Report: Spending on Conservative Youth Groups Far Outpaces Progressive Organizations
Young voters played a crucial role in this year's election, making up an even larger share of the electorate than they did in 2008. In both this year's presidential election and the last, young voters have shown they agree with progressive values, from supporting an economy that invests in the middle class to helping legalize same-sex marriage in several states.
But despite Millennials' progressive leanings, funding for conservative youth engagement groups continues to outpace that for progressive ones by large margins.
Today, a new report by Campus Progress outlines the difference in spending between conservative and progressive youth groups.
"As Millennials’ power within the electorate grows, conservative organizations will increasingly invest in young people in order to shape their ideology and build a stronger conservative base within the generation," write the report's authors, Campus Progress Director Anne Johnson and Deputy Director Tobin Van Ostern. "But the battle over ideology will only grow more intense as the youth electorate expands. Allowing conservatives to outspend, outpace, and outmaneuver when it comes to young adults could lead to irreversible, costly, and easily preventable losses for progressives in the future."
Read the full report here.
The five youth organizations that spend the most are all conservative. Without more sustained investment in progressive youth organizations, advancement on issues important to young Americans—immigration reform, LGBT equality, voting rights, student debt—could be at risk. But progressive groups have an inherent edge in mobilizing young Americans that their conservative counterparts, with deep coffers and extensive networks, haven’t been able to capitalize on: Ideological beliefs that are aligned with the majority of Millennials.
Millennials, more than any previous generation, are more diverse and inclined to favor policies that will expand equality. They view the government's role as having a hand in solving complex economic issues. Based on previous research by Campus Progress and our parent organization, the Center for American Progress, we know:
- 44 percent of Millennials are young people of color
- 44 percent of young people self-identify as progressive or liberal as opposed to 28 percent who identify as conservative or libertarian
- 28 percent of young people call themselves conservative or libertarian
Even young Americans who identify as Republican are demonstrating a progressive tilt on social issues like same-sex marriage, immigration reform, and women’s reproductive health.
But we shouldn’t take these trends for granted, nor should we count on them to serve as a buffer against regressive policies. Because our voting bloc played such a crucial role in this election, it's not hard to imagine conservatives launching new strategies to engage young people.
Conservatives have long invested in long-term leadership development organizations that provide trainings, internships, and fellowships starting in college and continuing through post-graduate life. Their well-oiled college-to-career pipelines, for instance, have helped push conservative namesakes like Ann Coulter into the spotlight.
The Collegiate Network helped Coulter found the Cornell Review, a conservative student-run newspaper at Cornell University. At the University of Michigan Law School, she started a chapter of the conservative Federalist Society and was trained by the National Journalism Center, a branch of the Young America’s Foundation.
Coulter’s pathway to conservative stardom isn’t unique. As the Young America’s Foundation wrote, her trajectory of bringing conservative values full circle and back to campuses is preferred.
“Speaking on campuses is important to Miss Coulter because it allows ‘learning [to] proceed for the ﬁrst time',” the foundation writes in a newsletter. “For many students it’s their ﬁrst, last, and only opportunity to see a real conservative during their entire college experience.”
This new report from Campus Progress is based on an original analysis of organization's Form 990s, and it outlines the challenges and opportunities that progressive institutions face in shoring up continued youth support for game-changing policy solutions that will radically improve young Americans' everyday lives.
Read the full report here.
Naima Ramos-Chapman is an associate editor at Campus Progress.
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