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View from the Hill

Congressman chats with Generation Opportunity on youth voters and the Republican Party

Following a series of tight election results nationwide, Evan Feinberg, president of Generation Opportunity, and U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, a Republican from Georgia, sat down on Monday to discuss why the Republican Party appeals to youth voters — providing specific analysis of North Carolina's election results.

David Pasch, spokesman for Generation Opportunity, a Washington, D.C.-based conservative youth advocacy group, blogged Nov. 5 that aside from results in Arkansas, youth voters aged 18 to 24 were more likely to support the Republican Party than voters aged 25 to 29.

The organization also reported Hagan winning the youth vote 53 to 39 percent, in comparison with the 71 to 24 percent breakdown in her first Senate election in 2008.

“This confirms a trend we observed in 2012 and 2013: first time voters who supported Barack Obama in 2008 have been somewhat loyal to his party, while their younger siblings and those who came of voting age during the Obama presidency have largely turned away from Democrats in the face of crippling student loan and the highest sustained youth unemployment levels since World War II,” Pasch wrote in the post.

Kathryn Walker, president of the UNC College Republicans, attributed Republican successes among youth to the overall ideology of the party, as well as student opposition to Democrats' view of healthcare.

“I think Republican ideals in general are good for America and good for young voters,” Walker said.

Woodall’s conversation with Feinberg on Monday emphasized a transition of the youth vote to the Republican Party, citing their experiences with hardship as driving factors.

“The real-world impact of a generation of voters that know what it’s like to struggle is bringing them to the Republican Party,” Woodall said. “If you believe that the core structure of American government isn’t the U.S. capitol but is the American family ... it is amazing to think about what it’s going to mean for this country to have folks of those priorities.”

Feinberg said that overall, millennials seem to be a generation disillusioned with current policies and political decisions.

“We blame the President’s policies for all of the government spending that certainly hasn’t helped us and the bills being left to us,” he said. “(Millennials) were the most supportive demographic of Obamacare of any, and now they’re ranked down there in the low 40s."

Woodall said that the cure to disillusionment was for youth to involve themselves in the policy end of the political world.

“Find somebody who is failing and find someone you believe in, and replace failure with opportunity and that difference is going to last a lifetime,” he said.

In response to the Affordable Care Act — which, according to a Gallup poll conducted Nov. 6-9, has just a 37 percent approval rating — Woodall also expressed the role of millennials in shaping policy.

“It’s not enough for folks to criticize,” he said. “You’ve got to criticize and have alternatives. That’s what the millennials demand of us, and we’re the better for it.”

The newly Republican-controlled Congress faces an objective distinct from the last couple of decades in revising policies and perspectives, Woodall said.

“More than half of the Congress is young people in terms of tenure on Capitol Hill, so we’ve never seen good legislating,” he said. “We’ve got to do legislation process 101, and the Republican Study Committee plays a huge role in making sure that doesn’t gravitate as far to the left.”

Woodall ultimately said the power to influence and dictate policies in the long term remain with youth.

“Millennials are in the driver’s seat of deciding where America goes,” he said.

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