye in 2008.
“I was very much disenchanted with all the other candidates and to be honest, had never really thought about Paul, and then I read a little about him and really started to like him,” Mack said. “I voted for him in 2008 and have only gotten more involved from there.”
Enthusiasm among younger voters for Paul has been evident everywhere we’ve gone. Here is a snapshot of some views from South Carolina.
Mack started the UW chapter of Youth for Ron Paul in October. He did so after another student club with which he’s involved, Young Americans for Liberty, received a note from the Paul campaign asking why the UW has such a strong Young Americans for Liberty chapter but no Youth for Ron Paul group.
Since its creation, the chapter has brought its materials to many events around campus and sought to recruit supporters. Mack says that most exciting thing so far was attending the Paul rally in Seattle last week.
“It was very high energy with huge attendance, they had to leave the doors open so people could hear it but they weren’t let in because of fire code,” said Mack, “But I volunteered so I got to sit in the front row, it was very exciting!”
They’ve also had offers to phone-bank — i.e. to place calls to citizens on behalf of the Paul campaign — in Bellevue but haven’t been able to coordinate it due to transportation issues, Mack said.
Through all of his work with the Paul campaign, Mack says that he thinks the biggest reason youth support Paul is because of his stance on issues and his clear plans to solve problems.
“It’s a combination of one of two things,” Mack said. “Young people are waking up to the fact that the economy is not as bright for us as it was for our parents and grandparents, and then the other part is that a lot of young people like his policies that keep the government out of things that they wish the government wasn’t involved in, such as foreign wars and the war on drugs.”
Mack says if Paul doesn’t get the Republican nomination, he is not sure how he will vote – and he’s not alone. There is a growing movement of predominantly youth voters that are pledging to not vote Republican unless Paul is the nominee; it’s called the “No One But Paul” pledge.